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A: Eugène Ionesco Pf: 1952, Paris Pb: 1954 Tr: 1958 G: Tragicom. in 1 act; French prose S: Room in a tower surrounded by water, indeterminate period C: 2m, 1fA senile ‘quartermaster-general’ and his equally ancient wife Sémiramis are preparing a large room in a tower for many visitors, who are coming by water to hear the Old Man reveal his message to all humanity. The first arrival is a Lady, with whom they converse, but who is entirely invisible. As each new invisible visitor arrives, a chair is brought. Next is a Colonel, followed by a Photographer and his wife, a former sweetheart of the Old Man. While the Old Man reminisces about her, the Old Woman obscenely re-enacts some of the poses she adopted for the Photographer. The Old Woman talks about their son, while the Old Man regrets that they never had one. Eventually the room fills with invisible guests, and more and more chairs are placed in the room. A fanfare is heard, and the invisible Emperor arrives. Finally, the Orator enters, a real person dressed like a 19th-century artist. Convinced that their message will now be communicated and their life's work achieved, the Old Couple leap to their deaths from a window. However, when the Orator begins to speak, he is deaf-mute and can only mumble. He writes on a blackboard, eventually forming the word ‘Adieu’. As he leaves, the voices of the invisible guests are heard.

A: Eugène Ionesco Pf: 1952, Paris Pb: 1954 Tr: 1958 G: Tragicom. in 1 act; French prose S: Room in a tower surrounded by water, indeterminate period C: 2m, 1f

In what was arguably his most accomplished play, Ionesco wrote ‘a tragic farce’, which in many ways anticipates Beckett's world: senile characters, an empty universe peopled by imaginary figures, and, above all, a world waiting for the message of deliverance that can never come (in the original production, the curtain fell during the mumbling of the Orator).

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Authors

Eugène Ionesco (1912—1994) Romanian-born French dramatist


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