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Pinter: Silence in Plays, Rage in Politics

The Associated Press
Thursday 13 October 2005

London - Deft silences are the trademark of Harold Pinter the playwright. But thunderous, sometimes obscene, rage is his style in politics. The newest Nobel laureate in literature has fulminated against what he sees as the overweening arrogance of American power, and belittled Prime Minister Tony Blair as seeming like a "deluded idiot" in support of US President George W. Bush's war in Iraq.

He once compared his view of America with his personal nightmare of fighting cancer.

"I found that to emerge from a personal nightmare was to enter an infinitely more pervasive public nightmare - the nightmare of American hysteria, ignorance, arrogance, stupidity and belligerence; the most powerful nation the world has ever known effectively waging war against the rest of the world," Pinter said in 2002 when he accepted an honorary doctorate at Turin University in Italy.

Pinter's indignation reached a peak in his poem "American Football," an obscenity-smeared diatribe which satirized the kick-some-butt style of American military power.

Surprisingly, Pinter voted for that supremely loyal US ally, Margaret Thatcher, in 1979.

"I don't think I've ever done anything more shameful," he lamented in 1999. "It was idiotic, infantile on my part."

The Nobel committee has a penchant for rewarding writers who stand against power, notably in rewarding the literature prize to Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn in 1970.

There was a similar gesture last year in honoring Elfriede Jelinek. She has castigated her native Austria, as the Nobel citation said, "depicting it as a realm of death in her phantasmagorical novel, 'Die Kinder der Toten."'

Guenter Grass, the 1999 winner, annoyed German authorities with his critiques of "barbaric" capitalism and by describing German immigration policy as racist.

The 1991 laureate, Nadine Gordimer, was a relentless critic of South African apartheid. Wole Soyinka, the 1986 laureate, was a caustic critic of Nigeria's military regime.

Naguib Mahfouz, honored in 1988, had his first novel, "The Children of Gebelawi," banned as blasphemous in his native Egypt.

Grass once said that he had learned that "what is undertaken out of love for one's country can be taken as soiling one's nest."

Pinter was rhapsodized about his love for England; its countryside, its cricket.

"And I find there is a - how can I say? - a fundamental decency in the country itself. And this is what concerns me, and I'm not alone in this by a long way, I think that it's being eroded," he said

And, yes, he regretted voting for Blair in 1997.

"I can't believe what I voted for," he said three years ago. And a lot of people are in my boat, I think. That's where I feel ashamed. I mean, as a British citizen, of what has happened."

As war in Iraq loomed, Pinter said he believed that "Mr. Bush and his gang do know what they're doing, and Blair, unless he really is the deluded idiot he often appears to be, also knows what they're doing."

"They are determined, quite simply, to control the world and the world's resources. And they don't give a damn how many people they murder on the way. And Blair goes along with it," he said.

"The idea that he has influence over Bush is laughable. His supine acceptance of American bullying is pathetic."

Nonetheless, Blair's office saluted Pinter's triumph. "Of course we congratulate Harold Pinter on the recognition that he has received," the prime minister's official spokesman said.



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