Letter: Ionesco: zen and the art of absurdity

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The Independent Online
Sir: I was reading Eugene Ionesco's Fragments of a Journal, a book permeated with anger and perplexity at the inevitability of death, when I heard of his death. It is a diffuse, digressive book, but full of shafts of primary perception, and of sharp naked truths.

'I've been telling myself for a considerable time that I ought to begin my real work,' he writes, 'for after all, the theatre is not my true vocation.' Literature is vain: the written word suspect. 'As soon as I say to myself that these pages may perhaps be published, their truth is corrupted.'

The real work is one's personal search for what life and death mean: 'I ought to have embarked long ago on this stubborn quest for knowledge and self-knowledge. If I'd set about it in time, I might have achieved something. Instead of writing literature] What a waste of time; I thought I had all of life ahead of me. Now time is pressing, the end is near . . .'.

The obituarists will assess the meaning and influence of Ionescu's works, and his importance considered theatrically. What I most value is his Zen-like realisation that meaning is beyond words, that each of us must trawl our own independent truth: 'A civilisation based on words is a lost civilisation.'

Yours faithfully,

GRAHAM CHAINEY

Brighton, East Sussex

29 March

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