"> Name: The Black Envelope

Date:  1985 - 1995

Location:  Europe

SubjectPolitical/Economic/Social Opinion


Artist: Norman Manea

Confronting Bodies: Council for Socialist Culture and Education

Date of Action: 1986

Specific Location: Romania

Description of Artwork: While Manea's writing does not criticize the leaders of the communist Romania he lived under directly, he does write about life under the regime. In "The Black Envelope," he not only writes on the negative aspects of daily life in contemporary Romania, but makes parallels to between it and Nazi Germany.

Description of Incident: When Manea submitted the novel in 1985, he was expected not only to have the work submitted to the censors, but to self-censor himself as well. When the manuscript was sent back to him, 80 percent of the text had objections written over it. Words such as "food lines" and "anti-Semitism" had been deemed unacceptable and he had basically been asked to rewrite most of the book.

After the novel had been revised and rejected several times, the publisher found a new censor to look over it. This censor demanded even more outrageous revisions. He saw the link Manea had made between Romania and Nazi Germany. He demanded an anti-fascist movement be included, even though Romania never had one. Hitler and Stalin's differences were to be clearly defined. The negative view of daily life was ordered to be eliminated. Characters on the brink of suicide would need to be changed to be more positive.

Results of Incident: Menea followed the orders of the censors and had "The Black Envelope" published. In late 1986, he emigrated to the United States. Even though he got it published, he considers "The Black Envelope" to be corrupt and now expresses a very pessimistic view of communist censorship.

Source: Censorship: A World Encyclopedia. Ed. Derek Jones. Chicago; London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001.

Submitted By: NCAC

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