An interview with Ionesco (French with English subtitles)
Today is playwright Eugene Ionesco‘s birthday (1909-1994).
Frye in The Educated Imagination:
I said earlier that there’s nothing new in literature that isn’t the old reshaped. The latest thing in drama is the theatre of the absurd, a completely wacky form of writing where anything goes and there are no rational rules. In one of these plays, Ionesco’s La Chauve Cantatrice (“The Bald Soprano” in English), a Mr. and Mrs. Martin are talking. They think they must have seen each other before, and discover that they travelled in the same train that morning, that they have the same name and address, sleep in the same bedroom, and both have a two-year-old daughter name Alice. Eventually Mr. Martin decides that he must be talking to his long lost wife Elizabeth. This scene is built on two of the solidest conventions in literature. One is the ironic situation in which two people are intimately related and yet know nothing about each other; the other is the ancient and often very corny device that critics call the “recognition scene,” where the long lost son and heir turns up from Australia in the last act. What makes the Ionesco scene funny is the fact that it’s a parody or take-off of these familiar conventions. The allusiveness of literature is part of its symbolic quality, its capacity to absorb everything from natural or human life into its own imaginative body. (40-1)