Nina Cassian (1924-2014), also known as Renée Annie Cassian-Mătăsaru, a Romanian Jewish poet, was born on this day 98 years ago, in Galați, Romania. Besides writing poetry, she also translated modernist works of great writers from many languages, created children’s books, composed music, painted, and was a journalist.
Nina Cassian. (Image source: Arhive Radio România)
At the age of 16, Nina became interested in the communist ideology, so she joined the then-illegal Union of Communist Youth organisation. In 1945, she debuted with her first poem “Am fost un poet decadent” (I Used to Be a Decadent Poet) in the “România liberă” (Free Romania) daily newspaper, and in 1947 she published her first Surrealist poetry book, “La scara 1/1” (Scale 1:1). The following year, it was criticised in the “Scânteia” (The Spark) newspaper, stating that its style was decadent and bourgeois. This is when she started writing books for children, which allowed her to use metaphors. She also started writing socialist-realist poems. Throughout her career, Nina was accused of using intimism in her poetry, which was not acceptable since poems had to be used as propaganda during communism. Love was not a popular subject to write about back then, since poems could only express love for the communist party.
Nina Cassian. (Image source: Ziarul Metropolis)
In 1985, she received a scholarship and went to the New York University, USA, as a visiting professor. Meanwhile, her friend, Gheorghe Ursu, had been killed by the Securitate, because he held a journal with her poems, in which she wrote about the communist regime in an inappropriate way. Her apartment and possessions were confiscated, and her writings were banned in Romania, so she chose to stay in the USA, where she continued to write poetry and books.
The old Nina Cassian. (Image source: Ziua de Constanța)
Nina Cassian and her husband, Maurice Edwards. (Image source: Adevărul)
Nina had an interesting personal life, she was married three times, and was a muse and lover for several notable writers, including Ion Barbu and Marin Preda. She is also considered “the most attractive ugly woman” in Romanian literature. She never considered herself beautiful, and her poems reflected this. However, in a 2010 interview with Tango magazine, she said, “I loved and I was loved. I created non-stop. I enjoyed recognition sometimes, and marginalisation, frequently, even today. But all these belong to the balance of life.”
Nina Cassian in the middle with Marin Preda behind her. (Image source: Adevărul)
Editura Frontiera, Nina Cassian. https://editurafrontiera.ro/nina-cassian/
Laurențiu Ungureanu, Fabuloasele aventuri ale poetei Nina Cassian, „cea mai atrăgătoare femeie urâtă din literatura română”. https://historia.ro/sectiune/actualitate/fabuloasele-aventuri-ale-poetei-nina-cassian-cea-580090.html
Mihai Iovănel, Nina Cassian de la A la Z. https://www.scena9.ro/article/nina-cassian-de-la-a-la-z
Mediafax, Biografie: Nina Cassian, marea seducătoare a literaturii române. https://www.mediafax.ro/cultura-media/biografie-nina-cassian-marea-seducatoare-a-literaturii-romane-12473795