It was the Times review that made me choose the book in my pursuit of reading all authors on the Noble prize in literature list: “One of the most noble and moving plays of our generation, a threnody of hope deceived and deferred but never extinguished; a play suffused with tenderness for the whole human perplexity; with phrases that come like a sharp stab of beauty and pain.”—The Times (London).
Beckett got his noble prize for literature in 1969. It is my first encounter with Beckett. Paul Auster is right “Reading Beckett for the first time is an experience like no other in modern literature.”
My feminist friend would call the play sexist. “Where are female characters?!” is her usual criticism in such cases and not even the great Becket can escape her criticism, knowing in particular that Beckett famously objected when, in the 1980s, several women’s acting companies began to stage the play. Beckett was quoted as saying “Women don’t have prostates”, a reference to the fact that Vladimir frequently has to leave the stage to urinate.
To me, this is a play about human character, gender neutral. Hope and despair, pain and relief, human support and disappointment, laughs and tears, non sense and struggle are genderless.
This book is minimalist poetry that brings existentialism to unexpected levels as the story evolves. I’ve seen myself in Vladimir and Estragon as they wait for Godot, someone or something they do not even know, but hope to get to know. The boy who comes with news from Godot is hope and future incarnated. The slave Lucky is the allegory for change of perspective to me. A slave can still be lucky and luck is very much a subjective beast. Being led versus leading. Who is the lucky one? In Beckett’ s words, “he is lucky to have no more expectations.”
That willow at the end of the play is both tearful and hopeful. Russians call a willow “iva plakuchaea”, a willow which cries. Tears of sadness or tears of joy. Quite symbolic. As it is the case with the entire book.