Prodan Romanian Cultural Foundation
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Peter Neagoe
(1881-1960) Writer

Born November 7, 1881, in Transylvania. He was educated at the University of Bucharest and the Romanian Academy of Fine Arts. He emigrated to the USA in 1901, and became an American citizen. In New York, he studied at the National Academy of Design. He married Anna Frankeul in New York on 31 July 1911. After World War I, he moved to Paris and was part of the Montparnasse set of expatriate American writers (as well as being an expatriate Romanian, and he often wrote about Romania). He was a prolific writer and edited the periodical NEW REVIEW. In 1932, he published a pamphlet in Paris entitled WHAT IS SURREALISM, in which he discussed the activities of his fellow-Romanian Tristan Tzara as founder of Dada, and then turned to Surrealism itself, citing the Surrealists' wish to create their writings and works of art with 'no effort whatever and complete freedom from the meddling of reason'. Neagoe strongly supported Andre Breton, whom he quoted at length, and then he stated: 'The gates are open for us., Surrealism then is our salvation. It shall free us from every vestige of hindrance. ... Surrealism respects no form of prearranged order, because all order checks freedom. ... Surrealism has declared war on time also.'
Peter Neagoe died 28 October 1960 in Woodstock, New York. The majority of his archives and papers are preserved at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York.

After his death, Neagoe's widow arranged the first publication of a novel which Neagoe had written but never published about his close friend Constantin Brancusi. Entitled THE SAINT OF MONTPARNASSE, this fascinating book, which starts with Brancusi's childhood as a peasant in Romania, was published in 1965 by Chilton Books in the USA. Neagoe's first story to to be published appeared in the transatlantic literary periodical, TRANSITION, edited by Eugene Jolas. Robert McAlmon mentions Peter Neagoe briefly in his autobiography, BEING GENIUSES TOGETHER (1938): 'Among the various experimental magazines published in America or on the Continent the career of THE NEW REVIEW was by no means the least exciting. Purportedly it was edited by Samuel Putnam, ... Ezra Pound was to be the chief advisory editor and for Pound Mr. Putnam had great admiration, and he also wrote many letters and talked much to me of how great he thought my work and of how he intended to rescue it from oblivion. Later he combined with Peter Neagoe, a Roumanian who wrote short stories in the English language but of Roumanian background. Rumour has it that a small town in the South of France became too small to hold both Mr. Putnam and Mr. Neagoe at the same time.' (pages 333-4) Neagoe became widely known in transatlantic literary circles particularly for editing the book AMERICANS ABROAD (published at The Hague in 1932), an anthology of stories and poems by the expatriate Americans, with biographical sketches of them all, and photos of as many as possible as well. This rare book, of which the Foundation has a copy, is a valuable record of who was who at that time. It contains well-known figures such as Conrad Aiken, Djuna Barnes, Kay Boyle, Malcolm Cowley, the Crosbys, E. E. Cummings, John dos Passos, Ernest Hemingway, Eugene Jolas, Robert McAlmon, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and William Carlos Williams. Strangely, it omits F. Scott Fitzgerald, presumably because he was in no way avant garde. But it contains many more minor and forgotten figures of whom little trace remains today, and the anthology is in a sense more valuable for preserving the remnants of their flickering flames of notoriety as perceived in 1932 than for reminding us of those who went on to greater fame and need no such retrospective testimonials. Neagoe wrote a very interesting Introduction for this book, in which he strangely spoke as an American, and not a Romanian at all. He wrote: 'Not all non-conformist artists have come to Europe. There are many who have carried on at home against the pressure of levelling. But this Anthology is devoted to those American artists who have been living and working, during the after-war decade, in Europe - all of that time or part of it. Some of these artists are still in Europe, but their service is dedicated to American art. The results of their arduous efforts are America's. They offer it whole-heartedly, for they foresee the great possibilities America holds - once stirred up to the realisation that art must have freedom and must be appraised with its own criteria and not be weighed in the balance of utility. Europe also is aware that important art is springing up in America thanks to the undaunted non-conformists - the Young America of today.'