NEW ORLEANS. — I have a small group of Romanian friends who are different and more delicate than my other friends. We live and work outside Romania and part of what draws us together is our love for our birthplace.
One of these people, a gentle religious scholar named Ioan P. Colianou, was murdered last week in Chicago. It was a brutal and mysterious murder. He was found in a locked bathroom stall at the Divinity School of Chicago, shot in the head. No money or valuables were taken. Someone had shot him over the top of the next stall.
It was a professional execution. The Chicago police think that the killing might be politically motivated. Why? Coulianou, an erudite and multilingual man, wrote books about ancient religions and rituals. But he also, like most of us in our small circle, cared about what happens to our poor, sad country and wrote articles about it for Italian newspapers.
He was critical, as we all are, of the neo-Communist government in power in Romania, critical about the survival of the vicious Securitate (secret police), critical about the resurgence of fascism and race-hatred. Were these criticisms sufficient to cause someone to murder him?
The day before he was murdered, someone telephoned my family and many of my business associates and told them I had committed suicide. Why? During the Ceausescu era, this kind of disinformation campaign was common. During these past few months Romania has been trying to rejoin the family of nations by appearing to be a democratic country. If even a hint of suspicion devolves in that direction, the outcry will be tremendous.
Maybe Professor Coulianou was not killed for political reason. Maybe the rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated. Maybe a distressed student killed Ioan. Maybe the rumor of my death was started by a rival author whose book on Romania competes with mine. Maybe. That would help save face for Romania. It won't bring back my friend.
Andrei Codrescu's book, ''The Hole in the Flag: A Romanian Exile's Story of Return and Revolution,'' was just published by William Morrow Company.