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BOOK REVIEW: The Scintillating Life Of Iulia Hasdeu

December 28, 2022
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By Constantin Manolache
Translated by Diana Livesay
Introduction by A.K. Brackob

The Scintillating Life of Iulia Hasdeu is the English translation of the first-ever biography written about the famous Romanian poet. It was banned by the communist regime shortly after its release.

The novelized biography written by Constantin Manolache in 1940 presents the life and somehow the afterlife of Iulia Hasdeu, cleverly constructed using the hundreds of documents written by and about her that are still in existence. It starts with her parents’ wedding, their struggles with having a child, and the miracle of her birth when all hope was lost.

Iulia Hasdeu on her death bed

The author details her life, starting with her early years, showing her incredible intellect and accomplishments at an age when most children play with mudpies. Iulia loved books from the time she knew what books were. By six years old, she could speak three foreign languages and write complex historical studies. However, she didn’t have an easy time, as her parents pushed for her to study every waking minute.

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It came as no surprise when Iulia graduated middle school in Romania and was accepted at Sevigne College in Paris. Not knowing it would be her downfall and feeling pressured from every direction, she left and allowed herself to be adopted by a country she loved from books: France. A few years later she became the first Romanian woman to be accepted at the Sorbonne. Her happiness was short-lived, as tuberculosis forced her to return to Romania where she died two months short of her 19th birthday. 

Iulia's father B.P. Hasdeu

Iulia Hasdeu left behind an impressive collection of poems, plays, stories, and drawings secretly crafted in her books. Many of them have been translated for the first time in this volume.

However, her story didn’t end with her death. Iulia quickly became one of the most famous ghosts in Romania. She’s said to have dictated the plans for a small castle to her father. After the castle was built, people claimed to have seen her in her white funeral gown, walking the grounds and picking daisies no matter the season. Stories of her presence still make headlines today. Iulia’s mausoleum in the Bellu Cemetery in Bucharest is another hotspot for paranormal activity. 

The hardcover volume is a work of art by itself. It features a satin-like embossed jacket with the most famous painting of Iulia, created by Diogene Maillart. The book contains numerous translations of her poems and prose, as well as copies of manuscripts, photographs, paintings, ink drawings, and an endpaper featuring a painting of Iulia on her deathbed. Many of these have never been seen by the general community. 

Plaque in Paris on apartment building where Iulia lived

Highly recommended to history buffs, fans of the paranormal, as well as to anyone looking for good Gothic poetry.  

Reviewed by Deviant Quill Reviews 

Publisher: ‎ Center for Romanian Studies
Hardcover: ‎ 356 pages + 36 color plates
ISBN-13: ‎ 9781592111695

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