Ever notice that when there is less information provided, you automatically look harder, try harder, think harder in order to fill in the missing data. If you are told a girl is very young and nothing else, you will provide the supposed age, if a topic is deemed difficult, you will suggest which areas you believe will be the problematic ones. Ergo, any artist leaving large voids in their oeuvre (intentionally or not) will be inviting (willingly or not) numerous and varied interpretations of their work.
Beckett’s true genius lies herein. In his play, Waiting for Godot, not much happens, not much is illustrated, not much is said during the ongoing circular (and at times repetitive) banter. Nothing is developed, characters aren’t fastidiously described and explored, and strange situations constantly throw the theatre goer or reader for a loop.
In short, it is all a bit bizarre (as is the Theatre of the Absurd) and thereby liberating. You are dragged along by the tempo and language uncaring of rules and regulations and oblivious to customs and manners. And that is, in my opinion, exactly why it is such a beautiful read. You don’t need to label it. just read it and take from it what you will. It is, after all, one of the most studied works of the last century.
Beckett was repeatedly asked what this most enigmatic play was truly about and he replied, “It’s symbiosis“.
I found this quote which beautifully expresses the function of the Theatre of the Absurd and helps us to comprehend the authors, playwrights, performers that adopted this form of artistic expression.
In his introduction to the book Absurd Drama (1965), Esslin wrote:
The Theatre of the Absurd attacks the comfortable certainties of religious or political orthodoxy. It aims to shock its audience out of complacency, to bring it face to face with the harsh facts of the human situation as these writers see it. But the challenge behind this message is anything but one of despair. It is a challenge to accept the human condition as it is, in all its mystery and absurdity, and to bear it with dignity, nobly, responsibly; precisely because there are no easy solutions to the mysteries of existence, because ultimately man is alone in a meaningless world. The shedding of easy solutions, of comforting illusions, may be painful, but it leaves behind it a sense of freedom and relief. And that is why, in the last resort, the Theatre of the Absurd does not provoke tears of despair but the laughter of liberation.[5
In fact, Beckett was commended for having “transformed the destitution of man into his exaltation.”
Here are a few of my favourite moments within the book:
“We always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression we exist.”
“I missed you…and at the same time I was happy. Isn’t that a queer thing?”
“Ten Francs…Five Francs…I couldn’t accept less.”