This article considers the political possibilities of the avant-garde in the experimental “absurd” plays of Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinoceros and Harold Pinter’s The Room that endeavor to depict the senselessness of life, reducing plot and characters to a bare minimum. While the popular interpretation of the plays has been made against the ideological exhaustion of post–World War Europe and America and hence with the philosophy of existentialism, this article analyzes the two plays in terms of the tension with contemporary ideologies that continue to inform our present lives. One prominent mode of creating this tension is minimization of the communication between the actors, director, and the audience in order to create a misinterpretation of the purpose of communication. The article argues that the element of the avant-garde is revitalized in such studies dealing with existential angst, Marxist orientation of Ionesco or Pinter’s commentary on racism, and can be properly interpreted by an appreciation of the multiple modernities that the plays inhabit.

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