For Ionesco politics lie; art, true art, cannot lie. “Politics separate men by bringing them together only superficially. Art and culture unite us in a common anguish that is our only possible fraternity, that of our existential and metaphysical community.”
Staged all over the world during the 1960s and 1970s, Ionesco’s plays were once among the most performed works in the theatrical repertoire. With his plays The Bald Soprano, The Lesson and The Chair he helped inaugurate a new type of theater, which came to be known as “theater of the absurd.” Ionesco’s ‘theater,’ which included Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet and Arthur Adamov, was a theater that posed a problem; it was not a theater of entertainment. The problem these writers dealt with was “the existential condition of man, his despair, the tragedy of his destiny, the ridiculousness of his destiny, the absurdity of his destiny, the existence of God.”
Ionesco maintained that the king of the Theatre of the Absurd was Shakespeare citing Macbeth as its ‘pure’ definition… The world is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.
Kraft’s conversation explores the totality of Ionesco’s vision, which informs all aspects of his theater. A cornerstone of that vision is that culture cannot be separated from politics. “The arts, philosophy and metaphysics, religion and the sciences, constitute culture. Politics are the science or art of organizing our relationships to allow for the development of life in society. But, in our time, politics have overtaken all other manifestations of the human spirit… Developing as they have by trampling on man’s other activities, they have made men mad.”
Other topics covered in this rare interview include Ionesco’s thoughts on ethics and morality, which are based in his opinion on fear rather than on religion; another topic is guilt. With his ironic wit Ionesco states that while guilt is a nasty feeling, it is also useful; without it we might just kill each other.
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