IONESCO & GENET: Playwrights of Silence by Josephine & William R. Mueller Jacobsen

IONESCO & GENET: Playwrights of Silence

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Here we have chubby Ionesco and balding Genet delivered unto the graduate seminar like revolutionary donkeys, while Professors Jacobsen and Mueller write inscriptions on the blackboard--Silence, Nothingness, Compassion, Death--and the interested student pins the appropriate designation on the appropriate tail. Our professors are moralistic about Genet and sentimental over Ionesco. The latter's supposed nostalgia fora lost Eden, the joy and freedom of former humanistic ages, is seen as vindicating (and amplifying) the absurdist nihilism of his plays. Genet is seen as self-enclosed, tricky and treacherous, dominated by the powers of darkness, seeking the inversion of all values, leading his spellbound audience to the proverbial abyss. There is nothing wrong with these formulations as such, simplistic though they be, but despite impressive ornamental analyses, Jacobsen and Mueller continually miss the point. The texture, subtlety, resonance of Ganet, the ritualistic density of his theatrical creations, however much they exult the ""presence of Absence"" or Evil, are incontestably more intoxicating, more alive than all of Ionesco put together. Ionesco is a thesis-ridden humorist whose impulses are often reactionary, spiteful (re the anti-Brecht bias), and misanthropic. His great gift--the discovery of the comic possibilities inherent in human discourse--has grown hoary and solemn. But the authors are not really interested in style (imagine finding Genet verbally inadequate); they're interested in ""ideas,"" schematizations, etc.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1968
Publisher: Hill & Wang