Wednesday, March 06, 2013

An acute sense of absurdity

At a celebration at UCLA of the career of Eugen Weber, the Romanian-born historian of France, I made the mistake of describing Eugen as an exile. In his response to the tributes paid him, Eugen corrected me, remarking that he had never considered himself an exile. “From the moment I attained consciousness,” he said, “I wanted to leave Romania. The place is a dump.”

Tristan Tzara (né Samuel Rosenstock), one of the founders of Dada, was a Romanian. Eugène Ionesco, perhaps the most famous Romanian artist of the last half of the 20th century, was a surrealist playwright prominently associated with the Theater of the Absurd. E. M. Cioran, the Romanian aphorist, wrote: “An acute sense of absurdity makes the merest action unlikely, indeed impossible. Lucky those who lack such a thing! Providence has indeed looked out for them.” Dada, surrealism, absurdity—Romania seems to have encouraged such responses on the part of its writers and artists.
Maybe it won't be so bad having a few more Romanians around the place.

By the way Joseph Epstein, author of the quote above, is worth reading if you can get past the self-assertion and the the racket that all the names being dropped make as they hit the floor.

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