What was the first absurd drama
Master of the absurd
Eugène Ionesco called his first play an anti-play. He lined up banal and meaningless words, worn out idioms and clichés, originally with the intention of writing a "tragedy of language". "La Cantatrice chauve" - "The Bald Singer" - was premiered in Paris in 1950, where the piece is on the program together with "La Leçon" - "The Lesson" - to this day. But "The Bald Singer" is still alive and well elsewhere, for example at the Theater Basel:
"Oh - you - oh. (….) I, you are friends - and how - so happy to see you again - finally!"
With his early plays, Eugène Ionesco became one of the founders of the theater of the absurd. By taking the dialogues and conventions of the tabloid theater to absurdity through exaggeration and illogical distortions, he criticized the bourgeois code of conduct and presented language as an unsuitable instrument for interpersonal communication. But like his colleagues Arthur Adamov and Samuel Beckett, Ionesco aims at a more existential dimension:
"The absurd always arises where man does not want to accept the laws of human conditions."
Eugène Ionesco was born in Romania on November 26, 1909, the son of a Romanian and a Frenchwoman. His youth was torn between Paris and Bucharest, between mother and father, homes and foster parents. The happiest childhood memories he had of the three years he spent with a farming family in Normandy.
In Bucharest, Ionesco studied Romance literature and published his first essays and poems. But he felt out of place in Romania and made his formative life experience there, which he recorded in his diary in 1967:
"The experience of being lost in the world, separated, lost in language, and in my own language, which I no longer felt as my own, but as that of others."
Ionesco dealt with his isolation at university, when professors and friends approached the fascist ideology of the Iron Guard, in his play "The Rhinos," with which he became world famous in 1959. In it, the protagonist is the only one in town who refuses to mutate into a rhinoceros.
"I am not caught. No, I will not follow you. I do not understand you! I remain what I am: a human being. A human!"
During the Second World War, Ionesco and his wife Rodica finally moved to France. He also wrote short stories and essays, but his success was based on the absurd dramas. They are comedies, although they arose out of a tragic attitude towards life - and as a fight against alienation, as he put it in his diary:
"What do you do so that all masks become transparent? (...) What do you do to improve what has falsified me? And what do you do to use the word to express everything that the word hides?"
Ionesco was at the height of his fame in the 1960s, but was driven back into isolation by the 1968 movement. He could not do anything with political engagement in art and kept his distance from the zeitgeist, against which he also liked to polemic. His later pieces were unsuccessful. He struggled with depression and turned to painting. In his thinking he increasingly occupied himself with metaphysics, although he retained his sense of the grotesque. Ionesco said in an interview in 1981 that the story sometimes seemed to him to be a monstrous farce that God played for people. There might be nothing left but to laugh with God and see creation as a bad joke.
Eugène Ionesco died on March 28, 1994 in Paris, as a member of the Académie française and as one of the most played French playwrights.
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