Biography of Eugène Ionesco (1909-1994)

Playwright, essayist and French Narrator of Romanian origin, born in Slatina (a hundred and fifty kilometers from Bucharest) on November 26, 1909 (or the 13th of that month, according to the Orthodox calendar) and died on 29 March 1994, which is considered as one of the fathers of the theatre of the absurd and, without a doubt, as one of the greatest playwrights in French language of all time.

He took a degree in letters at the University of Bucharest and was Professor of French at the Institute of the same city. After collaborating with several magazines in his native country he moved to France to write a doctoral thesis about Baudelaire. In the French capital was associated with the literary group gathered around the magazine Les Cahiers du Sud. After the premiere of his masterpiece, the bald singer (1950), obtained French nationality and was linked to the "College of Pataphysique', representing the more experimental side of gala literature. Already recognized as a classic live-universal, in 1970 he was elected member of the Académie Française, among other many national and international awards.

Eugène Ionesco work assumes a new dramaturgy, characterized by a shortage of intrigue, a staging that usually exploits the grotesque, the rejection of the likelihood and, above all, play with the language, whose wear and decomposition evidence isolation, loneliness and existential absurdity, all this wrapped in the burlesque of the more mundane aspects and humorous presentation. In his masterpiece, the cantatrice chauve (the bald singer, 1950), defined by the own Ionesco as "anticomedia", dialogues of the characters are mere sounds or meaningless phrases uttered in the unreal universe of a typical bourgeois salon. Plays in one act La Leçon (lesson, 1951), Les chaises (the chairs, 1952) and Victimes du devoir (victims of duty, 1953), and the three acts Amédée ou comment s' (Amédée or how out of step, 1954) débarrasser and Jacques ou soumission (Jacques or the submission, 1955) reflect a dense metaphysical background behind the most absurd situations. With Tueur sans gages (killer without pay, 1957) and Le rhinoceros (Rhinoceros, 1958), Ionesco dramatic write becomes more explicit to reflect its intellectual concerns. Le roi is dies (the King dies, 1962) and the soif et faim (thirst and hunger, 1966) retrieve the absurd atmosphere of his first forays into the dramatic genre.

Most of his biographers placed the birth of Ionesco in 1912, without considering that the author is "rejuvenated" in the 1950s after having read a statement from the theatrical critic Jacques Lemarchand, in which this spoke of a new generation of "young" authors.

Life and work

Son of a Romanian lawyer (Eugen Ionesco) and a French citizen (Thérèse Ipcar) whose father provided his services engineer in Romania, soon moved in the company of his family to Paris, where his father furthered her studies up to the degree of PhD from the Faculty of law of the Sorbonne University. In the city of the Sena came to the world his sister Marilina (February 11, 1911) and a after a year, his brother Mircea, who died, victim of meningitis, with only eighteen months of life.

His love of the theatre was well patent from his early childhood, when he entertained and amused his little sister playing with puppets. In 1914, the family resided in Square Vaugirard (Paris); two years later, his father returned to Romania to fight beside the army of their nation in World War II, so Thérèse Ipcar was in need of the help of his parents to bring up their two young children. After the international race, remained without news of the head of the family, so it ended up assuming that he had died in combat. Moved, then, to the hotel de Nivernais, located at rue de Dunkerque; but before the young Eugene brittle and fragile health, his mother chose to send you in the company of her sister to live in the country, with a family who resided in La Chapelle-Anthenaise (in the Department of Mayenne). Years later, the playwright would remember this period of stay in the agricultural sector (1917-1919) as one of the happier periods of its existence.

On his return to the French capital, both brothers stayed with his mother and his grandparents in a modest apartment on the rue de l'Avre, where the young Eugene wrote his first theatrical drafts. Among them was a comic piece, consists of two acts, and written in a school workbook, which, like the rest of those texts, is not preserved nowadays. He began to attend, at the time, a school in the rue Dupleix, but soon came surprising news from Romania which forced him to abandon these studies and return to his native country. Apparently, his father not only had not died in the war, but it had not even taken part in it as a soldier. As soon as he was come to Bucharest, he was appointed inspector of the security police in that city, charge that amounted to the inspector-general in 1917. In the course of that same year, he married a citizen of his country, and availed themselves of the prerogatives of his high rank police to fake papers that pretending to demonstrate that had been granted a divorce and custody of their children. To move forward with his deception, Romanian and French authorities requested that the young Eugene and the small Marilina returned to Bucharest, a request that was granted.

In the spring of 1922, the future playwright and his inseparable sister were back in Romania, housed in his father's House, where they learned the language of the country while they suffered the scorn of her stepmother. Eugène Ionesco joined the College Sfântul Sava, Bucharest, and shortly afterwards obtained the degree of Bachelor in an Institute of Craiova. The negative attitude of the new wife of her father caused Marilina March to the House who now lived in the Romanian capital his mother, newly come from Paris and employed as a typist in a bank; Eugene went to live with them in 1926, after having had a bitter argument with his father, who, despite these disagreements, insisted on personally responsible for their child's education. Empecinado in which to study engineering, used his powerful contacts in the Romanian public administration to get a scholarship in favour of Eugene; but this already had opted decisively follow the dictates of his humanistic vocation and to devote themselves to the cultivation of literary creation.

He refused, then, to carry out higher education of engineering and, in 1928, it became known as a writer through a few poems published in the magazine Papagalá Bilete. Between 1929 and 1933, he attended the Bachelor's degree in French Philology at the University of Bucharest, on whose campus met the young Rodica Burileanu, student of philosophy and law, who would become his wife. While he was in the race, continued to write newspaper articles (in 1930 published one on Ilarie Voronca in the prestigious magazine Zodiac) and various poems which were grouped in a plaquette entitled Elegii pentru fiinte mici (1931), in which the influence of the French poet Francis Jammes (1868-1938) is evident. Later expanded his collaborations to other Rotary and magazines widespread in its native, as Vremea (the weather), Azi (today), Floarea de Foc (the fire flower), Viata Literara (literary life), România Literara (literary Romania), review - a weekly radical anti-fascist - Axa (the axis), Fapta (the fact), Ideea (Idea), Viata Româneasca (life Romanian), Facla (torch) and l'Universul Literar (the literary universe).

In the mid-1930s, Eugène Ionesco published Nu (No, 1934), a collection of critical and factual texts that lit controversy between the Romanian intelligentsia of the time, for his corrosive attacks - clothed by an entertaining and sarcastic - style directed against some of the great figures of the letters in the country, such as Tudor Arghezi (1880-1967), Ion Barbu (1895-1961)Camil Petrescu (1894-1957) and Mircea Eliade (1907-1986). Despite the scandal, this book was awarded the annual prize of the Royal foundations, awarded by a jury presided over by the critic and theoretician of literature Tudor Vianu.

Her mother, a stroke victim died in 1936, three months after her marriage with Rodica Burileanu. At the time, Eugène Ionesco winning is life practicing teaching as Professor of French in Cernavoda, profession which took him also to the Orthodox Seminary in Curtea Arges and the Bucharest central Seminary. Soon after, the Ministry of education rose to the post of director of the service's relations with foreign. Immersed, in addition, a successful journalistic activity, between 1937 and 1938 he was head of section of literary criticism of the magazine Facla (the torch), and he continued to disseminate his writings through other publications such as Universul Literar (literary world), ramp (the slope) and opinions free (free user).

In 1938, he published another famous article ("vocabulary of criticism") in the magazine Vremea (the weather), won a scholarship to go to Paris to write a doctoral thesis on sin and death in the poetry of Baudelaire (1821-1867). Never came to completion of this interesting project, but became friends at the gala capital with the leading figures of contemporary French literature and studied the works of some contemporary philosophers such as Emmanuel Mounier (1905-1950), Jacques Maritain (1882-1973) and Gabriel Marcel (1889-1973). A year later (1939), he was already integrated in the Group of authors gathered around the journal Esprit, and also collaborated with Les Cahiers du Sud (Los Cuadernos del Sur), prestigious cultural publication of Marseilles; In addition, reports of literature and culture in general to the important publication of Budapest Viata Romaneasca (Romanian life) it sent from Paris.

With the outbreak of the second world war, Eugène Ionesco returned to Romania (but not before having visited paradise private of his childhood which was La Chapelle-Anthenaise) and returned to teaching, now Professor at that school of Bucharest (Sfântul Sava) in which had completed most of his secondary education. But his desire was return to Paris, he finally could do in 1942, in the midst of great instability in Europe that made very difficult the achievement of the necessary documents so that both he and his wife, could return to the gala capital. Before settling permanently in Paris, the Romanian couple had to spend some time in the Hotel de la Poste, in Marseille, where, beset by economic difficulties, survived thanks to translations carried out by Ionesco - including that of the novel Urcan Batrânul (father Urcan), Pavel Dan (1907-1937)-. Soon after, he left these hardships to be named cultural aggregate of the Romanian consulate in Vichy, where their daughter was born on 26 August 1944, Marie-France.

In 1945, installed again in Paris (now, number 38 of the rue Claude-Terrance), returned to go through serious economic difficulties, so it accepted an employment spell for an administrative text editor. To help sustain the fragile domestic economy, translated some writings of the Romanian poet Urmoz (1883-1923), a new pre-vanguardista author (see cutting edge), forerunner of surrealism and the literature of the absurd; but it wasn't enough with the resources obtained by both activities, by which Ionesco was forced to accept financial support offered by a family member.

To 1948 the news reached you Paris the death of his father, at the time that was writing his masterpiece the cantatrice chauve (the bald singer, a 1950), staging for the first time at the Théâtre des Noctambules in Paris on May 11, 1950, under the direction of Nicolas Bataille. It's a comedy consists of a single act, divided into eleven scenes and defined by the own Ionesco as "anticomedia", in which corrosive comedy of the absurd charges supremacy over any hint of logic, and the pure verbal nonsense exceeds the greatest excesses of any avant-garde piece. The work presents marriage Smith in a typical bourgeois atmosphere, in which Exchange banal phrases similar to which can be found in any manual of languages. They are then visited by the Martin spouses, who sit opposite one another and talk to each other as perfect strangers. Later, after the unexpected irruption of a firefighter looking for a fire off, two marriages engage in common places littered with routine conversation; little by little, tempers exalt and four characters begin to scream brandishing his fists at threatening attitude, until, in the middle of screaming, sentences lose all its meaning and, even, the signifier, as they are reduced to mere repetitive exclamations. An unexpected power failure lights; puts an end to this tense situation When it becomes to illuminate the scene, Smith, regained calm, follow your bourgeois salon telling the same disjointed vagueness that has begun the work between the two.

At the time of its premiere, the bald singer went unnoticed for critics and spectators, and only won praise from a small group of intellectuals, including André Breton (1896-1966), Luis Buñuel (1900-1983), Arthur Adamov (1908-1970), and the aforementioned Mircea Eliade. With the passage of time, it became one of the works of overstay on billboards in major cities of Europe.

After the premiere of the bald singer, Ionesco finally obtained French nationality. In August of that same year of 1950, already fully integrated into the literary and theatrical forums of Paris, accepted for fun play the role of Stepan Trofimovitch in the book the possessed, of Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881), in a montage made also by the aforementioned Nicolas Bataille. And, shortly thereafter, driven by its humor, its innovative spirit and its bitter nihilism, came into contact with the so-called "College of la Pataphysique', a select group of authors ascertained in the included writers Boris Vian (1920-1959), Raymond Queneau (1903-1976), Jacques Prévert (1900-1977), Michel Leiris (1901 - 1900) and - among other artists and intellectuals who lived in Paris - the painter Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968). Thanks to these contacts, much of Ionesco's later works were published in the famous Cahiers du Collège de Pataphysique (papers of the University of Patafisica).

Delivered fully to dramatic writing, Eugène Ionesco then presented other comedies in an act as La Leçon (lesson, 1951), Les chaises (the chairs, 1952) and Victimes du devoir (victims of duty, 1953), to which he soon added other works in three acts, as Amédée ou comment s' (Amédée or how out of step, 1954) débarrasser and Jacques ou soumission (Jacques or the submission1955). As a result of its abundant philosophical readings, a dense metaphysical background that, combined with the exceptional mastery of the absurd situations that boasts the Romanian author, gives them disturbing and evocative complex can be seen in all of them. In reality, his humorous - sometimes, grotesque - presentation of aspects and more banal everyday reality characters highlights the existential void that surrounds the human being, nothing in which underpin incomprehensibly contemporary societies.

After the premiere of Tueur sans gages (killer without pay, 1957), Ionesco in 1958 traveled to London to defend his theatre against the virulent attacks of the prestigious critic Kenneth Tynan, one of the feathers more followed by the readers of The Observer. In that same year premiered another one of his most successful plays, Le rhinoceros (Rhinoceros, 1958), in which, as in the work cited at the beginning of this paragraph, his dramatic writing became more plain and explicit intended to delve into the intellectual concerns that most worried him, which got a greater acceptance by the average viewer, but lost a good portion of the freshness and the attraction that it gave off their previous culture of absurd ambiguity. Conscious of this, the Romanian-born playwright returned to their old formal, thematic and expressive models in the works that was drafted during the Decade of the sixties, in which, as well can be seen in Le roi is dies (the King dies, 1962) and the soif et faim (thirst and hunger, 1966), reappears in disturbing splendor that absurd atmosphere and unease floating on their first forays in the dramatic genre.

The controversy over the validity of his work raised in England in late 1950s wouldn't be an eloquent testimony of his definitive consecration as one of the most important living authors of his time. Accepted, indeed, by contemporary French intellectuals as a playwright of international projection, in 1961 was appointed Chevalier des Arts the Lettres ('Knight of Arts and letters'), decoration which soon joined other honors and distinctions which went to a ballet show that suited his La Leçon comedy as the Grand Prix Italy (1963),. That same year, the melancholy seized Ionesco when, on a return visit to La Chapelle-Anthenaise, found that the rural mansion and the old mill in which they had spent happier moments of his life were semi-abandoned and that there was no trace of Marie and Robert, the marriage that had welcomed him in his childhood.

He lived, in those early years of the Decade of the sixties, at number 14 on the rue de Rivoli, in Paris, in a rather more comfortable economic situation. In 1965, during a sailing aboard the steamer France, Nicolas Bataille returned to put in scene a new work of Ionesco, entitled Délire à deux (frenzy for two, 1965). A year later, the writer of Romanian origin starred - opposite great actors María Casares (1922-1996) and Jean-Louis Barrault (1910-1994)-a comentadisima shows on the stage of the Théâtre de France, with reading of unpublished texts included; that same year, was awarded with the "Grand Prix du Théâtre de la Société des Auters" - that came to recognize the value of the whole of his dramatic production premiered to date-, and the "Prix du Brigadier"-which emphasized the staging in the Comédie Française of thirst and hunger. Subsequently, other significant Awards relapsed in his person and in his work as the "Prix Litteraraire prince Pierre of Monaco" and the "Medal of Monaco" (1969), as well as the "Grand Prix National du Théâtre" (1969). On January 22, 1970 he was elected member of the Académie Française, to fill the vacancy left by Jean Paulhan (1884-1968) and, a few months later, he agreed to the honorary rank of Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur; until you stop this year, the Austrian Government received the Grand Prize of the European literature.

On February 25, 1971, Eugène Ionesco made his speech from admission to the Académie française, and the following year was invited to inaugurate the Salzburg festival with his words. On April 30, 1973 he received the prestigious award "Jerusalem" - coming to recognize the whole of its work and, in particular, the merits of the rhino- and month and half later, the Medal of the city of Vichy. International recognition of his dramatic output earned him other awards as outstanding as the doctorates honoris cause from the universities of Warwick (1974) and Tel Aviv (1975), as well as receipt of the medal Max Reinhardt on the 50th anniversary of the festival of Salzburg (1976). In November of the latter year, he crossed the Atlantic to attend, at the University of New York, a round table to nearly one thousand students; two years later, the leading world specialists in the analysis of his work met in a monographic Congress held in a castle in Normandy, where, in the presence of the author and his wife, read many papers which were then collected in the volume entitled Ionesco: Situation et perspectives (Ionesco: situation and perspectives, 1978). With these academic ceremonies came to prove that Romanian dramatist had already become a classic live-universal.

At the beginning of 1982, invited by the University of Bonn, he gave one of his classrooms applauded Conference and received the Insignia of the order of the German merit. On 21, 22 and 23 April 1983 attended as guest of honor to the seventh meeting of the Americano-Rumana Academy of Arts and Sciences, in Davis (California). So many journeys ended up undermining his fragile health, so in February 1984 there was be entered in a French hospital to be treated for a diabetic crisis which took him in coma for two days. Despite the gravity of this disease and the lateness of his age (was going to comply, that year, the seventy-five old), he answered with great strength and undertook a number of trips to different places in Europe and the United States, which gave lectures and was the subject of warm tributes. He then ascended with the honorary rank of Officier de la Légion d'Honneur ("officer of the Legion of honour") and received medals of Mayenne and La Flèche (April 16, 1986). The following month, was awarded the "Prix International d'Art Contemporain de Monte-Carlo;" It was then appointed jury of the film "Venice Biennale", and on November 22, 1986 Chicago received the prestigious award "T. S. Eliot-Ingersoll", who came to recognize the importance of its dazzling creative work.

After having taken an active part in a meeting in favour of human rights held in Bern (Switzerland) at the end of 1986, on February 23, 1987, he attended, with his inseparable wife Rodica, the celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the Spectacle Ionesco (spectacle Ionesco), staging at the Parisian Théâtre de la Huchette. The following month he was decorated with the Medal of the city of Paris, and in October of that year with other two gold medals: Saint-Etienne and Saint-Chamond.

In early 1989, when he had planned to move to Romania to take part in an act in defense of human rights, he fell ill again gravity and had to be hospitalized, so was his daughter Marie-France who read their charges against the Romanian dictatorship. To his release from the hospital, Ionesco chaired jury of the Pen Club that awarded the "prize for freedom" to the Czech dramatist Václav Havel, sentenced for political crimes after having taken an active part in the tribute in memory of Jan Palach (1948-1969), the Czech student who burned alive in protest against the Government collaboration with the Soviet occupation forces. Increasingly known and respected among writers around the world, he then signed a statement in defense of the British writer of Indian origin Salman Rushdie, whose Satanic Verses (1988) work had provoked his condemnation to death by some leaders of Islamic fundamentalism. On May 7, 1989, Ionesco was awarded one of the most important prizes of the French literary scene, "Molière", and on November 30, together to the thinker Émile Cioran (1911-1995), was appointed member of honour of the Union of writers in Romania.

On 27 November 1992, Ionesco was conferred doctor honoris causa by the University of Silesia (Poland), in the middle of a ceremony which, because of the weakness of the now elderly writer, had to be held in Paris. Despite the aches and pains of old age, remained in those early years of the 1990s fighting actively in favour of human rights, now as a leading member of the CIEL (International Committee for freedom writers), a body created to defend artists and intellectuals persecuted for having made use of their right to freedom of expression. These activities Eugène Ionesco were abruptly interrupted early in the spring of 1994, when he lost his life in his Paris home. The first day of April of this year - which coincided with the Christian feast of the Holy Friday - his mortal remains were buried in Montparnasse cemetery, in the city that had both loved throughout his life.

Other works not referred to in the above paragraphs are the entitled Le nouveau locataire (the new tenant, 1955), Le piéton de l'air (the pedestrian from the air, 1962), Jeux de massacre (game of massacre, 1970), Macbeth (1972), this formidable brothel (1974), l'homme aux valisses (the man's suitcases, 1975), Antidotes (antidotes, 1975) and Le blanc et le noir (the black and white1985). He also published some books of memories and notes that, at present, are an invaluable aid to better understand the scope of his work, as graduates Notes et contrenotes (notes and counter-notes, 1962) and Journal in miettes (scraps of newspaper, 1967); and conducted a RAID - much less fortunate than their theatrical pieces - in the field of prose fiction, he contributed novels titled Le solitaire (Solitaire, 1973) and Voyage chez les morts (trip to the mansion of the dead, 1980).

Bibliography

WINGS-BRU, María Montserrat. The comedy of the absurd to the theatre of the absurd (1939-1946) (Barcelona: PPU, S. a.., 1995).

Bermudez MEDINA, María Dolores. Symbolic analysis of Ionesco Theatre (Cadiz: Cadiz University, service publications, 1989).

DIACONU, Alina. Questions with answers. Interviews with Ionesco, Cidran, Sarduy, Girri and Borges (Buenos Aires: Vinciguerra, 1998).

ESSLIN, Martin. The theatre of the absurd (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1966) [tr. Manuel Herrero].

HERNÁNDEZ, Francisco Javier. Ionesco (Madrid: EPESA, 1974).

HERRERAS, Enrique. A naturalistic interpretation of the theatre of the absurd (Valencia: Universidad de Valencia, Servicio de Publicaciones, 1996).

IONESCO, Eugène. Theatre of the absurd (Santiago de Chile: Ed. legal Manuel Montt, S. A., 1997).

SÉNART, Philippe. Ionesco (Barcelona: Fontanella, S.A., 1969).

VV. AA Ionesco (Valladolid: Universidad de Valladolid, Department of French Philology, 1996).

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