Pana´t Istrati 1935

Final Exchange with Romain Rolland

Source: Correspondnce Integrale Pana´t Istrati-Romain Rollans. Canevas, Valence, 1989;
Translated: for by Mitchell Abidor.

After the open letter to Jourdain Istrati made one final attempt to smooth things over with Rolland. Rolland was having none of it.

3 Strada Paleolugu, Bucharest IV
March 21, 1935

I don’t dare write you any more after the campaign that Monde has undertaken against me. Nevertheless, knowing your intelligence, I hope that you believe nothing of what the most lying of men spreads about me, for nothing at all of it is true. On the contrary, as concerns the Lupeni Affiar the truth is at antipodes from what Barbusse affirms. This is why I will appeal against him before French justice so that he can account to me for his slander.

But you can judge me according to my own words, contained in my letter to Jourdain. There, yes, you can judge me. And if my anti-communism, which is neither fascist nor anti-Semitic nor Iron Guard suffices to make you forever cut yourself off from me, may thy will be done, but you'll be unfair, for one has the right to not be communist, to hate it [sic] and to drive it from your country without being a sellout or a “haiduk of the Siguranza,” nor all the rest. And above all, for it to be believed that one does this having received payment for it, the most abominable of accusations. For I am in a state of utter destitution and ready to cede the complete ownership of my work to a state foundation on condition it feed me while I'm alive.

This isn’t what one does when one sells one’s conscience. If I'd wanted to sell my conscience since becoming anti-communist I would have had enough to live in opulence.

I'd like to know if you'd be willing to hear me out in the event I will, as I hope, have the means to soon travel overseas to take care of my health.

Yours, according to your judgment.
Panait Istrati

Villeneuve, March 28, 1935

No, there’s no question of our seeing each other now. It’s not in a private conversation that you should explain yourself: the specific accusations made against you publicly must be publicly refuted. Otherwise you will remain publicly condemned.

I add that your Public Letter to Francis Jourdain on its own is enough to discourage those who retained their friendship for you. (I just re-read it before writing to you.) The Romanian nationalism, the anti-Semitism you display there, the praise for the reactionary parties, their friendship which you boast of, the indecent mockery of a prisoner on a hunger strike, all of this is revolting in a man like you, who lived the past you have and now tramples on it.

Unhappy man that you are, what madness makes you stick with politics, where you understand nothing, where you've never understood a thing? All you know how to do is be the blind and unhinged instrument of the worst politicians. Once and for all: remove yourself from this activity! You do nothing but harm there, both to yourself and others. Write your tales! If there is any salvation for you, it can only be in art.

Romain Rolland

Istrati never responded to this letter. He died less than three weeks later, on April 16, 1935