Tuesday, June 22, 2010


STORY NUMBER 4 is Eugène Ionesco's final children's book. Originally billed in Ionesco's memoir Present Past Past Present as "a tale for children less than three years old," in picture book form it became a story "for children of any age."

JOSETTE KNOCKS on her parents' door as she does every morning. Papa indulged his gastronomic vices a little too much the night before and does not want to get up. Mama is not there. "'Where is Mama?'" Josette wonders. "'She has gone to the country to see her Mama.'" Satisfied with this answer, Josette makes her usual demand: to hear a story.

But today, Papa is all business. He has to get ready for work. "He goes into the bathroom. He closes the bathroom door."

Josette demands to be let in. But Papa is washing. Papa is shaving.
'I want to come in, I want to see.'
Papa says: 'You cannot see me, because I am not in the bathroom anymore.'
Josette says (behind the door): 'Then where are you?'
Papa answers: 'I don't know. Look for me...'

Josette follows her father's directions to the dining room. He is not there. (But he's been able to shave some without interruption.) Next Josette's sent to the living room and the kitchen and instructed to look under tables and inside pots and pans and behind doors. (And papa shaves and dresses.) After having run about the apartment looking for her father (based on her fathers' called directions through the bathroom door), Papa at lasts steps out of the bathroom ready for the day.

Then Josette's mama arrives, and suddenly Josette awakes. Her morning game of hide-and-seek was a dream. She gets up and...

"She goes to the door of her parents' bedroom..."

IN 2009, an omnibus edition of all four stories was released with illustrations by Etienne Delessert. Since Delessert did not originally illustrate Story Number 3 or Story Number 4, I assume that the art for those tales was newly created, but I have not gotten my hands on a copy and there does not appear to be any plans to release it in English.

To see almost all of the art for Story Number 4 by Jean-Michel Nicollet, see my Flickr set here.

For more background on Eugène Ionesco and his other children's books, see my posts:

Story Number 1
Story Number 2
Story Number 3

All images are copyrighted © and owned by their respective holders.

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