Goodbye, Harold Pinter


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Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter died Wednesday after a long struggle with throat cancer. He was 78.

Pinter’s early plays -- ‘The Homecoming,’ ‘The Caretaker’ and ‘The Birthday Party’ -- are his most celebrated, although he wrote two dozen more. He was nominated for five Tony Awards, winning best play for ‘The Homecoming.’ Pinter also adapted other writers’ works for film, including ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman,’ for which he received an Oscar nomination. His careful language and long pauses were so distinctive that his style became an adjective, ‘Pinteresque.’


In recent years Pinter had dedicated himself to political activism, frequently turning his attention to the U.S. On the eve of the Iraq War, he called the George W. Bush administration a ‘monster out of control.’ After the war began, Pinter said U.S. policies were ‘beyond reason’ and compared them to those of Nazi Germany. His attacks alienated some who thought that great playwrights needn’t be politically outspoken.

But during his 2005 Nobel acceptance speech -- too ill to travel, Pinter made it from home -- he illuminated his decision to take a political stand:

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.

The film ‘Synecdoche, New York’ begins on the day that Harold Pinter died. Sadly, that day has come.

-- Carolyn Kellogg