Paul Goma, October 2, 1935 – March 25, 2020) was a Romanian writer, also known for his activities as a dissident and leading opponent of the communist regime before 1989.
Forced into exile by the communist authorities, he became a political refugee and resided in France as a stateless person. After 2000, Goma has expressed opinions on World War II, the Holocaust in Romania and the Jews, claims which have led to widespread criticism for antisemitism.
Goma was born to a Romanian family in Mana village, Orhei County, which at that time was a part of the Kingdom of Romania, nowadays part of Republic of Moldova. His parents, Eufimie Goma (1909–1967) and Maria Goma (née Popescu; 1909–1974), were schoolteachers in Mana. His brother Petre was born in 1933, but died before his first birthday.
After the 1940 Soviet occupation of Bessarabia, Paul Goma's father was taken away by the Soviet authorities and deported to Siberia. In October 1943, Eufimie Goma was found by his family, as a prisoner of war, in "Camp No. 1 for Soviet Prisoners", in Slobozia, Ialomiţa County, Romania.
In March 1944, the Goma family took refuge in Sibiu, Transylvania. In August 1944, finding themselves in danger of involuntary "repatriation" to the Soviet Union, they fled to the village of Buia, by the Târnava Mare River. From October to December 1944, the Goma family hid in the forests around Buia. On January 13, 1945 they were captured by Romanian shepherds and turned over to the Gendarmerie in Sighişoara, where they were interned at the "Centrul de Repatriere" ("Repatriation Center"). There, Eufimie Goma managed to forge documents for his family; however, Maria Goma's brother, who didn't have forged papers, was promptly "repatriated to Siberia". In June 1945, taking advantage of the forged documents, they returned to Buia. Later on, Paul Goma would describe his family's refugee saga in the novels Arta refugii ("The Art of Refuge", a wordplay on the Romanian words for "refuge" and "taking flight"), Soldatul câinelui ("Dog's Soldier"), and Gardă inversă ("Reverse Guard").
Dissident in Romania
In May 1952, Goma, while a student in 10th grade, was detained for eight days by the Securitate for speaking out in the classroom about Romanian anti-communist partisans and for keeping a coded personal journal. In September–October of the same year he was barred from all the schools in Romania. After some unsuccessful attempts at re-admission he was finally allowed to attend Radu Negru high school in Făgăraş.
In 1954 he was admitted to the Faculty of Letters of the University of Bucharest. In November 1956, he was part of the Bucharest student movement of 1956: during a seminar, he read out to other students parts of a novel he had written about a student who establishes a movement that is similar to the ones in Hungary during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Goma was arrested on the charge of attempting to organize a strike at University of Bucharest and he was sentenced to two years in prison. He served his sentence Jilava and Gherla prisons, and then put under house arrest in Lăteşti (a former village of the Bordușani commune) until 1963.
As a former political prisoner, he was not allowed to resume his studies and he had to work as a manual labourer until 1965, when a decree allowed former prisoners to study at the University. In September 1965, he was re-admitted as a first-year student at the Faculty of Letters of the University of Bucharest. In the fall of 1967, under pressure from the Securitate, he was forced to give up his studies at the University. On August 7, 1968, Paul Goma married Ana Maria Năvodaru. Their son Filip-Ieronim was born in 1975.
At the end of August 1968, Paul Goma became a member of the Romanian Communist Party, in an act of solidarity with the Romanian position during the Warsaw Pact Invasion of Czechoslovakia (Romania did not take part, indeed condemning the invasion).
Several months later, Goma attempted to publish a novel, Ostinato (based on his experiences with the secret police), but it was not allowed by the censors, after one of them claimed to recognize one character as Elena Ceaușescu. Nevertheless, he published the novel in translation in West Germany in 1971, as a result of which, Paul Goma was excluded from the Communist Party. Paul Goma refused to give up his Party membership by his own will.
During the summer of 1972, he was allowed to visit France, where he wrote Gherla, a novel based on his experiences in the Gherla Prison. This book was also denied publication in Romania and it was published in France in 1976.
Exile in France
In 1979, Paul Goma was active in the creation of the Free Workers' Syndicate.
On 3 February 1981, Paul Goma and Nicolae Penescu (former Interior Minister) received parcels in their post. Penescu opened his parcel to find a book and when he lifted its cover an explosion wounded him. Goma, who had received two death threats since his arrival in France, called the police. Both packages had been sent on instructions by Carlos the Jackal.
In 1982, the Securitate planned to assassinate Goma. Matei Haiducu, the secret agent sent by the Securitate to carry out the plan, turned to French counter-intelligence (DST). With the help of the DST, Haiducu simulated an attempt on Goma's life, by poisoning his drink at a restaurant; the drink was then spilled by a French agent, pretending to be a "clumsy guest".
Although Goma's numerous works (both fiction and non-fiction) were translated worldwide, his books, except the first one, were published in Romania only after the 1989 Revolution. He lived in Paris as a stateless political refugee, his Romanian citizenship having been revoked after 1978 by the communist government. He turned down an offer of citizenship from the French Republic, extended simultaneously to him and to the Czech writer Milan Kundera. In September 2006, a petition in favor of restoring his Romanian citizenship did not result in any progress on the issue.
On March 18, 2020, Paul Goma was hospitalized at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris after being infected with COVID-19 and died on March 25, 2020. He was 84.
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