Gellu Naum was born on 1 August 1915, in Bucharest. He was the son of the poet Andrei Naum (dead in the battles of Mărăşeşti) and of Maria Naum.
Between 1933 and 1937 he attended the courses of the Bucharest University, studying Philosophy. In 1938 he went to Paris, (encouraged by his friend, the painter Victor Brauner, whom he had met in 1936) where he continued his studies in Philosophy at Sorbonne, preparing a PhD thesis on Abélard. With Brauner’s help he got in touch with André Breton’s group of French surrealists.
In 1939 he returned to his country, where he was called up and sent to the Eastern front. Deeply marked by the war, in 1944 he fell seriously ill and therefore was discharged.
The year 1941 marked the formation of the Romanian surrealists’ group (formed by Gellu Naum, Gherasim Luca, D. Trost, Virgil Teodorescu and Paul Păun), whose activity, particularly intense between 1945 and 1948, made André Breton say: “The centre of the world has moved to Bucharest.” After December 1947, with the imposition of “socialist realism” as the unique form of artistic expression, the group was dissolved and a long period of hardships and silence followed for Gellu Naum.
Between 1950 and 1953 he taught Philosophy at the Agronomic Institute, then earned his living by translating (Diderot, Stendhal, Hugo, Dumas, Jules Verne, Gracq, Prevert, Char, Kafka, Beckett).
After 1968, he was allowed to publish again. His singular poetic universe and the outstanding power of his talent in the volumes to follow were going to bring him a well-deserved but belated acknowledgement.
He withdrew to Comana along with his wife Lygia (born Alexandrescu), whom he had married in 1946 and who was to become the emblematic character of the novel Zenobia, published in 1985. There, on “the blue shore”, he continued writing his poems.
After 1990, he was invited to give public readings in Germany, France, Holland and Switzerland. His works have been translated into the main languages by prestigious publishing houses and were crowned with important awards. In 1995 he was a DAAD scholar for a year, in Berlin.
He passed away on 29 September 2001, his disappearance being
perceived as a great loss for poetry.
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