Ionesco's Imperatives

The Politics of Culture
Rosette C. Lamont
The first complete survey in English of Ionesco's contributions to the stage and a new recognition of their political content


Lamont's rereading of Ionesco's work reveals the dramatist as profoundly marked by the events occurring in Europe in his time and his personal experiences with war, occupation, and concentration camps. Despite his repeated statements that he was strictly apolitical, later in life Ionesco himself admitted that being officially apolitical may well be the most political of attitudes.

The author links the modern idea of totalitarianism with the playwright's critique of language, thereby placing her discussion of his work within the new theoretical approaches to language and power. In moving the analysis of his work beyond the category of absurdist theater, Lamont reveals how the power of his plays resides in his synthesis of the political, psychological, and metaphysical.

Praise / Awards

  • "Since the earliest days of Ionesco criticism, Rosette Lamont has been one of the most insightful writers on this giant of contemporary theater. Her new book, Ionesco's Imperatives: The Politics of Culture, marks her clearly as his major interpreter and exegete. Professor Lamont approaches the highly personalized texture of Ionesco's theater from the vantage point of a profound understanding of and sympathy for this quintessential absurdist playwright, coupled with a critical distance and a truly remarkable frame of theatrical reference which allows her to take Ionesco's true measure. Specialists and generalists alike will find Lamont's analyses penetrating and illuminating. This is a masterful study!"
    —Tom Bishop, New York University
  • ". . . this perceptive and thought-provoking book will inform both the general and specialist reader."
    French Studies
  • "Lamont's book is a major contribution to Ionesco studies. By covering his career so authoritatively, it easily convinces that Ionesco must be taken as one of the premier playwrights of the twentieth century."
    Modern Drama
  • ". . . a probing look into one of the most influential theater artists of the 20th century."
  • "Lamont, a loyal admirer and an insightful decoder of Ionesco's theater, is the author of numerous interviews, works, and essays on the man she considers one of the best interpreters of the century. Her new book, whose approach is 'chronological and thematic,' is an in-depth study of Ionesco's work, written with sympathy, cleverly informed by erudition and an insider's knowledge of the private Ionesco. . . . Ionesco's Imperatives follows the artistic and spiritual evolution of a man of contrasts. "
    World Literature Today
  • "Ionesco's Imperatives is not only a remarkable study; it is a thrilling narrative on a gifted provocateur universally recognized not only as a Holocaust writer of our tragic age but as the poet of laughter who appeals to the masses in order to reveal 'our blindness to what is essential.'"
    World Literature Today

Look Inside


Introduction     1

Chapter 1. Ionescoland     13
Chapter 2. The Wonder-full Enfant Terrible     21
Chapter 3. The Surrealist Prankster     37
Chapter 4. Metaphysical Farce     65
Chapter 5. Matter and Air     89
Chapter 6. Berenger: Birth of an Antihero     123
Chapter 7. Death and Dying     149
Chapter 8. The Political Cartoonist     175
Chapter 9. The Modern Classicist     201
Chapter 10. The Dream Plays      223
Conclusion: Ionesco and His Critics     245
Chronology     263
Stage Productions     273
Notes     281
Bibliography     307
Index     315

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 344pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 1993
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-10310-2

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  • $89.95 U.S.