Ionesco was taken to France as an infant but returned to Romania in After obtaining a degree in French at the University of Bucharest, he worked for a doctorate in Paris , where, after , he made his home. While working as a proofreader, he decided to learn English; the formal, stilted commonplaces of his textbook inspired the masterly catalog of senseless platitudes that constitutes The Bald Soprano. In The Lesson, a timid professor uses the meaning he assigns to words to establish tyrannical dominance over an eager female pupil.
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An English evening. Smith, an Englishman, seated in his English armchair and wearing English slippers, is smoking his English pipe and reading an English newspaper, near an English fire. He is wearing English spectacles and a small gray English mustache. Beside him, in another English armchair, Mrs. Smith, an Englishwoman, is darning some English socks. A long moment of English silence. The English clock strikes 17 English strokes.
The children have drunk English water. SMITH [continues to read, clicks his toungue. The oil from the grocer at the corner is better quality than the oil from the grocer across the street. It is even better than the oil from the grocer at the bottom of the street. However, I prefer not to tell them that their oil is bad. SMITH [continues to read, clicks his tongue.
The last time she did not do them well. I do not like them when they are well done. It made my mouth water. I had two helpings. No, three helpings. That made me go to the w. You also had three helpings.
However, the third time you took less than the first two times, while as for me, I took a great deal more. I eat better than you this evening. Why is that? Usually, it is you who eats more. It is not appetite you lack. SMITH [clicks his tongue. It was saltier than you.
Ha, ha, ha. It also had too many leeks and not enough onions. At table did you notice how he stared at the bottle? But I poured some water from the jug into his glass. He was thirsty and he drank it. She never asks to drink English beer. The quince and bean pie was marvelous. It would have been nice, perhaps, to have had a small glass of Australian Burgundy with the sweet, but I did not bring the bottle to the table because I did not wish to set the children a bad example of gluttony.
They must learn to be sober and temperate. Parker knows a Rumanian grocer by the name of Popesco Rosenfeld, who has just come from Constantinople.
He is a great specialist in yogurt. He has a diploma from the school of yogurt-making in Adrianople. Tomorrow I shall buy a large pot of native Rumanian yogurt from him. One can trust him. Before operating on Parker, he had his own liver operated on first, although he was not the least bit ill.
The operation should have succeeded with both of them or else both should have died. The captain of a ship goes down with his ship into the briny deep, he does not survive alone. Perhaps it is true And then, what conclusion do you draw from this? And all patients too. Only the Royal Navy is honest in England. In the newspaper they always give the age of deceased persons but never the age of the newly born.
The clock strikes seven times. The clock strikes three times. When did he die? Surely you remember that we attended his funeral a year and a half ago. I remembered it through an association of ideas.
He was so well preserved. A veritable living corpse. And how cheerful he was! She is called Bobby too, Bobby Watson. Since they both had the same name, you could never tell one from the other when you saw them together. It was only after his death that you could really tell which was which.
And there are still people today who confuse her with the deceased and offer their condolences to him. Do you know her? Is she pretty? She is too big and stout. Her features are not regular but still one can say that she is very pretty.
She is a little too small and too thin. A long silence. I wonder what? Poor woman, how could she have managed! She might very well remarry. She looks so well in mourning. You know very well that they have a boy and a girl. What are their names? Has she anyone in mind? Bobby Watson? However, they do well at it. Three days a week? And what does Bobby Watson do on those days? Are you trying to humiliate me? You sit there all day long, a cigarette in your mouth, or you powder your nose and rouge your lips, fifty times a day, or else you drink like a fish.
SMITH: But what would you say if you saw men acting like women do, smoking all day long, powdering, rouging their lips, drinking whiskey?
She gets up. Smith did not show her teeth, nor did she throw the socks very far. SMITH [also getting up and going towards his wife, tenderly]: Oh, my little ducky daddles, what a little spitfire you are! You know that I only said it as a joke! I have spent a very pleasant afternoon. After the cinema, we went to drink some brandy and milk and then read the newspaper.
MARY: Mr. Martin, your guests, are at the door. They were waiting for me. They were supposed to have dinner with you this evening. We were expecting them.
And we were hungry. You should not have gone out! MARY: But it was you who gave me permission. MARY [bursts into laughter, then she bursts into tears. Then she smiles]: I bought me a chamber pot. Martin to step in.
We will change quickly.
He was in his forties when his first play, The Bald Soprano, was produced. Ionesco became inspired to write the play while trying to learn English from a primer. Basically, he kept copying over and over again simple sentences, like "The ceiling is up" and "The floor is down. The very simple, luminously clear statements I had copied so diligently into my notebook, left to themselves, fermented after a while, lost their original identity, expanded and overflowed.
The Bald Soprano
Origin[ edit ] The idea for the play came to Ionesco while he was trying to learn English with the Assimil method. The two families engage in meaningless banter, telling stories and relating nonsensical poems. At one point, Mrs. Martin converses with her husband as if he were a stranger she just met. As the fire chief turns to leave, he mentions "the bald soprano" in passing, which has a very unsettling effect on the others. Smith replies that "she always styles her hair the same way.
Many sources cite his birthdate as , this error being due to vanity on the part of Ionesco himself, who wanted the year of his birth to coincide with that when his idol, Romanian playwright Caragiale , died. As Deborah B. When he "floated" back to the ground and the "light" left him, he saw that the real world in comparison was full of decay, corruption and meaningless repetitive action. This also coincided with the revelation that death takes everyone in the end. He returned to Romania with his father and mother in after his parents divorced. There he attended Saint Sava National College , after which he studied French Literature at the University of Bucharest from to and qualified as a teacher of French.