Russian-born French dramatist, one of the most prominent exponents of the Theatre of the Absurd.
Adamov was born into a wealthy Armenian family in Kislovodsk; at the age of four he moved with his family to Germany. Having completed his education in Paris, he settled there in 1924 and became involved with surrealist groups, editing their journal Discontinuité and writing poetry. In 1938 he had a nervous breakdown; the neuroses that had plagued him since childhood and that were to form the bizarre inspiration for many of his plays are revealed in his confessional work L'Aveu (1946).
Adamov began writing for the theatre in 1947. He sought to express the loneliness and helplessness of man and the futility of any quest for the meaning of life. In La Parodie, first performed in the early 1950s, the central characters bombard each other with questions about time against the background of a clock with no hands. L'Invasion (1950), La grande et la petite manoeuvre (1950), Tous contre tous (1953), and Le Professeur Taranne (1953) depict in nightmarish images the cruelty of social conventions and pressures and were influenced by Antonin Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty.
In the mid-1950s Adamov turned to a more political style of drama, beginning with his best-known play, Le Ping-Pong (1955). The central image of the play, a pinball machine in an amusement arcade, is a symbol of the capitalist system to which men willingly submit in an endless futile game of chance. After Paolo Paoli (1957) Adamov's plays became increasingly radical: Le Printemps 71 (1961), about the Paris Commune, La Politique des restes (1963), and Off Limits (1969) are laced with Marxist propaganda. Adamov committed suicide in 1970.