Born in Romania. Settling in France in 1938, he contributed to Cahiers du Sud and began writing avant-garde plays. His works stress the absurdity both of bourgeois values and of the way of life that they dictate. They express the futility of human endeavor in a universe ruled by chance. His play La Cantatrice chauve (1950; tr. The Bald Soprano, 1965) was suggested by the idiotic phrases in an English language textbook; it has become an enormously popular classic of the theater of the absurd. Among Ionesco's other plays are La Leçon (1951), Les Chaises (1952), Victimes du devoir (1953), Le Nouveau locataire (1957), Tueur sans gages (1958), Rhinocéros (1959), Photo du colonel (1967), Le roi se meurt (1963), and Jeux de massacre (1970). He wrote about the theater in Notes and Counternotes (1962, tr. 1964); a memoir, Present Past, Past Present (1968, tr. 1971); and the novel The Hermit (1974). His plays are all available in English translation.
See studies by L. C. Pronko (1965), R. N. Coe (rev. ed. 1971), Allan Lewis (1972), and Moshe Lazar (1982).