‘The Colonel’s Photograph’ by Eugène Ionesco, translated by Jean Stewart

This was, somehow, part of the set reading in either English or French (I read it in English, but perhaps we looked at the French as well) in secondary school in Ireland in the 1980s. It was the first non-realist piece of fiction that I’d ever encountered and it made a huge impression on me. What is going on? How are people being murdered continuously even though everyone knows what the murderer looks like, and how he operates, and where? Why are there military trucks in the street? Who is the colonel? Why are people so interested in his photograph? So interested that it gets them killed? What you need to understand is this: the contents of Edouard’s briefcase, the rumble of those military trucks, the click of the impossibly tall policemen’s boots, a bouquet of flowers, a fountain.

The original, ‘La Photo Du Colonel’, first appeared in Nouvelle Revue Française, 1st November 1955. This translation is from the collection of the same name published by Faber & Faber in 1967, and in the USA by Grove Press in 1969

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