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Harold Pinter (1930-2008)

Harold Pinter

On December 24th, Harold Pinter, a unique figure in British literature who dominated the scenes of theatre since the 1950s, died after a long battle with esophageal cancer. He was a playwright, director, actor and poet. He was the winner of 2005 Nobel Prize in Literature, and was an unwavering fighter against the wars and social injustice in the world.

Pinter was born on October 10th, in Hackney, a working-class neighborhood in London’s East End. The only child of Jack and France Pinter, eager to study literature, he began to write poetry and articles for the school magazine as a teenager. In 1947-48, he played in William Shakespeare’s Romeo-Juliet and Macbeth. He tried different jobs, as a waiter, a postman, a snow-clearer and a bouncer for earning a living and to support his career as a writer.

Evacuated during WWII and separated from his parents, he became a conscientious objector in 1949 and fined for refusing to serve military service. As an anti-fascist, he was physically attacked by fascist thugs.

In 1956, Harold married actress Vivien Merchant. They divorced in 1980. Their son Daniel is a writer and musician. Pinter’s second wife was Lady Antonia Fraser and together they continued their political struggle against this turbulent and unjust world. His plays tended to become shorter and more overtly political, while criticized himself for his earlier political inactivity.

He was especially concerned about oppression, torture and the abuse of human rights which have become more rampant around the world, as the greed of imperialism has intensified globally.

In February 2005, Pinter publicly announced his retirement from play writing to dedicate his times mostly to political activism. “I’m using a lot of energy more specifically about political states of affairs, which I think are very, very worrying as things stand.”

Pinter strongly opposed the 1991 Persian Gulf War; the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia; 2001 War on Afghanistan; and 2003 War on Iraq. On November 27th 2002, in the University of Turin, Italy, he stated, “Many Americans, we know, are horrified by the posture of their government but seem to be helpless.”

Pinter was an early member of the campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the U.K. He also supported the British Anti-Apartheid Movement of 1959-1994.

Pinter was awfully disturbed by the CIA sponsored coup d’etat of 1973 in Chili, the assassination of democratically elected President Salvador Allende, and strongly condemned it. He actively opposed the U.S. interference in Central and South America and was an active delegate of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign in the U.K., which supported the Cuban Revolution.

Pinter became a signatory of the mission’s statement of Jews for Justice for Palestinians in 2005. He protested the cancellation of “My Name is Rachel Corrie” by the New York Theatre Workshop as a cowardice act amounting to self-censorship. (Rachel Corrie was a brave American girl who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer, while protesting against demolition of Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip, on March 16, 2003).

Pinter was a trustee for the campaign to free Mordechai Vanunu from Israeli jail, (Vanunu is the Israeli hero who revealed Israeli nuclear weapons to the London Sunday Times in 1986. He was lured by a female Israeli agent in Italy, then drugged, taken hostage, sent to Israel, and put in jail for 18 years- eleven years of that term was solitary confinement.)

Pinter was an ardent defendant of free-speech in the world and as the vice-president of PEN, the worldwide association of writers; he defended the rights of the imprisoned Turkish writers. In 1988 he wrote the “Mountain Language”, about the suppression of Kurdish language by the Turkish governments.

In spite of his ill-health, he put a lot of his time and energy acting in the current anti-war movement in the U.K., speaking at the demonstrations held by the Stop the War Coalition, he called the US. President G.W. Bush, and the ex-Prime Minister of the U.K., Tony Blair, both “mass murderers”, and described them along the past U.S. officials as “war criminals.” … who strive to attain “world domination.”

He wrote more than 30 playwrights; one novel, “the Dwarfs”, 1990; and many articles, poems and works for radios and televisions. Some of his plays were adopted for the big screen, and his screenplays for the “French Lieutenant’s Woman” in 1981, and “Betrayal” in 1983 both earned him Oscar nominations.

A generous and honest man, loyal to the cause of the working-class and the poor, with a combative spirit in his works and social acts, was Harold Pinter.

Some of his works are:

  • The Room, 1957

  • The Birthday Party, 1957

  • Trouble in the Works, 1959

  • The Caretaker, 1959

  • The Dumb Waiter, 1960

  • The Servant, 1963

  • The Homecoming, 1965, (Won Tony Award)

  • The Accident, 1967

  • Landscape, 1968

  • Silence, 1969

  • The Go-Between 1970

  • Old Times, 1971

  • The Last Tycoon, 1976

  • Betrayal, 1978

  • A Kind of Alaska, 1982

  • One for the Road, 1984

  • Turtle Diary, 1985

  • Reunion, 1989

  • The Handmaid’s Tale, 1990

  • Moonlight, 1993

  • Pinter at sixty, 1993

  • Party Time, 1994

  • Ashes to Ashes, 1996

  • Celebration, 1999

  • Celebration and the Room, 2000

  • War, 2003

  • Death etc., 2005

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