The 'Theatre of the Absurd' has become a familiar term to describe a group of radical European playwrights – writers such as Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, Jean Genet and Harold Pinter – whose dark, funny and humane dramas wrestled profoundly with the meaningless absurdity of the human condition. It is a testament to the power and insight of Martin Esslin's landmark work, originally published in 1961, that its title should enter the English language in the way that it has.
Now available in the Bloomsbury Revelations series with a new preface by Marvin Carlson, The Theatre of the Absurd remains to this day a clear-eyed work of criticism on a compelling period of European writing.
Martin Esslin was the author of such ground-breaking classics as The Theatre of the Absurd and Brecht: A Choice of Evils, as well as The Field of Drama in which he focused on the semiology of drama. He joined the BBC in 1940 and was head of Drama (Radio) from 1963-1977. He published many collections of essays including Brief Chronicles: Essays on Modern Drama and Mediations: Essays on Brecht, Beckett and the Media. His critical articles used to appear regularly in Plays and Players, Encounters and many other periodicals. He was also a well-known translator of plays, particularly by German-speaking dramatists. He died in 2012.
Foreword Forty Years On
Introduction: The Absurdity of the Absurd
1. Samuel Beckett: The Search for the Self
2. Arthur Adamov: The Curable and the Incurable
3. Eugene Ionesco: Theatre and Anti-Theatre
4. Jean Genet: A Hall of Mirrors
5. Harold Pinter: Certainties and Uncertainties
6. Parallels and Proselytes
7. The Tradition of the Absurd
8. The Significance of the Absurd
9. Beyond the Absurd
Bibliography 1: The Dramatists of the Absurd
Bibliography 2: Background and History of the Theatre of the Absurd