Next year I suppose he'll get the Peace Prize: Pinter wins Nobel for literature
First off, I must confess that I like his early plays--or at least I did when I saw them, many moons ago. "The Birthday Party" was especially fine, as I recall, and I enjoyed the original Broadway production of "The Homecoming" as a teenager.
So, even though Pinter has turned into a raving leftist political hater of formidable intensity and moonbattery, his Nobel prize for literature doesn't seem beyond the pale, although I suspect he wouldn't have gotten it if his politics hadn't dovetailed so very nicely with the Nobel committee's mission of sticking it to Bush, Blair, and Company.
I'm not the only one who suspects that this is the case; Pinter, to his credit, admits as much:
In an interview with Reuters Television yesterday, Pinter wondered whether his increased visibility on the political front may have played a part in the choice: ''I've been writing plays for about 50 years. But I am also very politically engaged and I am not at all sure to what extent that factor had anything to do with this award."
I encountered his politics about a year ago through one of those ubiquitous forwards a relative had approvingly sent. The content was hateful and mindless; I have no interest in reproducing it here or linking to it, but Pinter has a website that's easy enough to locate, if you care to browse there.
Pinter says he's now given up writing plays (quit while you're ahead?):
''I think the world has had enough of my plays." He plans, instead, to concentrate on poetry.
Curious, I took a look at his poetry and found that it is mindbogglingly and stupendously bad; only a moment of reading it and I'd had more than enough of his poetry. Since his unique poetry cannot be adequately described and can only be experienced, I've changed my mind and this time I will provide a link, just to let you see what this Literature Nobel prizewinner and winner of the Wilfred Owen prize for poetry (a sad reflection of the current state of poetry in the world) is up to these days.
But back, mercifully, to his plays. If Pinter can be said to have had a mastery, it certainly was not of plot, but of language and dialogue of a peculiar and haunting kind, with its own strange and mysterious humor. Pinter elevated the pause to a fine art:
I think we all learned the power of the pause from Harold," said Tina Packer, artistic director of Shakespeare & Company in Lenox. ''They're almost more important than the words because they focus your attention that you're in a theatrical space."
In ''The Life and Work of Harold Pinter," drama critic Michael Billington relates a story in which he asked Pinter when he first became aware of the power of the pause. ''He told me, with a slight twinkle, that it was from seeing Jack Benny . . . at the London Palladium in 1952."
Ah, Jack Benny! I wish I'd known that when I was attending Pinter's plays all those years ago; I don't think they'll ever seem the same again.
The one bright spot on the Nobel horizon, for me, is contained in the following Nobelian homage to geographic literary diversity. Can you locate it?
Nine of the last dozen winners of the literature prize have been from Europe, and a writer from the Arab or Asian world was expected to win this year. Along with Pamuk and Oz, writers rumored to be under consideration were the Syrian poet Adonis, Algerian writer Assia Djebar, and South Korean poet Ko Un. Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare, Swedish poet Tomhas Transtromer, American novelists Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, and Don DeLillo, Czech novelist Milan Kundera, and Belgian writer Hugh Claus have also been mentioned as possible Nobelists.
Milan Kundera. Now, there would be a Nobelist worthy of the honor. Well, a neocon can dream, can't she?