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A: Eugène Ionesco Pf: 1959, Paris Pb: 1958 Tr: 1960 G: Drama in 3 acts; French prose S: Paris, mid-20th c. C: 15m, 3f, extrasBérenger, an ordinary French citizen, is hugely impressed by a ‘radiant city within a city’, proudly shown to him by the Architect, who says that it never rains there. The only drawback is that there is a remorseless killer on the loose in the area. The Architect's secretary Dany, with whom Bérenger promptly falls in love, becomes the Killer's next victim. Resolving to do something, Bérenger returns to his apartment to discover that his invalid friend has a briefcase containing the Killer's plans for mass extermination. Bérenger persuades his friend that they must go to the police, but the friend leaves the briefcase behind. In the street, a mass meeting is being addressed by a female demagogue proclaiming totalitarian ideas. A drunken heckler is beaten to the ground. Discovering the missing briefcase, Bérenger looks at those in the crowd, but fails to find the right one. When two burly policemen refuse to help him, Bérenger heads for the police station. On his way there, as it grows dark, Bérenger encounters the Killer, a misshapen one-eyed dwarf. Bérenger tries to reason with him, urging him to give up his murders. When the Killer merely chuckles at him, Bérenger draws two pistols, but is powerless to shoot. Still chuckling, the Killer approaches Bérenger with a knife.

A: Eugène Ionesco Pf: 1959, Paris Pb: 1958 Tr: 1960 G: Drama in 3 acts; French prose S: Paris, mid-20th c. C: 15m, 3f, extras

In a more coherently satirical mode than in his early absurdist pieces, Ionesco here explores the general complicity of contemporary society, not only the blind eye turned towards dictators like Hitler (the contents of the friend's briefcase could represent Mein Kampf), but also in the post-war willingness to accept ‘progress’ (here the new city) without questioning its human cost.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).

Reference entries

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

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