25 Dec 2008

Harold Pinter: Death of a prophet from Hackney

I am taking a break from the nut roast and the turkey (may be we will have a decent Doctor Who Christmas Special another year) to repost my comments on Pinter's amazing Nobel Prize Speech.

I am sorry that he has died, I used to be a Pinter sceptic but I was won over by his amazing Nobel Prize Speech and a growing interest in his amazing plays.

He died of cancer at least upstaging the Queen and the military on the BBC news today.

His plays were bleak beautiful bits of micro politics, the power in family, the oppression of roles but like his mentor Beckett, when needed he could in act in powerful fashion for justice.

This is something I posted in June 2006...a remarkable man!


Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay.



The ravages of Pinter's battle with cancer are staring you in the face as he sits wheelchair-bound, and every word he speaks sounds as if it comes from the grave, deep and rasping. The combination of frailty and tenacity is terribly moving.
(Independent, 22/10/2006)

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.
Pinter Nobel speech.

I have just had the pleasure of watching the dvd of Harold Pinter Nobel speech.

I am a bit of a Pinter sceptic or I was. Firstly, I go to left events, I am seen as on the 'left', there is a family or families of radicals, leftists, progressives...but the big idea that we are wrecking the planet and wrecking us because of our economic system, that the economy cannot grow for ever and that humanity is a mere tool for the economic system...isnt quite what the left are about, they like everybody are against bad things and for good things. Left is good, right is bad...however the edge sometimes is not quite on the blade.

Pinter is part of this left(s) that does not always talk to my central concerns.

Also I remember Pinter rolling up at Red Pepper events, Lady Antonia Fraser in tow (was she in furs I forget) and making ranty speeches...impressed, I suppose my expectations were too high but I was not.

Yet his Nobel speech is wonderful, you can read it here

or watch a free video on screen here
or order the DVD here.

The Stage noted Yesterday’s news that Sir Harold Pinter has just added to his accomplishments by being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature received a blissful moment of the simultaneously absurd and embarrassing that could have been lifted from one of his plays, when – according to the Evening Standard – “A Sky News presenter announced at 12.01pm that Harold Pinter had died, before correcting herself, after a Pinteresque pause, and saying that he had in fact won a Nobel Prize”.


Pinter dissects the USA, not just Bush, but the US political establishment...the greatest salesman, he calls them...fermenting coups...supporting every post WWII right wing regime. He dissects with clarity and appropriate aggression, beautiful to behold.

He is beautiful, very sick with cancer, in a chair, clothed in a blanket...a Beckett character, delivering a monologue on truth.

He argues that we need to smash the mirror of the spin doctors and find the truth, the mirrow we must smash is the mirror that stops us seeing the truth of a world running on principles that are utterly inappropriate.

Watched the Caretaker and was surprised that this bizarre piece of Beckett theatre was based on true events, read about Pinter and Beckett, read all the rave rewiews of his performance of 'Krapp's Last Tape'. 'This is the most courageous, remorseless performance you will see', etc.

There is a debate about Beckett and the political, Beckett of course did his bit for the French Resistence.

There is no debate about the vital nature of Pinter's politics, yes smash the mirror.


Krapp's last tape is apparently going out on BBC 4, I look forward to it. Beckett, is the greatest master of the 20th century, a discipline to watch his work, a practice..

Here is a bit of the nobel speech

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.

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