Eugene Ionesco (1909-1994) was a French and Romanian dramatist and playwright (Bloom, 2003). He was born in Slatina, Romania and his father was a Romanian while his mother had a Greek-Romanian and French heritage. Ionesco’s parents were from different religions i.e. his mother was a Protestant, while his father was from the Orthodox religion. It is worthwhile to mention that his baptism took place in the Roman Orthodox religion. This paper looks at Ionesco's biography and legacy.
A major part of Ionesco’s childhood was spent in France, where he alleged to have undergone an unusually transformational experience; an experience which significantly influenced how Ionesco perceived the world. According to Gaensbauer (1996) in her book, Eugene Ionesco Revisited, Ionesco was a young boy walking under the sunlight’s blue sky, within small French town, when he experienced an abrupt radiance. Consequently, he felt like he was floating from the ground and had an immense peace inside of him. When he eventually came back to the ground, his perception of the world was different. He saw the world as filled with corruption, decay and recurring actions that are meaningless (Bloom, 2003). Ionesco’s sudden luminosity occurred at the same time with his revelation that everyone dies at the end. That weird combination of meaningless reality and great peace would later have a significant impact on his work and life. A majority of his later works reflected his new perception, demonstrating his hatred for the physical world, a communication doubt, as well as, the subtle logic that a relatively better world lies past the reach of humans (Bloom, 2003).
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In his teenage years, Ionesco went back to Romania with his parents following their divorce in 1925. While there, he enrolled at Saint Sava National College. Between 1928 and 1933, he was at the University of Bucharest studying French Literature; a course which he completed and became a qualified French teacher after his graduation (Bloom, 2003). Ionesco met Mircea Eliade and Amil Cioran while at the university, and they became lifetime buddies. In 1936, he got married to Rodica Burileanu and the two had a daughter whom Ionesco wrote numerous unconventional kids’ stories. Together with his family, he went back to France to finish his doctoral thesis in 1938. However, following the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, he was forced to return to Romania. Nevertheless, Ionesco changed his mind not long afterwards, and through the aid of his friends, he acquired travel documents that permitted him to go back to France in 1942 (Bloom, 2003). He remained there throughout the remaining part of the war, residing in Marseille prior to relocating his family to Paris following its liberation. Ionesco found a job as a translator and a proofreader. He made a decision to study English when he was forty years, and accordingly, he obtained an English primer to assist him in his learning. He cautiously copied complete sentences from different texts in order to be able to memorize them. He reread them, but failed to learn to his expectation. However, he became conscious of some truths like the fact that a week consists of seven days, and that the ceiling is found on a room’s upper part, while the floor is found in the lower part (Bloom, 2003). These are facts that maybe he knew, but had forgotten, and that is why they seemed to him as indisputable truth. However, as his English lessons advanced, they became even tougher, but thanks to Mrs. Smith, Ionesco was able to comprehend the language well (Bloom, 2003).
In 1970, Ionesco became one of the members of the Académie française. In addition, he received various awards such as Prix Italia in 1963 and the Jerusalem Prize in 1973 among others. He was also given honorary Doctoral Degrees from several learning institutions like Tel Aviv, the Universities of Leuven, Warwick, and New York University. Ionesco passed away in March 1994 at the age of eighty four, and was buried in Paris (Bloom, 2003). It is evident from Ionesco’s life story that he was a persistent and determined person. He did not allow his parent’s divorce or the 1939 outbreak of the Second World War to affect him; he persistently pursued his studies until he completed his PhD degree. Eugene Ionesco will forever remain an icon not only within the field of literature, but also in life generally due to his admirable virtues.
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