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lonesco's Scene An Introduction Rosette Lamont Eugene lonesco's Scene was written for the 1982 Avignon Festival AIDA day (Association Internationale de D6fense des Artistes) in honor of the jailed dissident Czech dramatist Vaclav Havel. It was performed on the same bill as Beckett's Catastrophe, although published only in 1984 (the Orwell year) in Corps 6crit, no. 10. This modern, highly political Platonic dialogue takes place in a jail on the other side of the Iron Curtain between two revolutionaries, one of the old school and a younger Communist idealist. They discuss the dystopia which emerged from the utopian dream of a perfect society. Beranger (the name is the same as that of many of lonesco's anti-heroes with the exception of one vowel: Beranger instead of Berenger) tells Vanek (instead of Vaclav) Havel, the newly jailed protester, that Huxley's Brave New World is coming into being. There will be no individuals left, only cogs in the demonic machine of social order. Just as lonesco's opera libretto, Maximilian Kolbe revealed the absurdist dramatist's overwhelming concern with the Holocaust (PAJ 17), and his philosophical and mystical side, so Scene is additional proof that the writer of Antidotes and Un homme en question (lonesco's two latest volumes of his published journals, still untranslated into English) is not, as he claimed to be, an apolitical playwright but on the contrary a profoundly committed political thinker. In Un homme en question, Ionesco admits: "In my zeal to remain strictly apolitical, I indulged in political action. There is no doubt whatsoever that to be against politics is still to act politically." What is lonesco's political 105 position? He is known to everyone as the writer who created the term "rhinoceritis" to describe conformity of both the Right and the Left. In France, for the longest time, he was considered a conservative by the leftist intelligentsia despite the fact that he fled a fascist regime. With the publication of Solzhenitsyn's Gulags, however, a shift of opinion occurred; it became impossible for intellectuals to ignore the fact that the Soviet Union had killed close to twenty million of its citizens in slave labor camps, mass deportations, and by execution. lonesco began to be admired as a writer who had denounced these horrors from the start. Nor is lonesco's indignation vented only by means of the written word. Together with a group of other writers he founded CIEL (Comit6 des intellectuels pour l'Europe des libert6s). The group's name reveals its program. CIEL is a self-appointed Congress of people of goodwill, watchdogs who protest any injustice or repression called to their attention. It concerns itself with heeding the silenced voices beyond the Iron Curtain. In Europe, where intellectuals are taken seriously, a pressure group such as CIEL can at least sustain the hopes of imprisoned, hounded, intimidated protesters and convey to those who suffer inner exile that they are not bereft of friends. In his essay, "Culture et Politique," published in Un homme en question, lonesco explains that the modern world has witnessed a tragic split between culture and politics. Once the two were indissolubly connected, forming a harmonious whole, a system of ethics. In the post-Marxist society, politics acquired a kind of autonomous existence, taking precedence over all other manifestations of the human mind.Instead of putting themselves in the service of man, politics grew to be organization for organization's sake. A regime which aims at repressing individual expression is, according to lonesco, profoundly life-threatening. lonesco's fear of utopian paradises had already found its way into his play The Killer. In it his Berenger takes the wrong tram and reaches an extraordinary neighborhood of white houses, green lawns, perpetually fair skies. It is as though he had crossed some invisible frontier, leaving behind the gray, rainy city in which he dwells. He meets with the Architect who takes him on a tour of "the radiant district." This cool and business-like official looks askance at Berenger's blissful enthusiasm. He explains that the climate of the neighborhood is regulated technologically by concealed ventilators. There are, however, terrifying features connected with this...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1537-9477
Print ISSN
1520-281X
Pages
pp. 105-107
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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