Eugen Ionesco


Eugen Ionesco (1909-1994) dramatist, poet, literary critic, founder of the absurd theater.


1909: He is born on November 26th (the 13th according to the Orthodox calendar) in Slatina (Romania), 150 km from Bucharest. His father, a Romanian lawyer, was also called Eugen Ionescu. His mother, Thérèse Ipcar, was the daughter of a French engineer who had settled in Romania because of his work. Shortly after Eugen's birth, the family moves to Paris, where his father continues his studies.
1914: The family lives on Square Vaugirard in Paris. At the age of four, he was already a great fan of puppet shows (Le Guignol).
1916: His father goes back to Bucharest, but his wife and the two young children remain in Paris and had to manage all by themselves, although with some support from Thérèse's parents. After the end of the war there is still no news of the father and they suppose he died at the front.
1917: Eugene's health being fragile, his mother sent him to live with a family in the countryside, in La Chapelle Anthenaise (Mayenne), where he stayed for two years with his younger sister, Marilina. In Ionesco's writings, this period is depicted as the most peaceful and harmonious period of his life. (His father remarries in Romania, and is appointed general inspector. By using and misusing his position in the police and pretending that his wife have settled abroad, he is granted a divorce, and even the custody of the children).
1919: They return to Paris and now lived in a small, dark apartment in rue de l'Avre in Paris, with their mother and grandparents. In this apartment he wrote a "heroic" play in two acts (32 pages in an exercise book) and a comic scenario. These texts were unfortunately lost. He attends the school in rue Dupleix.
1922: In May Eugene returns to Romania together with his sister. He learns Romanian and attends the college Sfântul Sava (Saint Sava) in Bucharest.
1926: Eugene leaves his father's house after a violent argument and, just like his sister few years ago, moves to his mother's place. She now works as a bank employee in Bucharest.
1928: He has his debut as a poet in Bilete de papagal (Parrot-notes)
1929: Until 1933 he studies for a French degree at the University of Bucharest.
1930: He publishes his first article in the Zodiac review. He became acquainted with Rodica Burileanu, a student of philosophy and law.
1931: He writes Elegii pentru fiinte mici (Elegies for tiny beings) (poetry) influenced by Francis Jammes.
1928: Until 1935 he writes articles in the reviews Vremea (Time), Azi (Today), Floarea de Foc (Flower of Fire), Viata Literara (Literary Life), România Literara (Literary Romania), the weekly antifascist magazine Critica, Axa (the Axis), Fapta (the Fact), and Zodiac.
1933: Collaboration with Facla (the Torch) and Universul Literar (Literary Universe).
1934: Nu (No!), (articles and diary notes). This collection of critical, protest essays provokes an enormous scandal in the Romanian literary world, by its devastating, subversive attack, perpetrated in a lively and sarcastic style, against the established values of Romanian literature: Tudor Arghezi, Ion Barbu, Camil Petrescu, Mircea Eliade. This volume received a prize from the Royal Foundations Publishing House, granted by a jury chaired by the literary critic and theorist Tudor Vianu.
1936: Marriage with Rodica Burileanu. Eugene now works as a French teacher in Cernavoda, at the Orthodox seminar of Curtea de Arges, and subsequently at the central seminar of Bucharest. He is seconded to the Ministry of Education where he was responsible for the department dealing with international relations.
1937: For one year he is in charge of the critical section of the Facla review. He also publishes writings in Universal Literary, the cultural daily newspaper Rampa (the Slope), Parerile Libere (Free Opinions).
1939: He meets, in Paris, Henri Thomas and the group behind the Esprit review. He goes to Marseilles (contacts with Les Cahiers du Sud and Léon-Gabriel Gros). He returned to La Chapelle Anthenaise to visit the lost paradise of his childhood.
1945: He translates the works of Urmoz (1883-1923), a Romanian poet, who was a forerunner of surrealism, the literature of the absurd and the anti-prose.
1948: Ionesco starts writing the play that was later to be entitled the Bald Prima Donna, and which is performed for the first time on May 11, 1950 at the Théâtre des Noctambules, under the direction of Nicolas Bataille. It is far from being a success. Only a handful of intellectuals appreciated it and supported him.
1958: Is the year of the "London Controversy" where Ionesco defended his theatre and his vision of the theater in a virulent polemic with the English critic, Kenneth Tynan from The Observer.
1959: He participates in the Helsinki talks on the avant-garde theatre.
1965: Voyage in France, during which Frenzy for Two is performed, directed by Nicolas Bataille.
1969: He receives the medal of Monaco and the Great National Theatre Prize.
1970: Eugène Ionesco is elected a member of the French Academy, to take over the seat of Jean Paulhan. The same year he receives the Great Austrian Prize of European literature.
1971: Official admission to the French Academy
1972: Ionesco makes the opening speech at the Salzburg Festival
1973: He received the Jerusalem Prize and the medal of the town of Vichy.
1974: He becomes honorary doctor of the University of Warwick (UK) and in March 1975 of the University of Tel-Aviv.
1976: He receives the Max Reinhardt-medal during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Salzburg Festival. In November he participates, with Tom Bishop, Emmanuel Jacquart, Françoise Koutilsky and Rosette Lamont, in a round table at the University of New York, in front of an audience of 900.
1978: La Décade Ionesco take place from August 3-13. For ten days many of the leading Ionesco specialists from the whole world (Claude Abastado, Roger Bensky, Mircea Eliade, Martin Esslin, Henri Gouhier, Jeanyves Guérin, Gelu Ionesco, Emmanuel Jacquart, Pierre Larthomas, Michel Lioure, Yves Moraud, Jean Onimus, Michel Pruner, Paul Vernois, Colette Weil) are gathered in a chateau in Normandy.
1982: Ionesco gives a conference at the University of Bonn where he receives the German Order of Merit.
1983:Ionesco is the guest of honor at the seventh meeting of the American-Romanian Academy of Arts and Sciences, in Davis, California, chaired by Richard Coe. Other prominent participants are Martin Esslin and Emmanuel Jacquart.
1985: Receives two medals: that of Mayenne and that of la Flèche. In May, the Monte-Carlo International Prize of Contemporary Art. He is a member of the jury of the Venice Film Biennial. On 22 November he receives the T S. Eliot-Ingersoll-prize in Chicago, in presence of Saul Bellow and Mircea Eliade.
1987: Théâtre de la Huchette celebrates the thirtieth anniversary of its Ionesco Performance, in the presence of Eugène and Rodica. In March, he receives the medal of the city of Paris and in October two gold medals: that of Saint-Etienne and that of Saint-Chamond.
1989: Together with Jacques Mauclair receives a Molière prize. Ionesco and Cioran become members of honor of the French Writers' Union.
1992: The Uniwersytet Slaski, Katowice, Poland, gives Eugène Ionesco the title of honorary doctor. The ceremony takes place in Paris.
1994: On March 28 he dies in his residence in Paris. He was buried in the Cemetery of Montparnasse.