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Describe a circle, stroke its back and it turns vicious.

EUGÈNE IONESCO, The Bald Soprano

The absence of ideology in a work does not mean an absence of ideas; on the contrary it fertilizes them.

EUGÈNE IONESCO, reply to Kenneth Tynan in The Observer, Jun. 29, 1958

When I was nine, the teacher asked us to write a piece about our village fete. He read mine in class. I was encouraged and continued. I even wanted to write my memoirs at the age of ten. At twelve I wrote poetry, mostly about friendship—“Ode to Friendship.” Then my class wanted to make a film and one little boy suggested that I write the script. It was a story about some children who invite some other children to a party, and they end up throwing all the furniture and the parents out of the window.

EUGÈNE IONESCO, The Paris Review, fall 1984

They all had the word goodness in their mouths, a bloody knife between their teeth.

EUGÈNE IONESCO, Jack, or The Submission

That's not it. That's not it at all. You always have a tendency to add. But one must be able to subtract too. It's not enough to integrate, you must also disintegrate. That's the way life is. That's philosophy. That's science. That's progress, civilization.


Good men make good rhinoceroses, unfortunately.


History was against me. History is right, objectively speaking. I'm just a historical dead end. I hope at least that my fate will serve as an example to you all and to posterity.


What a farce, what a snare, what a booby-trap. We were born cheated. For if we are not to know, if there is nothing to know, why do we have this longing to know?

EUGÈNE IONESCO, Fragments of a Journal

We need to be virtually bludgeoned into detachment from our daily lives, our habits and mental laziness, which conceal from us the strangeness of the world. Without a fresh virginity of mind, without a new and healthy awareness of existential reality, there can be no theatre and no art either; the real must be in a way dislocated, before it can be re-integrated.

EUGÈNE IONESCO, Notes and Counternotes

If I denounce the absurd, I transcend the absurd by the very fact of my denunciation. For by what right should I declare a thing to be absurd, unless I had before me the image--whether sharply or vaguely defined, no matter--of something that was not absurd?

EUGENE IONESCO, conversation with George Lerminier, "Dialogue avec Ionesco", Ionesco

The theater chose me. As I said, I started with poetry, and I also wrote criticism and dialogue. But I realized that I was most successful at dialogue. Perhaps I abandoned criticism because I am full of contradictions, and when you write an essay you are not supposed to contradict yourself. But in the theater, by inventing various characters, you can.

EUGÈNE IONESCO, The Paris Review, fall 1984

I believe that what separates us all from one another is simply society itself, or, if you like, politics. This is what raises barriers between men, this is what creates misunderstanding. If I may be allowed to express myself paradoxically, I should say that the truest society, the authentic human community, is extra-social — a wider, deeper society, that which is revealed by our common anxieties, our desires, our secret nostalgias. The whole history of the world has been governed by nostalgias and anxieties, which political action does no more than reflect and interpret, very imperfectly. No society has been able to abolish human sadness, no political system can deliver us from the pain of living, from our fear of death, our thirst for the absolute. It is the human condition that directs the social condition, not vice versa.

EUGÈNE IONESCO, reply to Kenneth Tynan in The Observer, Jun. 29, 1958

It's not a certain society that seems ridiculous to me, it's mankind.

EUGÈNE IONESCO, attributed, Encyclopedia of World Biography

Why do people always expect authors to answer questions? I am an author because I want to ask questions. If I had answers, I'd be a politician.

EUGÈNE IONESCO, attributed, The Theatre Quotation Book: A Treasury of Insights and Insults

Béranger represents the modern man. He is a victim of totalitarianism — of both kinds of totalitarianism, of the Right and of the Left. When Rhinoceros was produced in Germany, it had fifty curtain calls. The next day the papers wrote, “Ionesco shows us how we became Nazis.” But in Moscow, they wanted me to rewrite it and make sure that it dealt with Nazism and not with their kind of totalitarianism. In Buenos Aires, the military government thought it was an attack on Perónism.

EUGÈNE IONESCO, The Paris Review, fall 1984

It is true that all authors have tried to make propaganda. The great ones are those who failed, who have gained access, consciously or not, to a deeper and more universal reality.

EUGÈNE IONESCO,Notes and Counternotes

Realism ... falls short of reality. It shrinks it, attenuates it, falsifies it; it does not take into account our basic truths and our fundamental obsessions: love, death, astonishment. It presents man in a reduced and estranged perspective. Truth is in our dreams, in the imagination.

EUGENE IONESCO, The Tulane Drama Review, 1959

But what is absurd, or rather what is unusual, is first and foremost what exists, reality.

EUGENE IONESCO, Conversations with Eugene Ionesco

Nothing is mightier than our why, nothing stands above it, because in the end there is a why to which no answer is possible. In fact, from why to why, from one step to the next, you get to the end of things. And it is only by travelling from one why to the next, as far as the why that is unanswerable, that man attains the level of the creative principle, facing the infinite, equal to the infinite maybe. So long as he can answer the why he gets lost, he loses his way among things. 'Why this?' I answer, 'because that," and from one explanation to the next I reach the point where no explanation is satisfying, from one explanation to the next I reach zero, the absolute, where truth and falsehood are equivalent, become equal to one another, are identified with one another, cancel each other out in face of the absolute nothing. And so we can understand how all action, all choice, all history is justified, at the end of time, by a final cancelling-out. The why goes beyond everything. Nothing goes beyond the why, not even the nothing, because the nothing is not the explanation; when silence confronts us, the question to which there is no answer rings out in the silence. That ultimate why, that great why is like a light that blots out everything, but a blinding light; nothing more can be made out, there is nothing more to make out.

EUGÈNE IONESCO, Fragments of a Journal

I thought that it was strange to assume that it was abnormal for anyone to be forever asking questions about the nature of the universe, about what the human condition really was, my condition, what I was doing here, if there was really something to do. It seemed to me on the contrary that it was abnormal for people not to think about it, for them to allow themselves to live, as it were, unconsciously. Perhaps it's because everyone, all the others, are convinced in some unformulated, irrational way that one day everything will be made clear. Perhaps there will be a morning of grace for humanity. Perhaps there will be a morning of grace for me.



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