Obituary 1935

Pana´t Istrati is Dead

Source: L'HumanitÚ, April 17, 1935;
Translated: for by Mitchell Abidor.

Translator’s note: Having attacked the Soviet Union and defended Victor Serge’s father-in-law against the campaign of slander he was victim of, the PCF spent the final years of Istrati’s life piling calumny on calumny on him. They continued to attack and slander him in his obituary, accusing him of being a fascist, an agent of the Romanian security services, and an ally of the church.

We learned yesterday of the death of Pana´t Istrati.

This former revolutionary writer died in Romania a fascist.

Son of a peasant and having led the life of a tramp throughout the Balkans, Pana´t Istrati owed to his origins and his early adventurous years an undeniable gift as a teller of tales. His books, Kyra Kyralina, Uncle Anghel etc., in which the peasants and artisans of Eastern Europe were brought to life, had brought him to the attention of Romain Rolland, who made Istrati famous.

The latter was an anarchist. Not viewing things with class feeling, he expressed an often confused sense of revolt in his works of the period.

Invited to visit the USSR, his anarchist spirit and a fatuousness inflated by his success led him to listen to the rumors spread by the family of the counter-revolutionary Victor Serge. The impressive accomplishments of socialism, the birth of the new man went right over his head. From his entire voyage, one of those voyages from which Henri Barbusse, Luc Durtain, Malraux, Francis Jourdain, J-R Bloch and others drew inspiration for ardent works and fertile action, Istrati brought back nothing but interminable sob stories because of a shared kitchen! Back in France he lumped together base rancor and insignificant details in several volumes filled with hatred and bad faith.

The revolution hadn’t spoken to this petty and vain soul.

Surrounded with contempt, even those who defended him did so by invoking morbid causes for his conduct, and Istrati returned to his country, Romania. He became the guest of monks! He bowed down to the fascists. He stopped writing. It was said he was too sick.

But a delegation of French workers and intellectuals recently went to Romania to learn the fate of political prisoners, in particular that of Professor Constantiesco-Jassy, whose courage contrasts with the Istrati’s degradation.

Then Istrati picked up his pen again, to denounce the delegates, among them Francis Jourdain, his former friend, to the rigors of the Siguranza and to praise the fascism of [King] Carol!

This was his final act.

Francis Jourdain magisterially executed the pitiful renegade.

People will doubtless still read Pana´t Istrati’s first tales. But what people will find in them of the nonconformity of youth will allow them to measure the height from which he fell.