When Plays like Ionesco’s Bald Primadonna and Beckett’s Waiting for Godot began to be produced in the early 50’s, critics and audiences were caught with their underthings in knots facing a phenomenon which appeared to flout every accepted standard of drama. Since then the “theater of the absurd’ has become a major dramatic form expressing something of the sense of spiritual desolation which followed the shock of the Second World War shaking religious, spiritual and moral foundations.
In this volume Ionesco’s first full-length play, Amedee and three short plays: Adamov’s Professor Taranee, Arrabal’s The Two executioners and my favorite Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story.
There is an elaborate introduction by Martin Esslin suggesting the antecedents and showing how the development of the plays as poetic images gives them an inner realism and rich theatrical quality.
A truly poetic and timeless beauty.
Siddhartha, a young man, leaves his affluent family for a silent contemplative life and soon get restless and leaves the asthetic life for one of the flesh. He conceives a son and soon gets bored and disgusted by lust and greed, moves away from society again. At rock bottom, Siddhartha comes to a river where he hears a sole sound. This sound signals the true beginning of his life – the beginning of suffering, rejection, peace, and, finally, wisdom.
Siddhartha’s skepticism of dogma and doctrine (Buddha), of the world of business (Govinda) drives him to find his own way, only after he has experienced both the spiritual and the material world. Followed by the indifference of his offspring that he returns to the river and the boatman to find way and true peace – of the self and the Atman are united.
Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927) is known primarily as the author whose books formed the basis of Kurosawa’s Rashomon. Originally published in 1927, Kappa was published just before he committed suicide, at the age of 35. Patient No. 23 tells his story to anyone in the asylum who will listen. On his way home through a valley, he falls into a deep abyss while chasing a nimble creature with a face like a tiger and a sharp beak. The creature was a Kappa, and when he awoke he was in Kappaland. One man’s initiation into the rites of this parallel world becomes the vehicle for a savage and funny critique of contemporary Japanese life and customs.
One of Akutagawa’s most famous novellas it springs out of necessity for a brilliant man to view its world through the prism of satire. Even though it’s basically a satire of Japanese society from the first half of 20th century, most of its themes, admonitions and ridicules are still quite valid today.
A brilliant development of characters (and in this case an entire imaginary culture) to such fullness, given the rather (spatially) limited medium of a novella.