The Pequod Review:
Mihail Sebastian (1907-1945) was a Jewish novelist living in Romania before and during World War II, and he watched as Hitler rose to power and slowly conquered Europe. Sebastian maintained a detailed journal during the period (from 1935 to 1944) which nearly fifty years later would be discovered and published. His diaries are a remarkable document: they show how Sebastian's concerns in the early years are almost entirely centered on his social and cultural life in Bucharest — music, literature, romantic partners, etc. — only to be gradually interrupted by increasing levels of antisemitism and the impact of Hitler's successes. It happens so slowly that you can understand how Romanian Jews were not in a position to seriously consider the need to emigrate. (The actions of non-Jews are less defensible; perhaps early on it was easy to be captivated by Hitler's charms, but it is astonishing to watch Sebastian's fellow colleagues embrace such overt anti-Jewish laws.) The diaries themselves may be quotidian and repetitive, but in many ways that is the point.