Belfast Telegraph

He was terrifying and tender: Edna recalls Samuel Beckett

By Julie Kenwell

With a multi-arts programme bulging at the seams with every aspect possible to celebrate the life and times of Samuel Beckett, you could have been forgiven for wondering why organisers chose to open Enniskillen's Happy Days Festival with an ‘In Conversation' event with Edna O'Brien .

But from the very moment she took her place on stage in the Ardhowen Theatre on Thursday night, the Irish writer — a friend of the late Nobel Prize-winning laureate — drew the audience into his world.

The unique In Conversation talk with William Crawley paved the way for the rest of the first International Beckett Festival.

And you were left with a better perspective on why Festival Director Sean Doran had been so inspired by Beckett to take the gamble of holding the five day arts-fest in Enniskillen.

In her soft voice, Edna was modest in describing her relationship with Beckett.

“I don't want to be so presumptuous as to say we were great friends, but when we did meet it was always lovely and memorable,” she said.

“He etched himself on me without meaning to.”

Ms O’Brien also quickly set about debunking some of the myths surrounding the writer.

“He has been described as a hermit — he met more people than you or I have ever met.”

She described him as a man who, if angry could be “terrifying” but also a man capable of loving, and a man of “delicate tenderness”.

She told the audience how she first met him at a party when he was in his 60s, and how the very next day she had bumped into him in London Underground.

“We went for coffee,” she recalled.

“I was so nervous that I was a lump of silence.”

The audience heard how she had felt those same nerves last night just before going on stage.

“He is so great you see, and I want to do justice to him,” she said.

She did just that.

Belfast Telegraph


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