From Toronto Star
He opened the door to what looked like a darkened room and invited us to step inside. Once our eyes grew accustomed to the shadows, we could see things more clearly than ever before.
That's the achievement of author Samuel Beckett, who was born 100 years ago this week.
It was on April 13, 1906; the place was Cooldrinagh in Foxrock, County Dublin, and in a stroke of black humour he would have surely appreciated, the date happened to be both Good Friday and Friday the 13th.
Years later, in his masterwork, Waiting for Godot, he had the tyrannical Pozzo offer a jaundiced view of coming into the world.
"... one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you? They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more."
Beckett has variously been called a minimalist, an absurdist, an existentialist, a nihilist, a pessimist, an anarchist and an atheist, but he would shrug off all those labels, insisting instead "the words, the words, the words — they speak for themselves." One of the few times he was ever lured into categorizing himself was when someone asked him how he would compare himself to James Joyce, his mentor, friend and fellow Irish literary giant.
"James Joyce was a synthesizer, trying to bring in as much as he could," he said. "I am an analyzer, trying to leave out as much as I can."
What he chose to leave out was what the theatre tended to thrive on in the mid 20th-century: elegant settings, sumptuous costumes, twisting plots, and happy endings.
Instead, he gave us such things as a stage bare except for a single tree, occupied by two shabby tramps waiting for someone who never comes.
On that empty stage and in those tattered souls, he offered us a wealth of brutality, compassion, hope and despair.
Harold Pinter summed up the strange power and ugly beauty that Beckett's work still possesses for us when he wrote:
"He is the most courageous, remorseless writer going, and the more he grinds my nose in the shit, the more I am grateful to him.
"He's not fucking me about, he's not leading me up any garden path, he's not slipping me a wink, he's not flogging me a remedy or a path or a revelation or a basinful of breadcrumbs, he's not selling me anything I don't want to buy — he doesn't give a bollock whether I buy or not — he hasn't got his hand over his heart. Well, I'll buy his goods, hook, line and sinker, because he leaves no stone unturned and no maggot lonely. He brings forth a body of beauty."