Born: Baku, Azerbaijan, 23 August 1908; lived abroad after 1912. Education: Educated at Rosset School, Geneva; lycee, Mainz, Germany, 1922-24; Lycee Lakanal, Paris, 1924-27. Family: Married Jacqueline Trehet in 1961. Career: Translator and writer in Paris; editor of the review, Discontinuity in late 1920s and L’Heure Nouvelle, 1945-47; increasingly involved in left-wing politics during the 1950s; visiting lecturer, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, 1964. cosignatory of the ”Manifeste des 121” opposing the war in Algeria, 1960; visiting lecturer, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, 1964. Died: Suicide, 15 March 1970.



L’Arbitre aux mains vides (produced 1928). Mains blanches (produced 1928).

La Mort de Danton, from the play by Georg Buchner (produced 1948). 1953.

L’Invasion (produced 1950). With LaParodie, 1950; as The Invasion,translated by Peter Doan,1968.

La Parodie (produced 1952). With L’Invasion, 1950.

La grande et la petite manoeuvre (produced 1950). 1951.

Tous contre tous (produced 1953). In Theatre 1, 1953.

Le ProfesseurTaranne (produced 1953). 1953; as ProfessorTaranne, translated by Albert Bermel, in Four Modern Comedies, 1960, and by Peter Meyer, in Two Plays, 1962.

Le Sens de la marche (produced 1953). In Theatre 2, 1955.

Comme nous avons ete (produced 1954). In La Nouvelle Revue Frangaise, 1, 1953; as As We Were, in Evergreen Review, 1(4), 1957.

Theatre I-4. 1953-68.

La Cruche cassee, from the play by Heinrich von Kleist (produced 1954). In Theatre populaire, 1954.

Edward II, from the play by Christopher Marlowe (produced 1954).

Le Ping-Pong (produced 1955). In Theatre 2, 1955; as Ping Pong, translated by Richard Howard, 1959; also translated by Derek Prouse, in Two Plays, 1962.

Les Retrouvailles. In Theatre2, 1955.

Le Pelican, from the play by August Strindberg (produced 1956). In Theatre populaire, 17, 1956.

Les Ennemis, from the play by Maksim Gor’kii (produced 1965). In Theatre populaire, 27, 1957.

Paolo Paoli (produced 1957). 1957; as Paolo Paoli, translated by Geoffrey Brereton, 1959.

Le Revizor, from the play by Nikolai Gogol’ (produced 1967). 1958.

Vassa Geleznova, from the play by Maksim Gor’kii (produced 1959). 1958.

Le Pere, from the play by August Strindberg. 1958.

Les Petits Bourgeois, from the play by Maksim Gor’kii (produced 1959). 1958.

Les Ames mortes, from the novel by Nikolai Gogol’ (produced 1960). 1960.

Le Printemps 71 (produced 1962). 1961.

La Sonate des spectres, with C.G. Bjorstrom, from the play by August Strindberg (produced 1962).

La Politique des restes (produced 1963). In Theatre 3, 1966.

Sainte Europe. In Theatre3. 1966.

M. Le Modere (produced 1968). In Theatre 4, 1968.

Off Limits (produced 1969). 1969.

La Grande Muraille, from the play by Max Frisch (produced 1969). 1969.

Si l’ete revenait (produced 1972). 1970.

Radio Plays: La Logeuse, 1950; Polly, 1951; L’Eternel Mari, 1952; Le Potier politicien, 1952; L’Agence universelle, 1953; Lady Macbeth au village, 1953; Parallelement, 1954; Les Ames mortes, 1955; Raillerie, satire, ironie et signification plus profonde, 1957; L’Autre Rive, 1959;Le Temps vivant, 1963; En fiacre, 1963; Finita la commedia, 1964; Du matin a minuit, 1966; Theatre radiophonique, 5 CDs, 1997.

Television Plays: La Parole est au prophete, with Bernard Hecht, 1952; Tous contre tous, 1956; Les Trois Soeurs, 1958; Le Manteau, 1966; Une femme douce, 1970; La Mort de Danton, 1970; La Cigale, 1970; Vassa Geleznova, 1971.


L’Aveu (autobiography). 1946; enlarged edition as Je … ils. . . , 1969; translated in part as Endless Humiliations, in Evergreen Review, 2(8), 1959.

Auguste Strindberg, dramaturge, with Maurice Gravier. 1955.

Theatre de societe. 1958. Ici et maintenant (essays). 1964.

L’Homme et l’enfant (autobiography). 1968; as Man and Child, translated by Jo Levy. 1992.

Editor, Le Commune de Paris. 1959.

Translator, Le Moi et l’inconscient, by C.G. Jung. 1938.

Translator, with Marie Geringer, Le Livre de la pauvrete et de la mort,by Rainer Maria Rilke. 1941.

Translator, Crime et chatiment, by Fedor Dostoevskii. 1956.

Translator, Les Ames mortes, by Nikolai Gogol’. 1956, first part; both parts, 1964.

Translator, La Mere, by Maksim Gor’kii. 1958.

Translator, Theatre, by Anton Chekhov. 1958.

Translator, Oblomov, by Ivan Goncharov. 1959.

Translator, Cinq recits, by Nikolai Gogol’. 1961.

Translator, with Claude Sebisch, Le Theatre politique, by Erwin Piscator. 1962.

Translator, Ivanov; La mouette, by Anton Chekhov, revised and edited by Michel Cadot, 1996.

Critical Studies:

Regards sur le theatre de Adamov by Samia Assad Chahine, 1961; Arthur Adamov by John, 1974; The Theatre of Arthur Adamov by John J. McCann, 1975; Lectures d’Adamov: Actes du colloque international, WUrzburg, 1981, 1983; Lecture d’Adamov by Elizabeth Hervic, 1984; Langage et corps, fantasme dans le theatre des annees cinquante: Ionesco, Beckett, Adamov by Marie-Claude Hubert, 1987; Le theatre de derision: Beckett, Ionesco, Adamov by Emmanuel C. Jacquart, 1998; Typologie des Zweiakters: Mit Einer Untersuchung der Funktion zweiaktiger Strukturen im Theater Arthur Adamovs by Susanne Hartwig, 2000.

When Arthur Adamov first began writing for the French stage in the late 1940s and early 1950s, he was considered, along with Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco, one of the most promising dramatists of the burgeoning movement of the theatre of the absurd. Similar to these two playwrights, Adamov wanted to free himself from the normal constraints of dramatic construction, eliminating the traditional concepts of characterization, action, and even time and place, if need be.

He differed from Beckett and Ionesco, however, to the extent that he used the stage as a means of expressing the enormous fears and obsessions that plagued him. For Adamov, the theatre became a personal cry of anguish, a form of catharsis, a way of attempting to liberate himself from his private demons. Essentially, the Russian-born playwright revealed his feelings of injustice and his sense of persecution and victimization in his works. In his early play, La Parodie [The Parody], the dramatist communicated the solitude and futility of living. The two central characters are the victims of life’s horrors: the one, identified only by the initial ”N,” is crushed by a car, his body swept away by the sanitation department; the other, The Employee, ends up in prison, blind, both events spelling out the absurd uselessness of life, which was a reflection of Adamov’s state of mind at the time of writing. In one of his most successful works, Le Professeur Taranne (Professor Taranne), based on a dream Adamov had, Professor Taranne finds himself in a nightmarish situation in which he has been accused by some children of indecent exposure on a beach. By the end of the play, unable to convince anyone of his innocence, he slowly begins to undress, thereby performing the very act with which he had been charged. Professor Taranne is a fairly direct translation of the author’s most personal fears, dictated by the subconscious. To that extent, it is an honest expression of a soul in torment. This work is probably Adamov’s most powerful play, making a highly trenchant statement about humankind at the mercy of fate and expressing more than any other of his dramas the playwright’s deep sense of sadness.

At this stage in his writing, Adamov’s expression of his personal visions of terror had much in common with the Surrealist movement as well as with the theories of the theatre of cruelty espoused by Antonin Artaud. During the 1950s, however, Adamov took an unusual step—he rejected all of his previous theatre: ”I already saw in the ‘avant-garde’ an easy escape, a diversion from the real problems, the words ‘absurd theatre’ already irritated me. Life was not absurd— only difficult, very difficult.” Having achieved some limited control of his personal obsessions, he was now able to develop his political and social concerns. Much of his drama of that period, like Paolo Paoli and Le Printemps 71 [Spring 71], has strongly Marxist overtones and reflected the alienation effect experienced in the works of Brecht. Another important play of this genre, (and considered by some to be his most successful work) is Le Ping-Pong (Ping Pong). This is a delicately balanced presentation of the futility of all human action contrasted with the effects on the individual of the capitalist system. Adamov examines two men’s obsession with a simple pinball machine and the disastrous results when they are swept up into the capitalist world of big business. On the one hand, the result is a visual representation of the tragedy of life’s wastefulness. Yet the play is also a study of the workings of society, a recognition of its defects, and an exploration of ways of improvement. This new thrust of Adamov’s writing stressed that the direction of a person’s life was more often dictated by the economic forces surrounding him/her than by the strength of the will.

Yet, finally, while Adamov may have planned to write politically committed theatre, he was basically still dealing with the sense of victimization and injustice that had always pursued him. Probably because of this, his theatre, while often highly acclaimed, never went on to achieve the popularity with the public of the works of Beckett or Ionesco—it was too private, too personal to attain universal appeal. Interestingly enough, Adamov’s most successful writing may have been one of his earliest works, L’Aveu (Endless Humiliations). Written between 1938 and 1943, it is a series of ruthlessly honest journals in which the writer recounted directly the difficulties of existence. In the journals, the most personal form of expression, Adamov may have found his best means of communication.

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