Political society

No political society can deliver us from the innate fear of humanity

Eugene Ionesco (1909-1994) was a French-Romanian absurdist playwright and member of the French Academy for 24 years. His most essential pieces, including works like Rhinoceros and The chairs, are touchstones of mid-century French avant-garde theatre. A world-famous and respected writer, Ionesco died in 1994 at the age of 84.

The human condition was of great interest to Ionesco. He wrote that the same universal fear of the unknown and the unknowable unites all of humanity. No social means can ever deliver people from this fear – it is something that completely transcends politics. Yet throughout the 20th century and certainly long before (and after), many politicians and political systems promised such deliverance. “Support us”, they said, “and there will be nothing to fear”. Ionesco sought to remind the world not to be deceived by these empty offers of comfort:

“I believe that what separates us all from each other is simply society itself, or, if you prefer, politics. This is what erects barriers between men; this is what creates misunderstanding. … No society has been able to abolish human sadness; no political system can deliver us from the pain of living, from our fear of death, from our thirst for the absolute. It is the human condition that drives the social condition, not the other way around.

Source: “A response to Kenneth Tynan: The role of the playwright” in The Observer (June 29, 1958)