By MEL GUSSOW and BEN BRANTLEY writing in The New York Times,
Published: December 25, 2008
Harold Pinter, the British playwright whose gifts for finding the ominous in the everyday and the noise within silence made him the most influential and imitated dramatist of his generation, died on Wednesday. He was 78 and lived in London.
The cause was cancer, his wife, Lady Antonia Fraser, said Thursday.
Mr. Pinter learned he had cancer of the esophagus in 2002. In 2005, when he received the Nobel Prize in Literature, he was unable to attend the awards ceremony at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm but delivered an acceptance speech from a wheelchair in a recorded video.
In more than 30 plays — written between 1957 and 2000 and including masterworks like “The Birthday Party,” “The Caretaker,” “The Homecoming” and “Betrayal” — Mr. Pinter captured the anxiety and ambiguity of life in the second half of the 20th century with terse, hypnotic dialogue filled with gaping pauses and the prospect of imminent violence.
Along with another Nobel winner, Samuel Beckett, his friend and mentor, Mr. Pinter became one of the few modern playwrights whose names instantly evoke a sensibility. The adjective Pinteresque has become part of the cultural vocabulary as a byword for strong and unspecified menace.
An actor, essayist, screenwriter, poet and director as well as a dramatist, Mr. Pinter was also publicly outspoken in his views on repression and censorship, at home and abroad. He used his Nobel acceptance speech to denounce American foreign policy, saying that the United States had not only lied to justify waging war against Iraq, but that it had also “supported and in many cases engendered every right-wing military dictatorship” in the last 50 years.
Read the full piece at the NYT online.
Let's not forget that Pinter was also one of Britian's greatest film script writers, The Servant, The Pumpkin Eater, The Go-Between among others.
I used to get my playwriting students to read fromThe Servant one of the most erotic seduction scenes ever filmed, that between James Fox and Sarah Miles. There is not one word that alludes to sex, and a repeated stage direction is "Silence. The tap is dripping", but the tension is almost unbearable.
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