Theater of the Absurd

10 July 2009 at 3:32 AM | Posted in News | Leave a comment

I did my MA in Literature thesis on the Theater of the Absurd and many of my early plays were clearly heavily influenced by the Absurdists, particularly Eugène Ionesco. This partly explains why, very early in life, I became fascinated by multilingual writing. As Steven G. Kellman, on p. 7 of his The Translingual Imagination, writes, “It seems no mere coincidence that leading figures in the Theater of the Absurd, drama that foregrounds language and subverts communication, were translingual or from multilingual backgrounds – Samuel Beckett, Arthur Adamov, Fernando Arrabal, Eugène Ionesco, and Michel de Ghelderode.” Kellman gives the Absurdists as examples of “authors who, sometimes even without relocating, have excelled in a second, third, or even fourth language.”

Of course, there is a paradox in the phenomenon of writers not believing in language using several languages anyway, but that inherent self-contradiction of the Absurdist movement in theater (which most likely led to its death after so brief a hold on theatrical fashion) does not negate the need for critics to read multilingually the apparently monolingual works of these playwrights. Even with such a blatantly multilingual word like Godot in Waiting for Godot and En attendant Godot, critics appear hesitant to read both French and English texts simultaneously, to see how the two languages interact with each other in both versions.

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