'Eugen Ionescu or Eugene Ionesco:(re)defining Romanian identity', by Octavian Saiu

23rd July 2007

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Monday 23 July 2007 18.30 – 20.30, The Romanian Cultural Centre, 8th floor, 54-62 Regent Street, London W1B 5RE; Tel. 020 7439 4052, ext 102; e-mail: mail@ratiufamilyfoundation.com; Entry is free but booking is essential. The author of the Bald Soprano was born in Romania, as Eugen Ionescu, but died in France, as the famed Eugene Ionesco… All the major contradictions of his identity are, ironically, captured by this career path. Much like Beckett – the reluctant Irishman –, Ionesco maintained a bafflingly ambivalent attitude towards his native soil. Moreover, at the end of his life, he spoke fondly of his Romanian roots, influences, and old friends. Yet his was never a true exile, as some commentators have claimed, but a self imposed estrangement that – sadly – endured even after 1989. Although he never went back to Romania, and although he imperatively adopted the French spirit and language, Ionesco is still regarded in his fatherland as Ionescu, and often as “our Ionescu”. Is this an abusive misapprehension or merely a natural impulse to claim one of the greatest playwrights of modern times, who was in fact born Romanian? This is, and is likely to remain, a question with no easy answer. Through a cross-cultural analysis of the European reception of his oeuvre, this presentation will explore some of the intricacies of Ionesco’s Romanian-ness, a human and cultural dimension with an immediacy beyond the French trajectory of his existence. Octavian Saiu has been teaching theatre and comparative literature in Romania, as Assistant Professor at the National University of Theatre and Cinematography in Bucharest and as Guest Lecturer at the University of Otago, in New Zealand. Interested in the critical reception of modern drama and interdisciplinary performance, he is an active member of The International Association of Theatre Critics, and has been actively involved in several worldwide theatre events and academic conferences in Romania, Israel, Holland, Brazil, New Zealand, Sweden, Ireland, etc. He wrote articles, theatre reviews and essays for numerous cultural periodicals, and was a co-editor of Theatre Nowadays. He is also an editor of Romanian Studies in Theatre Theory, published by NUTC. For three years, he was a presenter for Romanian National Television, coordinating TV shows about theatre, cinema and visual arts. His recent publications include refereed articles on contemporary theatre and absurdist literature. In his current research activity, he is exploring the contemporary reception of Samuel Beckett. ‘Culture Power’ is a programme initiated by The Ratiu Foundation, consisting of a number of seminars focused around a presentation followed by a constructive dialogue with an invited audience. The domains are varied, ranging from contemporary art to money remittances and political theory, passing through architectural studies and advertising. Ramona Mitrica, Director of The Romanian Cultural Centre in London, will chair the discussions. Organised by The Ratiu Foundation www.ratiufamilyfoundation.com