AUTOBIOGRAPHY: Vol. I: 1907-1937, Journey East, Journey West by Mircea Eliade

AUTOBIOGRAPHY: Vol. I: 1907-1937, Journey East, Journey West

Email this review


Gray skies over Bucharest: the boring, relentlessly bookish memoirs of a young Rumanian intellectual with fierce ambition, heroic Sitzfleisch, but no visible charm or humor. Professor Eliade doesn't get much help from Ricketts' flat translation, but the book fails largely because of his own chilling egoism. In itself his story had a good deal of promise: the formative years of (some would say) one of the century's great philosophical anthropologists, life in the turbulent and colorful world of Rumania between the Wars, the adventures of a fledgling writer full of hectic Balzacian energy, the impact on a sensitive provincial mind of travels to Italy, Germany, England, and above all India (1928-31). This could have made a fascinating tale of self-discovery at a dramatic juncture in history; but it doesn't, or only very seldom, because Eliade won't tell it. Instead he gives endless accounts of his astonishingly voracious reading, his exploits in book-collecting, his grueling work habits (he apparently never slept more than four hours a night), the languages he learned (Bengali, Sanskrit, etc.), and most numbing of all, the plot outlines of the novels he dashed off in his days as a graduate student and university lecturer. He allows us glimpses, but not much more, of other things: a nearly disastrous sailing trip on the Black Sea, a curious ""Tantric"" affair with a South African girl in India. But for the most part it's ""what I said to Nae Ionescu"" and ""the articles I published in Cuvantul"" and ""why Paul Masson-Oursel didn't like my book on yoga."" Eliade's many students and admirers may care about such matters, but everyone else is liable to lose patience.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Harper & Row