March 19, 2009

Ionesco and Absurd

The first piece of Ionesco, La Cantatrice chauve (The Bald Soprano), first performed in France in 1950, puzzled conservative critics. The following plays are no more successful. The lack of plot, the degradation of language, seen first as provocations, made little by little Ionesco's reputation as an author of avant-garde. The recognition came in 1960 when Jean-Louis Barrault performed Rhinocéros (Rhinoceros) at The Odeon theatre. Béranger, the protagonist is a metaphoric double of the author and first appears in Tueurs sans gages (The Killer) in 1959 and then in Le Roi se meurt (Exit the King) in 1962. With La Soif et la faim (Hunger and Thirst), first performed in 1965 at the Comédie-Française, Ionesco followed his analysis of major metaphysical themes. In this short piece in three episodes, the author describes the religion as an expression of conformism, of the alienation of idealism to the establishment.
To understand Ionesco's work, one must delve into Notes et contre-notes (Notes and Counter Notes), book published in 1962, in which the author talks about the foundation and thrust of his theatre of the Absurd:
"I never understood, for my part, the difference made between comic and tragic. Comic being the intuition of the absurd, it seems more hopeless than tragic. Comic offers no exit. "

Copies that the library offers of
La Faim et la Soif and Notes et contre-notes, are dedicated to the painter Byzantios and his wife. Ionesco prefaced two exhibitions - in 1962 and 1972 - of this Greek artist whom he defended the pictorial universe that he described as spiritual.

Currently, the librairie Loliée offers first editions of Ionesco :
  • Notes et contre-notes. Paris, Gallimard, collection « Pratique du Théâtre », 1962, in-8. First edition dedicated by the author to Denise Byzantios, wife of the painter.
  • La Photo du Colonel. Paris, Gallimard, 1962, in-12. First edition dedicated to Madame Andrée Hubert Martin.
  • La Soif et la faim. Paris, N.R.F., 1965, in-8. First edition of this rare book. Copy dedicated to the painter Byzantios.
  • Présent Passé Passé Présent. Paris, Mercure de France, 1968, in-8. First edition. One of the 60 copies on vellum paper.
  • Découvertes. Illustrations by the author. Genève, Albert Skira, collection « Les sentiers de la Création », 1969, in-8, publisher's binding. First edition with black and white illustrations by Ionesco.