Romanian-born historian of religion, Eliade was one of the pre-eminent interpreters of world religion in the 20th century. An intensely prolific author of fiction and non-fiction alike, Eliade published 1,300 pieces over 60 years. He earned international fame with LE MYTHE DE L' ÉTERNAL RETOUR (The Myth of the Eternal Return), an interpretation of religious symbols and imagery, while his four volume History of Religious Ideas is considered one of the most comprehensive resources on major religious traditions.
Mircea Eliade began his life in Bucharest, Romania March 9, 1907. Eliade's father, an army officer, changed the family name from Ieremia to Eliade due to his admiration for the writer Eliade-Radulescu. The name change proved prophetic, as Eliade exhibited a passion for writing. A true auto-didactic mind, he was known to sleep only 5 - 6 hours a night to maximize his time for edifying interests like entomology, linguistics, alchemy, Orientalism, religion, literary criticism, and his own short stories.
In 1925, Eliade entered The University of Bucharest, where he pursued studies in Renaissance philosophy. In 1928, Eliade expanded on his Western education by sailing to Calcutta to study Sanskrit and Eastern philosophies until 1931. Calcutta forever changed Eliade and directed his passion for knowledge towards the study of religious history. PhD work and teaching history of religion and metaphysics in Bucharest followed. Besides diplomatic duties during WWII, Eliade remained in academia teaching and publishing, first at The Sorbonne in Paris and then at The University of Chicago where he was the Sewall L. Avery Distinguished Service Professor at the Divinity School and professor in the Committee on Social Thought. Eliade's breadth of religious knowledge was unparalleled and led him to several pioneering conclusions about the nature of religious cultures. His essays The Myth of the Eternal Return (1945) and The Sacred and the Profane (1959) secured Eliade's reputation as an eminent religious scholar and are considered seminal works in comparative religion. Using his fund of knowledge, Eliade passionately insists on the value of understanding primitive religious cultures in order to enrich our contemporary imagination of what it is to be human and sacred.
Eliade also wrote autobiographical works as well as novels, novellas, short stories, and plays. He approached fiction as a complimentary way to creatively explore the themes of his scholarly work. He often used devices of fantasy and the occult to create hidden worlds behind everyday reality. He believed imagination was essential to understanding the sacred in life. Also, erotic love was often a central theme in his fiction. Many of his stories are rooted in personal experience, and were written as a way to transcend the profane and find true meaning in his own life.