Eugene Ionesco's grave in Montparnesse Cemetary, Paris.
The inscription on the tomb reads: Prier le Je Ne Sais Qui J'espere Jesus-Christ which translates to Pray to the I don't-know-who: Jesus Christ, I hope.
An absurd gesture, a reflective gesture, an anti-pièce technique, a semblance of the mockery of reason in Ionesco's plays. The rest of the 20th century literati, known for a similar existential preoccupation have been remarkly silent: Beckett, Sartre, Camus and Genet all do not have any specific inscription on their graves.
I recently read an interesting passage in Epigraphy of Death: Studies in the History and Society of Greece and Rome. While examining the construction of identity in the military tombstones of Roman Mainze, Valerie Hope writes:
Epitaphs are set up to be read. They communicate to the living information about the dead. Yet to read a gravestone is to read more than the words of the inscription. The object as a whole communicates; its size, decor and location, as well as the epitaph, all summon the attention of the onlooker and together seek to tell a story, however simple. The tombstone evokes the memory of the dead but is set up by the living for the instruction of the living.
What does Ionesco intend, with this final parting repartee?
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