Eugen Ionescu (Eugene Ionesco) (1909-1994)
by Howard Van Sherwood
Eugene Ionesco was the original anti. His entire life, beliefs, artistic, career and conduct were based on anti. For all the things that he was anti, it basically boiled down to that he was anti-his father. After being left in France with his mother by his father who went back to Romania to fight in The Great War, forged divorce papers while there and remarried, forcing Ionesco to live with his father's new wife who hated him, I imagine most people would be pretty upset with their father. Also, Ionesco's father was kind of easy to hate. Here was a man who believed in strict conformity to society and 'the state, no matter what it represented'. When a party came to power, he was right on the bandwagon as soon as it became the most powerful because surely that must mean it was the right party, though it would no longer be once it fell from power. In the course of his life he was an Iron Guard, a Freemason Democrat and a Stalinist. He was sure that his own country must surely be the divinely appointed one and hurrah for gory victories over our enemies who deserved to die anyway.
Due to his hatred of his father, Ionesco (perhaps without knowing it) began to shape his entire belief system to be exactly opposite of that of his father. So he became vehemently anti-military, anti-authority, anti-bourgeois, and anti-male supremacy.
Ionesco had, at a young age, firmly intended to pursue a literary career after being inspired by Flaubert, but never really had much of one in the professional sense until 1948. It was when he began to learn to speak English that, struck by the endless amount of monotonous and idiotic cliches and jargons used in English, he was inspired to write a comedic play entitled 'The Bald Soprano', which satirized the language and culture.
Many sources say that this was a highly successful play in France. This is only partly true. Actually, its first performance was met with rude remarks being shouted by the audience. However, literary and artistic circles applauded the piece greatly and so in a sense it was a success. Upon his surprise at its success, he went on to write even more plays and eventually fiction (which he himself considered to be his best work). In these he continued to make fun of society (or maybe just his dad) and all its conformity, pride, meaningless rules, and political stupidity. With these, he founded the Absurd drama, drawing off influences from his predecessors, the writers of Absurd fiction. He specifically cited Apollinaire's 'The Breasts of Tiresias' and the works of Albert Camus as his major artistic influences.
He died on March 28, 1994.
The polycarp at Montparnasse Cemetery, March '04