The Bald Soprano. Ionesco's first play and a good one right away. Reminiscent of Pinter (and Beckett I suppose) in its repetitive dialogue, full of non sequiturs and random phrases. I like the series of weird anecdotes towards the end and the cacaphonic, sort of primitive ending.
The Lesson. A nice portrayal of the disintegrating relationship between professor and pupil. It starts innocently enough, but by way of an interesting exposé of Latin languages and philology it becomes more and more violent and sadistic. It ends in madness and murder, closing with a circular motion towards the beginning, just like The Bald soprano...
Jack or The Submission. Didn't like this one that much. Remaining impressions are just of Jack's crazy relations (which somehow reminded me of Jan, Jannetje en hun jongste kind by E.J. Potgieter) and the grotesque Roberta's. Plus, the nice song by the grandfather; 'a cha-ar-ming trickster'. Stays in your head, that one. But, altogether a rather forgetful play.
The Chairs. Read this in Christchurch, New Zealand, thus finishing the first of the two Ionesco compilations I bought in San Francisco last week. I think, after The Bald soprano, this play is the second stand out piece of the book and it's probably the most famous. Even though you should call this play weirder than the BS it comes across as more life-like somehow. Two sad, senile old people staging their final climax as a big show for an empty audience; it's quite crazy but tragic too, a 'tragic farce' indeed. A good one, the longest and the best of the bunch.
22 December 2008
Grove Press, 1982
Original titles La Cantatrice Chauve, La Leçon, Jacques ou la soumission, Les Chaises, 1950-1955
Translated from the French by Donald M. Allen