Eugène Ionesco (born Eugen Ionescu, Romanian pronunciation: ; 26 November 1909 – 28 March 1994) was a Romanian and French playwright and dramatist, and one of the foremost playwrights of the Theatre of the Absurd. Beyond ridiculing the most banal situations, Ionesco's plays depict in a tangible way the solitude and insignificance of human existence.
Ionesco was born in Slatina, Romania to a Romanian father of the Orthodox religion and a mother of French and Greek-Romanian heritage, whose religion was Protestant (the religion into which her father was born and to which her originally Greek Orthodox mother had converted). Eugène himself was baptized into the Romanian Orthodox religion. Many sources cite his birthdate as 1912, this error being due to vanity on the part of Ionesco himself.
He spent most of his childhood in France and, while there, had an experience he claimed affected his perception of the world more significantly than any other. As Deborah B. Gaensbauer describes in Eugene Ionesco Revisited, "Walking in summer sunshine in a white-washed provincial village under an intense blue sky, was profoundly altered by the light." He was struck very suddenly with a feeling of intense luminosity, the feeling of floating off the ground and an overwhelming feeling of well-being. 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. Much of his later work, reflecting this new perception, demonstrates a disgust for the tangible world, a distrust of communication, and the subtle sense that a better world lies just beyond our reach. Echoes of this experience can also be seen in references and themes in many of his important works: characters pining for an unattainable "city of lights" (The Killer, The Chairs) or perceiving a world beyond (A Stroll in the Air); characters granted the ability to fly (A Stroll in the Air, Amédée); the banality of the world which often leads to depression (the Bérenger character); ecstatic revelations of beauty within a pessimistic framework (Amédée, The Chairs, the Bérenger character); and the inevitability of death (Exit the King).