Eugène Ionesco

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Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together.

Eugène Ionesco, born Eugen Ionescu (26 November 190929 March 1994) was a French-Romanian playwright and dramatist, one of the foremost playwrights of Theatre of the Absurd.


  • That's not it. That's not it at all. You always have a tendency to add. But one must be able to subtract too. It's not enough to integrate, you must also disintegrate. That's the way life is. That's philosophy. That's science. That's progress, civilization.
    • The Professor in The Lesson (1951)
  • There are now many invisible people on stage.
    • Stage directions in The Chairs (1952)
  • I didn't mean you were stupid. It's just that you're not logical, which isn't the same thing at all.
    • Amédée from Amédée or How to Get Rid of It (1954)
  • Oh words, what crimes are committed in your name!
    • Jacques from Jacques or the Submission (1955)
  • I believe that what separates us all from one another is simply society itself, or, if you like, politics. This is what raises barriers between men, this is what creates misunderstanding.
    If I may be allowed to express myself paradoxically, I should say that the trues society, the authentic human community, is extra-social — a wider, deeper society, that which is revealed by our common anxieties, our desires, our secret nostalgias. The whole history of the world has been governed by nostalgias and anxieties, which political action does no more than reflect and interpret, very imperfectly. No society has been able to abolish human sadness, no political system can deliver us from the pain of living, from our fear of death, our thirst for the absolute. It is the human condition that directs the social condition, not vice versa.
    • "A Reply to Kenneth Tynan: The Playwright's Role" in The Observer (29 June 1958)
  • Every work of art (unless it is a psuedo-intellectualist work, a work already comprised in some ideology that it merely illustrates, as with Brecht) is outside ideology, is not reducible to ideology. Ideology circumscribes without penetrating it. The absence of ideology in a work does not mean an absence of ideas; on the contrary it fertilizes them.
    • "A Reply to Kenneth Tynan: The Playwright's Role" in The Observer (29 June 1958)
  • Logician: A cat has four paws.
    Old Gentleman: My dog had four paws.
    Logician: Then it's a cat.
    Old Gentleman: So my dog is a cat?
    Logician: And the contrary is also true.
    • Rhinoceros (1959)
  • Good men make good rhinoceroses, unfortunately.
    • Berenger from Rhinoceros (1959)
  • I am not capitulating.
    • Berenger's last sentence from Rhinoceros (1959)
  • I have no ideas before I write a play. I have them when I have finished it ... I believe that aritistic creation is spontaneous. It is for me.
    • Notes and Counter-Notes (1964), as translated by Donald Watson, p. 33
  • It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.
    • Découvertes (1970), as quoted in Choosing the Future : The Power of Strategic Thinking (1997) by Stuart Wells, p. 15
  • But History was against me. History is right, objectively speaking. I'm just a historical dead end. I hope at least that my fate will serve as an example to you all and to posterity.
    • Candor from Macbett (1972)
  • I thought that it was strange to assume that it was abnormal for anyone to be forever asking questions about the nature of the universe, about what the human condition really was, my condition, what I was doing here, if there was really something to do. It seemed to me on the contrary that it was abnormal for people not to think about it, for them to allow themselves to live, as it were, unconsciously. Perhaps it's because everyone, all the others, are convinced in some unformulated, irrational way that one day everything will be made clear. Perhaps there will be a morning of grace for humanity. Perhaps there will be a morning of grace for me.
    • The Hermit (1973)
  • It isn't what people think that's important, but the reason they think what they think.
    • As quoted in Peter's Quotations : Ideas for Our Time (1977) by Laurence J. Peter, p. 468; also in The Quantum Dice (1993) by Leonid Ivanovich Ponomarev, p. 50
  • Why do people always expect authors to answer questions? I am an author because I want to ask questions. If I had answers, I'd be a politician.
    • As quoted in The Writer's Quotation Book : A Literary Companion (1980) by James Charlton, p. 44
  • Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together.
    • As quoted in Sunbeams : A Book of Quotations (1990) by Sy Safransky
  • It's not a certain society that seems ridiculous to me, it's mankind.
    • As quoted in Encyclopedia of World Biography (1998) edited by Suzanne Michele Bourgoin, Paula Kay Byers, Gale Research Inc, p. 132
  • God is dead. Marx is dead. And I don’t feel so well myself.
    • As quoted in Jewish American Literature : A Norton Anthology (2000) by Jules Chametzky, "Jewish Humor", p. 318

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