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Last modified: Thursday, January 20, 2005

Obituary: Ilinca Zarifopol Johnston, 52

July 25, 1952 - January 18, 2005

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Ilinca Zarifopol Johnston died Tuesday, January 18, 2005, at her home in Bloomington, Ind., after a five-year struggle with ovarian cancer. She was born in Bucharest, Romania, the second child and daughter of Radu Constantin (Dinu) Zarifopol and Mioara (Maria) Economu.

She was preceded in death by her father. Survivors include her mother, and her sister and brother-in-law Christina and Lukey Illias, all of Bloomington. She also is survived by her husband, Kenneth R. Johnston and their son, Theodore Constantin Zarifopol Johnston, both of Bloomington; by her step-sons, Lucas Martin Johnston, of Springville, Ind., and Matthew Nils Johnston, of Blacksburg, Va.; by her step-daughter, Kate Elizabeth Johnston, of Washington, D.C. Her survivors also include her nephew, Andre Illias, of Washington, D.C.; four grandchildren, Jordan and Jossi Zollman, and Aaron Johnston, all of Springville, Ind., and William Odell Johnston of Blacksburg, Va.

A brief memorial service -- the trisagion -- will be held Thursday, January 20, 6 p.m., at All Saints Orthodox Christian Church, 6004 Fairfax Road, Bloomington, with the Very Rev. Father Athanasius Wilson presiding. Following the service, friends are invited to a reception in her honor at her home at 1112 Atwater Avenue, Bloomington.

A funeral mass and burial will be held on Saturday, January 22, 10:30 a.m., at the Dormition of the Mother of God Romanian Orthodox Monastery in Rives Junction, Michigan, Father Wilson and the Very Rev. Roman Braga, presiding.

Ilinca Zarifopol Johnston graduated from the University of Bucharest in 1975, majoring in English and German. Her senior thesis "Speech Acts of Permission in English" was awarded the first prize of the Romanian National Student Scientific Colloquium for 1976. After official interventions on her behalf by nearly a dozen U.S. Congressmen and Senators, she was allowed to emigrate to the United States in 1977.

She subsequently earned an M.A. from Indiana University in 1980 in linguistics, and a Ph.D. from IU in 1990 in comparative literature. Her dissertation on Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens and Emile Zola was awarded the Esther L. Kinsley Outstanding Dissertation award in the IU graduate school. It was published as "To Kill a Text: The Dialogic Fiction of Hugo, Dickens and Zola," by the University of Delaware Press in 1995. She also published many articles and reviews on other subjects in comparative literature.

At the time of her death, Zarifopol Johnston was associate professor of comparative literature at Indiana University in Bloomington where she had served as director of both undergraduate and graduate studies. She won an Outstanding Junior Faculty award in 1993 and two teaching excellence awards. She was awarded year-long fellowships by both the National Endowment for the Arts (1993) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (1999), as well as a Presidential Humanities Initiative fellowship from IU in 2002, among other internal awards.

She was a visiting lecturer at the University of Lisbon, Portugal, in 2003.

In recent years, Zarifopol Johnston's research interests had returned to her native Romania, specifically as the American translator and editor of the early Romanian texts of the French philosophical essayist E.M. Cioran (died 1995). In 1992 she published Cioran's "On the Heights of Despair" with the University of Chicago Press, and in 1996 his "Tears and Saints," also with Chicago Press. The latter was nominated for the Modern Language Association's prize for outstanding literary translations.

At the time of her death, she was engaged in a critical biographical study of Cioran, tentatively titled, "Portrait of the Philosopher as a Young Man." In addition she was writing a memoir of her own life, called "The Escape Artist: Memoirs of a Communist Girlhood," and a memoir of her friendship with Cioran in Paris. Finally she was engaged in translating her father's four-volume novel, under the general title of "The Moldavian Quartet." The novel was written in the 1960s and 1970s but was not published until 1994-98, after the 1989 fall of Nicolae Ceausescu's government in Romania made its appearance possible, and gained him immediate membership in the Romanian National Writer's Union. She had finished the first volume, "The Last Boyar," which takes place entirely on August 23, 1944, the day the Russians invaded Romania, and Romania switched sides from the Axis to the Allies. It centers on the departure of the Nazi troops from her father's family estate in Moldavia amid escalating rumors, hopes and fears about the advancing Soviet armies.