NOBEL LAUREATE HAROLD PINTER
Harold Pinter received this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature. Pinter is inarguably the renewer of English drama in the 20th century. His original and disturbing dramas have already become classics. The Presentation Speech by Writer Per Wästberg, Member of the Swedish Academy, Chairman of its Nobel Committee, on December 10, 2005, rightly acknowledged that Pinter’s international and inter-human impact in the field of drama has been uniquely strong and inspiring for half a century.
With as many as twenty-nine plays of his own and about a hundred that he has directed or acted in, Pinter has in his inimitable style made theatre his legitimate domain, charted a new territory, a Pinterland, with a distinct topography, or dramascape.
The Presentation Speech thoughtfully highlighted that in Pinter’s works, seductively accessible and frighteningly mysterious, the curtain rises on dense life-landscapes and harrowing confinement; and in poetic images, Pinter illuminates an existence where fantasy and the nightmare of reality clash.
Pinter’s hugely influential take on language has been unparalleled. The Presentation Speech conveyed this admirably. The words are instruments of power. Words are repeated until they resemble truth. In a time of over-information, Pinter frees words from describing reality and makes them reality itself, at times poetic, more often oppressive. At the end, it is only through language that we can erase our destiny and recreate it.
Very few artists see their name in a standard dictionary. Pinter does: in Chambers and Oxford, to cite just two. In Chambers is the adjective Pinteresque for in the style of the characters, situations, etc., of the plays of Harold Pinter, 20c English dramatist, marked esp. by halting dialogue, uncertainty of identity, and air of menace.
Contrary to the claim that his political commitment came late, Pinter describes even his first period as political. His comedies of menace of this period are metaphors for authoritarian intervention on several levels. They project the power of the state, the power of the family, and the power of religion as undermining the individual's critical questions; and uncover the reasons for wanting to destroy the identity of others.
The great Pinter event of this year was good news for those who regard him as the greatest living playwright; and for those who believe in American imperialism as huge tragedies of global menace.
But it was bad news for Tony Blair and President Bush. Pinter loathes their imperialist foreign policy and used his acceptance speech to say it candidly.