Eugene Ionesco Biography (1912-1994)

Born November 26, 1912 (one source lists 1909), in Bucharest, Romania; died March 28, 1994, in Paris, France. Playwright and author. Best known as a pioneer of Theatre of the Absurd, Ionesco was the author of twenty-eight plays andseveral books that include his memoirs and volumes written for children. Inhis native Romania he became a high school teacher, a position he left in 1938 when he was given the opportunity to study and write a thesis in France. While the thesis never materialized, Ionesco's play writing skills did. In 1950he presented The Bald Soprano, a play that relies on absurd dialogue and nonlinear plotting to reflect the banality of human existence. The play was initially ridiculed but eventually won a sizable audience and earned its author considerable respect. Also written in 1950, The Lesson examines the perceivedmeaning of language and how its power can be used to subjugate. Subsequent plays deal with similar subject matter, including The Chairs and Victims of Duty. Ionesco's 1958 play Rhinoceros, with its metamorphosed characters and strong anti-oppression messages, cemented his reputation a great playwright and master of absurdist technique. A firm believer in human rights, Ionesco oftenused powerful and surreal imagery to criticize totalitarianism; the playwright knew firsthand of censorship and dictatorial rule, as all of his plays hadbeen banned in Romania and he was exiled from his homeland. In addition to writing for the stage, he produced a number of books for children, including aseries of books, sequentially numbered Story Number 1, 2, 3, etc., titled ForChildren under Three Years of Age. Ionesco also wrote a series of autobiographical books, among them are Journal en miettes (published in English as Fragments of a Journal), Present passe, passe Present (published as Present Past,Past Present), and his last publication, The Intermittent Quest. Among his many honors, he was named a Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor and an Officer of Arts and Letters. As a testament to the endurance of Ionesco's plays,Paris's La Huchette Theatre has presented The Lesson and The Bald Soprano consistently since the mid-1950s; the theatre plans to continue featuring the plays until at least the year 2000.

Birth Details
November 26, 1912
Bucharest, Romania
Death Details
March 28, 1994
Paris, France

Recent Updates

December 3, 2004: Ionesco's play The Chairs was translated by Michael Feingold and directed by David Gordon in a production for the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York. Source: New York Times,, December 3, 2004.

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