Harold Pinter

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Harold Pinter

Post  LaRue on Wed Jun 08, 2011 2:16 am

Because really, we need a Pinter topic!

I've mainly started this because I have never seen any Pinter, apart from a scene from 'The Caretaker' my friends performed in a revue, I'm going to a production of Celebration in a few weeks that my friends at school are taking up to Edinburgh in August and looking forward to it immensely.

Someone, tell me interesting things about Pinter!

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Re: Harold Pinter

Post  eddie on Wed Jun 08, 2011 2:36 am


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Re: Harold Pinter

Post  eddie on Fri Jun 17, 2011 8:59 pm

Pinter on fellow Nobel Prize winner and cricket fan Samuel Beckett:

"The farther he goes the more good it does me. I don’t want philosophies, tracts, dogmas, creeds, ways out, truths, answers, nothing from the bargain basement. 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 f---ing 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.

His work is beautiful..."

Harold Pinter

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Re: Harold Pinter

Post  eddie on Fri Jun 17, 2011 11:57 pm

Playwright Harold Pinter's last interview reveals his childhood love of cricket and why it is better than sex

Andy Bull guardian.co.uk, Saturday 27 December 2008 00.05 GMT

British author Harold Pinter. Photograph: Derek Hudson/Getty Images

Harold Pinter, who died on Tuesday, gave his last interview to Andy Bull, of the Guardian, on a subject very dear to the playwright's heart: cricket. Here we publish the interview for the first time

"I tend to think that cricket is the greatest thing that God created on earth," Harold Pinter once said, "certainly greater than sex, although sex isn't too bad either." No harm, then, that the game should be the subject of his last interview, given in late October at his home in London. His health failing, Pinter was in nostalgic mood, recalling a childhood in Hackney, east London, during the blitz and his time as an evacuee. "I first watched cricket during the war. At one point we were all evacuated from our house when there was an air raid. We opened the door and our garden, with this large lilac tree, was alight all along the back wall. We were evacuated straight away. Though not before I took my cricket bat.

"I used to get up at five in the morning and play cricket. I had a great friend who is still going – he lives in Australia – called Mick, Mick Goldstein. He used to live around the corner from me in Hackney, and we were very close to the River Lea, and there were fields. We walked down to the fields; there'd be nobody about – it would really very early in the morning, and there would be a tree we used as a wicket. We would take it in turns to bat and bowl; we would be Lindwall, Miller, Hutton and Compton. That was the life."

Pinter's study was heavy with the clutter of a cricket fan. On one wall was an oil portrait of himself, wearing whites, knocking a drive away to the leg side. The shelves creaked under his cricket library, including all 145 editions of the Wisden Almanack. On the mantelpiece were photographs and memorabilia of the Gaieties, the wandering club side of which Pinter was captain, and, when he gave up playing, chairman. Downstairs, on the wall was a framed copy of WG Grace's autograph.

His favourite, though, was the England great Len Hutton. He first saw him as an evacuee in Yorkshire. "I was sent for a brief period to Leeds, and I went to see some kind of game up at Headingley. I caught Len Hutton, who wa s on leave from the army. I fell in love with him at first sight, as it were. I became passionate about Yorkshire because of Hutton really. It is my great regret that I could have met him, but I was too shy."

Cricket was not in Pinter's family. His father did not play. "I learned about the game at Hackney Downs Grammar. We used to play a lot. A lot of my colleagues at the time were very, very keen on cricket. We felt so intensely about it. I remember going to Lord's, walking through Regent's Park on my way, one early evening. And coming away from Lord's there was another schoolboy, in uniform, and he saw me, and said: "Hutton's out!" I could have killed him. Really. It was very important to me that I was going to see Hutton. So, you see, I have golden memories."

His playing days lapsed after childhood and did not resume until he had a family of his own. "I didn't start playing again until the 60s. I took my son, who was then about nine, to school for nets and I watched him be coached. I suddenly thought 'well why don't I have a net myself?' I hadn't played since school you know, but the next week I got some whites and started to have some coaching from a fellow called Fred Pelozzi, a cricketer of Italian descent but he was a cockney actually, and he was a bloody good player.

"And after a few weeks he said 'why don't you come and play for the club I play for?' So I said 'OK'. I went out for my first game for Gaieties [batting] at I think No 6. He was the only fellow I knew, they were all new to me, and a fellow bowled the first ball at me, and I hit it plumb in the middle of the bat, really a beautiful shot. Straight back to the bowler, who caught it. So I was out first bloody ball. That was my first introduction to Gaieties. But I carried on playing for them, and eventually I became captain."

It was cricket's endless potential for narrative, the games within a game, that appealed most. "Drama happens in big cricket matches. But also in small cricket matches," he said. "When we play, my club, each thing that happens is dramatic: the gasps that follow a miss at slip, the anger of an lbw decision that is turned down. It is the same thing wherever you play, really."

He had been looking forward to seeing England play Australia next summer. "I don't watch as much professional cricket as I used to, because I'm not moving very well these days, but I used to do a lot of it. And there is nothing better really. I had a piece of very good fortune three years ago and I managed to get a box at Lord's. I was there to see South Africa last year, and I shall certainly be there next year to see the Ashes.

"I don't know whether it is the same game these days. But I have a number of step-grandchildren, three boys. And they think of nothing else but cricket. They play cricket in the snow. So it is still very much alive actually. I think the facilities have been denuded, and there are now all the other beguilements of sport, and this obsession with bloody football. But my grandchildren still they get up at five in the morning and play cricket, just as I did myself.

"Cricket, the whole thing, playing, watching, being part of the Gaieties, has been a central feature of my life."

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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Re: Harold Pinter

Post  eddie on Sat Jun 18, 2011 12:12 am

One of the great lines in The Birthday Party, when Goldberg and McCann are interrogating Stanley, "Who watered the wicket in Melbourne?"


HAROLD PINTER - "one of the most important lines I've ever written. As Stanley is taken away, Petey says, 'Stan, don't let them tell you what to do.' I've lived that line all my damn life. Never more than now." ... "It's the destruction of an individual, the independent voice of an individual. I believe that is precisely what the United States is doing to Nicaragua. It's a horrifying act. If you see child abuse, you recognise it and you're horrified. If you do it yourself, you apparently don't know what you're doing." 1988.

'The Birthday Party 'is Pinter's first full-length play and one of his best-known and most-frequently performed plays. After its hostile London reception in 1958 almost ended Pinter's playwriting career, it went on to be considered a classic. The plot centres around a small birthday celebration for Stanley Webber, an erstwhile piano player in his 30s, who lives in a rundown boarding house. The boarding house is run by Meg and Petey Boles who are holding the party for him. Two sinister strangers, Goldberg and McCann, arrive and appear to have come looking for him. Between them, they turn Stanley's apparently innocuous birthday party into a nightmare.

Pinter began writing the work after acting in a theatrical tour, during which, in Eastbourne, he had lived in "filthy insane digs." There he became acquainted with "a great bulging scrag of a woman" and a man who stayed in the seedy place. The B&B became the model for the rundown boarding house of the play and the woman and her tenant the models, respectively, for the characters of Meg Boles and Stanley Webber.

In an earlier work, 'The Room', a one-act play, Pinter had worked on themes and motifs that he would carry over into 'The Birthday Party' and some of his succeeding plays. Among these themes are the failure of language to serve as an adequate tool of communication, the use of place as a sanctum that is violated by menacing intruders, and the surrealistic confusions that obscure or distort fact.

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Re: Harold Pinter

Post  eddie on Sat Jun 18, 2011 12:13 am

Harold Pinter CH. CBE (1930 - 2008)

Harold Pinter was perhaps the best known English playwright since the second world war; and was among the most influential British playwrights of modern time.

He was a child when war broke out and it made a strong and lasting impact on him; he found separation from his parents difficult when he was evacuated from London to Cornwall, and as a young man he was fined a substantial amount for refusing to do his national service.

At school he had read widely - both literature and poetry and particularly the works of Kafka and Hemingway - and acted in productions. He spent two years studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, but he never settled there and did not complete his course. He earned his living as an actor for some years before starting to write plays himself. His first play to be commercially successful was 'The Caretaker' in 1960 which, although critical reaction was mixed; Pinter's style was already distinctive, and not always popular with the critics. After becoming established as a writer, he went on to direct widely, serving under Peter Hall as associate director of the National Theatre. As well as the stage, Pinter has written extensively for British television and radio, and as a screenwriter of feature-films, and he has also directed for all of these media.

His plays often feature a sense of impending danger with the characters frequently under threat from people or forces they (and the audience) cannot understand or control. This menace and implied violence is more palatable to audiences because it is interleaved with often-unexpected humour. Although many of his plays are set in a single room or space, they often contain strong visual imagery.

His 1965 play 'The Homecoming' won a Tony Award, the Whitbread Anglo-American Theatre Award, and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award. These were followed by many others across all areas of his work, including the Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear, the Austrian State Prize for European Literature, BAFTA awards in 1965 and in 1971, the Hamburg Shakespeare Prize, the Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or in 1971, and the Commonwealth Award in 1981. He was awarded a CBE in 1966, but later turned down a knighthood. In 1996 he was given the Laurence Olivier Award for a lifetime's achievement in the theatre. In 2002 he was made a Companion of Honour for services to literature and in 2005 won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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Re: Harold Pinter

Post  eddie on Sat Jun 18, 2011 5:27 am

A serious fellow, Harold Pinter, who did not react at all well to Craig Brown's numerous parodies of him, if this account in The Guardian (2 Oct 2010) is to be credited:

"Seven or eight years ago, I was at a large party consisting of perhaps a couple of hundred people. At one point, I glanced across the sea of heads to the other side of the room, only to be confronted by the terrifying sight of Harold Pinter staring back at me, his face set in a gargoylish grimace, each thumb stuck to the side of his head while his fingers waggled about in the traditional schoolboy gesture of derision.

It was a scary sight, at one and the same time daft and threatening, not to mention weirdly psychic (how did he know that I would glance over at that moment, or had he been pulling faces for some time, on the off-chance?)

The next day, I heard that he had said to our hostess: "Is that who I think it is?" "Yes. Are you going to punch him?" she said, to which he replied, "I wouldn't dirty my fists."...."

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Re: Harold Pinter

Post  eddie on Sat Jun 18, 2011 7:51 pm

Harold Pinter's Nobel Prize acceptance speech in full:


Nobel Lecture
Art, Truth & Politics

In 1958 I wrote the following:

'There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.'

I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?

Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. The search is your task. More often than not you stumble upon the truth in the dark, colliding with it or just glimpsing an image or a shape which seems to correspond to the truth, often without realising that you have done so. But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Sometimes you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost.

I have often been asked how my plays come about. I cannot say. Nor can I ever sum up my plays, except to say that this is what happened. That is what they said. That is what they did.

Most of the plays are engendered by a line, a word or an image. The given word is often shortly followed by the image. I shall give two examples of two lines which came right out of the blue into my head, followed by an image, followed by me.

The plays are The Homecoming and Old Times. The first line of The Homecoming is 'What have you done with the scissors?' The first line of Old Times is 'Dark.'

In each case I had no further information.

In the first case someone was obviously looking for a pair of scissors and was demanding their whereabouts of someone else he suspected had probably stolen them. But I somehow knew that the person addressed didn't give a damn about the scissors or about the questioner either, for that matter.

'Dark' I took to be a description of someone's hair, the hair of a woman, and was the answer to a question. In each case I found myself compelled to pursue the matter. This happened visually, a very slow fade, through shadow into light.

I always start a play by calling the characters A, B and C.

In the play that became The Homecoming I saw a man enter a stark room and ask his question of a younger man sitting on an ugly sofa reading a racing paper. I somehow suspected that A was a father and that B was his son, but I had no proof. This was however confirmed a short time later when B (later to become Lenny) says to A (later to become Max), 'Dad, do you mind if I change the subject? I want to ask you something. The dinner we had before, what was the name of it? What do you call it? Why don't you buy a dog? You're a dog cook. Honest. You think you're cooking for a lot of dogs.' So since B calls A 'Dad' it seemed to me reasonable to assume that they were father and son. A was also clearly the cook and his cooking did not seem to be held in high regard. Did this mean that there was no mother? I didn't know. But, as I told myself at the time, our beginnings never know our ends.

'Dark.' A large window. Evening sky. A man, A (later to become Deeley), and a woman, B (later to become Kate), sitting with drinks. 'Fat or thin?' the man asks. Who are they talking about? But I then see, standing at the window, a woman, C (later to become Anna), in another condition of light, her back to them, her hair dark.

It's a strange moment, the moment of creating characters who up to that moment have had no existence. What follows is fitful, uncertain, even hallucinatory, although sometimes it can be an unstoppable avalanche. The author's position is an odd one. In a sense he is not welcomed by the characters. The characters resist him, they are not easy to live with, they are impossible to define. You certainly can't dictate to them. To a certain extent you play a never-ending game with them, cat and mouse, blind man's buff, hide and seek. But finally you find that you have people of flesh and blood on your hands, people with will and an individual sensibility of their own, made out of component parts you are unable to change, manipulate or distort.

So language in art remains a highly ambiguous transaction, a quicksand, a trampoline, a frozen pool which might give way under you, the author, at any time.

But as I have said, the search for the truth can never stop. It cannot be adjourned, it cannot be postponed. It has to be faced, right there, on the spot.

Political theatre presents an entirely different set of problems. Sermonising has to be avoided at all cost. Objectivity is essential. The characters must be allowed to breathe their own air. The author cannot confine and constrict them to satisfy his own taste or disposition or prejudice. He must be prepared to approach them from a variety of angles, from a full and uninhibited range of perspectives, take them by surprise, perhaps, occasionally, but nevertheless give them the freedom to go which way they will. This does not always work. And political satire, of course, adheres to none of these precepts, in fact does precisely the opposite, which is its proper function.

In my play The Birthday Party I think I allow a whole range of options to operate in a dense forest of possibility before finally focussing on an act of subjugation.

Mountain Language pretends to no such range of operation. It remains brutal, short and ugly. But the soldiers in the play do get some fun out of it. One sometimes forgets that torturers become easily bored. They need a bit of a laugh to keep their spirits up. This has been confirmed of course by the events at Abu Ghraib in Baghdad. Mountain Language lasts only 20 minutes, but it could go on for hour after hour, on and on and on, the same pattern repeated over and over again, on and on, hour after hour.

Ashes to Ashes, on the other hand, seems to me to be taking place under water. A drowning woman, her hand reaching up through the waves, dropping down out of sight, reaching for others, but finding nobody there, either above or under the water, finding only shadows, reflections, floating; the woman a lost figure in a drowning landscape, a woman unable to escape the doom that seemed to belong only to others.

But as they died, she must die too.

Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.

As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Quaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true.

The truth is something entirely different. The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.

But before I come back to the present I would like to look at the recent past, by which I mean United States foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. I believe it is obligatory upon us to subject this period to at least some kind of even limited scrutiny, which is all that time will allow here.

Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now. Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, the United States' actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.

Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America's favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as 'low intensity conflict'. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom. When the populace has been subdued - or beaten to death - the same thing - and your own friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed. This was a commonplace in US foreign policy in the years to which I refer.

The tragedy of Nicaragua was a highly significant case. I choose to offer it here as a potent example of America's view of its role in the world, both then and now.

I was present at a meeting at the US embassy in London in the late 1980s.

The United States Congress was about to decide whether to give more money to the Contras in their campaign against the state of Nicaragua. I was a member of a delegation speaking on behalf of Nicaragua but the most important member of this delegation was a Father John Metcalf. The leader of the US body was Raymond Seitz (then number two to the ambassador, later ambassador himself). Father Metcalf said: 'Sir, I am in charge of a parish in the north of Nicaragua. My parishioners built a school, a health centre, a cultural centre. We have lived in peace. A few months ago a Contra force attacked the parish. They destroyed everything: the school, the health centre, the cultural centre. They raped nurses and teachers, slaughtered doctors, in the most brutal manner. They behaved like savages. Please demand that the US government withdraw its support from this shocking terrorist activity.'

Raymond Seitz had a very good reputation as a rational, responsible and highly sophisticated man. He was greatly respected in diplomatic circles. He listened, paused and then spoke with some gravity. 'Father,' he said, 'let me tell you something. In war, innocent people always suffer.' There was a frozen silence. We stared at him. He did not flinch.

Innocent people, indeed, always suffer.

Finally somebody said: 'But in this case "innocent people" were the victims of a gruesome atrocity subsidised by your government, one among many. If Congress allows the Contras more money further atrocities of this kind will take place. Is this not the case? Is your government not therefore guilty of supporting acts of murder and destruction upon the citizens of a sovereign state?'

Seitz was imperturbable. 'I don't agree that the facts as presented support your assertions,' he said.

As we were leaving the Embassy a US aide told me that he enjoyed my plays. I did not reply.

I should remind you that at the time President Reagan made the following statement: 'The Contras are the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers.'

The United States supported the brutal Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua for over 40 years. The Nicaraguan people, led by the Sandinistas, overthrew this regime in 1979, a breathtaking popular revolution.

The Sandinistas weren't perfect. They possessed their fair share of arrogance and their political philosophy contained a number of contradictory elements. But they were intelligent, rational and civilised. They set out to establish a stable, decent, pluralistic society. The death penalty was abolished. Hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken peasants were brought back from the dead. Over 100,000 families were given title to land. Two thousand schools were built. A quite remarkable literacy campaign reduced illiteracy in the country to less than one seventh. Free education was established and a free health service. Infant mortality was reduced by a third. Polio was eradicated.

The United States denounced these achievements as Marxist/Leninist subversion. In the view of the US government, a dangerous example was being set. If Nicaragua was allowed to establish basic norms of social and economic justice, if it was allowed to raise the standards of health care and education and achieve social unity and national self respect, neighbouring countries would ask the same questions and do the same things. There was of course at the time fierce resistance to the status quo in El Salvador.

I spoke earlier about 'a tapestry of lies' which surrounds us. President Reagan commonly described Nicaragua as a 'totalitarian dungeon'. This was taken generally by the media, and certainly by the British government, as accurate and fair comment. But there was in fact no record of death squads under the Sandinista government. There was no record of torture. There was no record of systematic or official military brutality. No priests were ever murdered in Nicaragua. There were in fact three priests in the government, two Jesuits and a Maryknoll missionary. The totalitarian dungeons were actually next door, in El Salvador and Guatemala. The United States had brought down the democratically elected government of Guatemala in 1954 and it is estimated that over 200,000 people had been victims of successive military dictatorships.

Six of the most distinguished Jesuits in the world were viciously murdered at the Central American University in San Salvador in 1989 by a battalion of the Alcatl regiment trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA. That extremely brave man Archbishop Romero was assassinated while saying mass. It is estimated that 75,000 people died. Why were they killed? They were killed because they believed a better life was possible and should be achieved. That belief immediately qualified them as communists. They died because they dared to question the status quo, the endless plateau of poverty, disease, degradation and oppression, which had been their birthright.

The United States finally brought down the Sandinista government. It took some years and considerable resistance but relentless economic persecution and 30,000 dead finally undermined the spirit of the Nicaraguan people. They were exhausted and poverty stricken once again. The casinos moved back into the country. Free health and free education were over. Big business returned with a vengeance. 'Democracy' had prevailed.

But this 'policy' was by no means restricted to Central America. It was conducted throughout the world. It was never-ending. And it is as if it never happened.

The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn't know it.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, 'the American people', as in the sentence, 'I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.'

It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words 'the American people' provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.

The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.

What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days - conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead? Look at Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds of people detained without charge for over three years, with no legal representation or due process, technically detained forever. This totally illegitimate structure is maintained in defiance of the Geneva Convention. It is not only tolerated but hardly thought about by what's called the 'international community'. This criminal outrage is being committed by a country, which declares itself to be 'the leader of the free world'. Do we think about the inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay? What does the media say about them? They pop up occasionally - a small item on page six. They have been consigned to a no man's land from which indeed they may never return. At present many are on hunger strike, being force-fed, including British residents. No niceties in these force-feeding procedures. No sedative or anaesthetic. Just a tube stuck up your nose and into your throat. You vomit blood. This is torture. What has the British Foreign Secretary said about this? Nothing. What has the British Prime Minister said about this? Nothing. Why not? Because the United States has said: to criticise our conduct in Guantanamo Bay constitutes an unfriendly act. You're either with us or against us. So Blair shuts up.

The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading - as a last resort - all other justifications having failed to justify themselves - as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East'.

How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice. Therefore if any American soldier or for that matter politician finds himself in the dock Bush has warned that he will send in the marines. But Tony Blair has ratified the Court and is therefore available for prosecution. We can let the Court have his address if they're interested. It is Number 10, Downing Street, London.

Death in this context is irrelevant. Both Bush and Blair place death well away on the back burner. At least 100,000 Iraqis were killed by American bombs and missiles before the Iraq insurgency began. These people are of no moment. Their deaths don't exist. They are blank. They are not even recorded as being dead. 'We don't do body counts,' said the American general Tommy Franks.

Early in the invasion there was a photograph published on the front page of British newspapers of Tony Blair kissing the cheek of a little Iraqi boy. 'A grateful child,' said the caption. A few days later there was a story and photograph, on an inside page, of another four-year-old boy with no arms. His family had been blown up by a missile. He was the only survivor. 'When do I get my arms back?' he asked. The story was dropped. Well, Tony Blair wasn't holding him in his arms, nor the body of any other mutilated child, nor the body of any bloody corpse. Blood is dirty. It dirties your shirt and tie when you're making a sincere speech on television.

The 2,000 American dead are an embarrassment. They are transported to their graves in the dark. Funerals are unobtrusive, out of harm's way. The mutilated rot in their beds, some for the rest of their lives. So the dead and the mutilated both rot, in different kinds of graves.

Here is an extract from a poem by Pablo Neruda, 'I'm Explaining a Few Things':

And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children's blood.

Jackals that the jackals would despise
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate.

Face to face with you I have seen the blood
of Spain tower like a tide
to drown you in one wave
of pride and knives.

see my dead house,
look at broken Spain:
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers
from every socket of Spain
Spain emerges
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull's eye of your hearts.

And you will ask: why doesn't his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land.

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
the blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
in the streets!*

Let me make it quite clear that in quoting from Neruda's poem I am in no way comparing Republican Spain to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. I quote Neruda because nowhere in contemporary poetry have I read such a powerful visceral description of the bombing of civilians.

I have said earlier that the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. That is the case. Its official declared policy is now defined as 'full spectrum dominance'. That is not my term, it is theirs. 'Full spectrum dominance' means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources.

The United States now occupies 702 military installations throughout the world in 132 countries, with the honourable exception of Sweden, of course. We don't quite know how they got there but they are there all right.

The United States possesses 8,000 active and operational nuclear warheads. Two thousand are on hair trigger alert, ready to be launched with 15 minutes warning. It is developing new systems of nuclear force, known as bunker busters. The British, ever cooperative, are intending to replace their own nuclear missile, Trident. Who, I wonder, are they aiming at? Osama bin Laden? You? Me? Joe Dokes? China? Paris? Who knows? What we do know is that this infantile insanity - the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons - is at the heart of present American political philosophy. We must remind ourselves that the United States is on a permanent military footing and shows no sign of relaxing it.

Many thousands, if not millions, of people in the United States itself are demonstrably sickened, shamed and angered by their government's actions, but as things stand they are not a coherent political force - yet. But the anxiety, uncertainty and fear which we can see growing daily in the United States is unlikely to diminish.

I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man's man.

'God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad, except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don't chop people's heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it.'

A writer's life is a highly vulnerable, almost naked activity. We don't have to weep about that. The writer makes his choice and is stuck with it. But it is true to say that you are open to all the winds, some of them icy indeed. You are out on your own, out on a limb. You find no shelter, no protection - unless you lie - in which case of course you have constructed your own protection and, it could be argued, become a politician.

I have referred to death quite a few times this evening. I shall now quote a poem of my own called 'Death'.

Where was the dead body found?
Who found the dead body?
Was the dead body dead when found?
How was the dead body found?

Who was the dead body?

Who was the father or daughter or brother
Or uncle or sister or mother or son
Of the dead and abandoned body?

Was the body dead when abandoned?
Was the body abandoned?
By whom had it been abandoned?

Was the dead body naked or dressed for a journey?

What made you declare the dead body dead?
Did you declare the dead body dead?
How well did you know the dead body?
How did you know the dead body was dead?

Did you wash the dead body
Did you close both its eyes
Did you bury the body
Did you leave it abandoned
Did you kiss the dead body

When we look into a mirror we think the image that confronts us is accurate. But move a millimetre and the image changes. We are actually looking at a never-ending range of reflections. But sometimes a writer has to smash the mirror - for it is on the other side of that mirror that the truth stares at us.

I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us - the dignity of man.


* Extract from "I'm Explaining a Few Things" translated by Nathaniel Tarn, from Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems, published by Jonathan Cape, London 1970. Used by permission of The Random House Group Limited.

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Re: Harold Pinter

Post  eddie on Sat Jul 02, 2011 8:38 am

Harold Pinter and the Gaieties, Pinter v McKinnon, 1994.

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Re: Harold Pinter

Post  LaRue on Wed Jul 06, 2011 4:45 am

So saw 'Celebration' last week and loved it. The waiter was a fantastic character.

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Re: Harold Pinter

Post  ISN on Thu Jul 07, 2011 1:59 am

thanks for this thread, Rue Rue and Eddie........

I will take some time to read all of the posts at a later date......

it seems to be one of the most interesting new threads we have.......

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Re: Harold Pinter

Post  Lee Van Queef on Fri Jul 08, 2011 11:29 pm

ISN wrote:

it seems to be one of the most interesting new threads we have.......

Check out the weekends thread in Off Topic.

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Re: Harold Pinter

Post  eddie on Sat Jul 09, 2011 5:52 pm

Funny and alarming description in Michael Palin's "Python Years" diaries of a close encounter with Harold Pinter in a London restaurant where the Python cast & crew were dining. Amid the general jollity, Palin glances over to a dark corner and there, dining alone, is the sinister figure of Harold Pinter....

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Re: Harold Pinter

Post  eddie on Tue Oct 25, 2011 4:44 pm

Harold Pinter's forgotten sketch rediscovered after more than 50 years

Surprise find at British Library is the script of 'Umbrellas', part of a 1960 revue performed only once at the Nottingham Playhouse

Mark Brown, arts correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Monday 24 October 2011 19.58 BST

Harold Pinter in the 1960s. Photograph: Hulton Archive

It was part of a 1960 revue at the Nottingham Playhouse called You, Me and the Gatepost, performed for one night only, and then promptly forgotten.

But the sketch, written by a 29-year-old Harold Pinter and lost for more than half a century, has re-emerged as a result of some diligent detective work and is published by the Guardian for the first time and in full.

The sketch, set on the sunbathed terrace of a large hotel and called Umbrellas, is very Pinter, and if there was any doubt who the author was, then the 12 designated pauses are something of a giveaway.

Pinter's widow, Lady Antonia Fraser, said she had been "completely unaware" of the existence of Umbrellas. "It's fun. We've all been quarrelling over acting it in the family. I want to act B, which is the better part, but so far I've only managed to act A, so we're waiting for some really good actors to do it."

The sketch was discovered by Ian Greaves, who works on the archive of the absurdist playwright NF Simpson. Simpson contributed to You, Me and the Gatepost.

Jamie Andrews, head of English and drama at the British Library, said once it was known the revue had been staged, the scripts had to be somewhere in the collections because every script was submitted to censors at the lord chamberlain's office – and the library holds them all.

The scripts were duly found and, to the amazement of everyone involved, there was Umbrellas, among 25 sketches performed that night. Greaves recalls feeling "astonishment. And wanting to get home and check every book I had on Pinter to try to get to the bottom of it. It is extraordinary that things like this can crop up." While archivists do not think there are many more Pinter surprises in the British Library, they are fairly sure more may emerge about other writers from the archive of something like 56,000 20th-century scripts submitted to the lord chamberlain's office, which finally lost its vetting role in 1968.

The sketch was performed in a good year for the young Pinter, with A Night Out getting a huge ITV audience in the Armchair Theatre slot while The Caretaker was taking the West End by storm. Quite why the revue in Nottingham got hardly any coverage is another question – although the London-centrism of national newspaper critics is as good a reason as any.

"It seems peculiar and incredible that a work by the West End's 'triumph' Harold Pinter was just passed by," said Greaves.

The scripts come with a short "reader's report" by someone called CD Heriot which recommends that the revue is allowed to go ahead without cuts. The report calls it "an excellent revue containing the best of all the fashionable 'off-beat' writers" – people such as Pinter, John Mortimer, Ann Jellicoe and Shelagh Delaney.

The sketch's existence was revealed as the theatre with which Pinter was most closely associated, the 130-year-old Comedy theatre, was officially renamed the Harold Pinter theatre. Fraser said she burst into tears when she heard of the plan at the end of the recent run of Pinter's Betrayal. "It is an extremely moving day for me. Harold would have been completely thrilled, there's no question at all about that."

Fittingly, the first play to be staged in the newly renamed theatre is Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden, starring Thandie Newton, which had its first night on Monday night. Dorfman said Pinter was the play's mentor, using his influence to get it performed at the Royal Court after seeing a read-through at the ICA in 1990.

"For me, it's magical," said Dorfman. "That the first play in the Pinter theatre should not be a Pinter play, but a play that is possible because he existed is the most enduring testimony to his legacy."

"It is as if the gods of theatre and the arts are conspiring to make this a very significant event. I'm sentimental about these things but I do believe in these magical coincidences.

Dorfman, a good friend of Pinter and Fraser, has also read Umbrellas. "I loved it," he said. "It is so much Harold. I love these two old gents in the sun speaking about umbrellas. It somehow is absurd, but everyday absurd; the sort of thing you could overhear."

Critic's view

Harold Pinter theatre Comedy Theatre on Panton street, now renamed as the Harold Pinter Theatre. Photograph: Sarah Lee

We tend to forget that, between the failure of The Birthday Party in 1958 and the success of The Caretaker in 1960, Harold Pinter wrote many revue-sketches. While this latest example to come to light may be a squib, it's certainly not a damp one: try reading it aloud with someone and you'll see how it works.

For a start it depends heavily for comic effect on the pauses between the lines: a skill which Pinter told me he'd acquired from seeing Jack Benny at the London Palladium in the late 1940s. As in all Pinter's sketches, you also get a hint of themes he was to explore in his plays. This one clearly is about power: character A smugly rejoices in the fact that he has it, while character B is left in a state of impotent envy.

I wouldn't place this sketch on the same level of Pinter's miniature masterpiece, Last To Go, in which a coffee-stall owner and a newspaper seller fend off fear of loneliness and death through desultory chat.

But it's wonderful to have a bit of newly-discovered Pinter. It also reminds us that, along with Peter Cook, Pinter was a prolific revue-sketch writer who used a popular form to explore the oddities of human behaviour.

Michael Billington
Umbrellas, by Harold Pinter

Umbrella Umbrellas, the title Pinter's rediscovered sketch Photograph: Steve Black / Rex Features

Two gentlemen in deckchairs on the terrace of a large hotel. Wearing shorts and sunglasses. Sunbathing. They do not move throughout the exchange

A: The weather's too much for me today.


B: Well, you're damn lucky you've got your umbrella.

A: I'm never without it, old boy.


B: I think I'd do well to follow your example.

A: Yes, you would. Means the world to me. I never find myself at a loss. You understand what I mean?

B: You're a shrewd fellow, I'll say that for you.


A: My house is full of umbrellas.

B: You can't have too many.

A: You've never said a truer word, old boy.


B: I haven't got one to bless myself with.


A: Well, I can forsee [sic] a time you'll regret it.

B: I think the time's come, old boy.

A: You can't be too careful, old boy.


B: Well, you've got your feet firmly planted on the earth, there's no doubt about that.


A: I certainly feel secure, old boy.

B: Yes, you know where you stand, all right. You can't take that away from you.


A: You'll find they're a true friend to you, umbrellas.


B: Maybe I'll buy one.


A: Don't come to me. It would be like tearing my heart out, to part with any of mine.


B: You find them handy, eh?


A: Yes ... Oh, yes. When it's raining, particularly.


© The estate of Harold Pinter 2011

All rights reserved

© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

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Re: Harold Pinter

Post  Yakima Canutt on Sat Oct 29, 2011 11:49 pm

Monroe Stahr: Where do you come from?
Brimmer: Tennessee. Baptist.
Monroe Stahr: l'm New York. Jewish.
Brimmer: l know.
Monroe Stahr: Oh, at least we're all Americans.
Brimmer: We sure are, Mr. Stahr.

[Monroe smiles and nods; Brimmer takes a sip from his coffee]

Brimmer: Well?

Monroe Stahr: Well, l'm glad you came out here. l wanted to talk to you. You've got my writers all upset.

Brimmer: Keeps them from going to sleep, doesn't it?

Monroe Stahr: l want them awake, but l don't want them crazy.

Brimmer: Well, we're simply fucking concerned that they have the proper protection, that's all.

Monroe Stahr: Who from, me?

Brimmer: You're a very good employer, Mr. Stahr, but, uh... we still think that the position can be... rationalized.

Monroe Stahr: l'll tell you three things- All writers are children. Fifty percent are drunks. And up till very recently, writers in Hollywood were gag-men; most of them are still gag-men, but we call them writers.

Brimmer: Uh-huh. But they're still the farmers in this business. They grow the grain, but they're not in at the feast.

Monroe Stahr: This looks to me like a try for power, Mr. Brimmer, and I will not give them power. I'll give them money, I won't give them power. Anyway, they're not equipped for authority.

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Re: Harold Pinter

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