Istrati Panait 1884 - 1935 (51)

The goodness of a man is stronger than the cunning of thousand.


Chira Ciralina

Panait Istrati was a Greek-Romanian writer who wrote in French, the son of the Greek from Kefalonia, Panagi Valsami, and the Romanian villager Zoitsa Istrati. He was born on August 10, 1884 in Braila and he jnever met his father who died of tuberculosis. Panait (Panagi) liked reading but went to school only until the fourth grade; from the age of 12 he left his home and started working and wandering. He came in contact with the socialist movement in Bucharest and in 1909 became secretary of the port workers' union in Braila, while in the following years he traveled throughout Europe and the Middle East, constantly changing jobs: locksmith, coppersmith, porter, loader, unloader, photographer, postman etc.

In 1921 he found himself in Nice, France, completely disappointed with his life and having been diagnosed with tuberculosis; he attempted suicide in a public garden by cutting his throat with a razor. He had left a letter next to him which reached the author Roman Rolland who, captivated by his writing, ran to the hospital where he was being treated. Rolland encouraged Istrati and helped him become a writer. Two years later, in 1923, his first book, Chitra Ciralina, was published in French, a language that Israti learned almost on his own from reading French books. The struggle of the oppressed workers of the Balkans and his own experiences were transformed in the following years into books which were a great success, offering him fame and money.

Istrati was an ardent supporter of the October Revolution and in 1927 was invited to Moscow to take part in celebrations for the 10th anniversary of the revolution. There he met Nikos Kazantzakis and they became friends. However, he soon became the target of the Stalinists as he witnessed the Stalinist oppression of which he spoke publicly. He was expelled from the Soviet Union and after a trip in Greece, he returned to Romania. He got married in 1932, but his health continued to deteriorate. He died of tuberculosis in Bucharest on April 16, 1935.