December 7, 2005
Pinter attacks US policies in Nobel lecture
By Stephen Brown
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Ailing British playwright Harold
Pinter used his Nobel prize lecture on Wednesday to deliver a
fierce attack on U.S. foreign policy and urge the unflinching
pursuit of truth to restore "the dignity of man."
10 million crown ($1.28 million) literature prize, 75-year-old
Pinter, who has been battling cancer for years, sent a video
recording showing him in a wheelchair with his legs under a red
His frailty and hoarse voice added to the drama of a speech
peppered with the potent silences of his plays like "The
Birthday Party" and "The Caretaker," which gave rise to the
term "Pinteresque." Behind him in the studio was a photo of the
London-born playwright in more robust times.
Already a fierce critic of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, Pinter
said post-World War Two history was full of examples of
Washington exercising "a clinical manipulation of power
worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good."
Citing examples from U.S.-backed Contra rebels in Nicaragua
to the occupation of Iraq and detention of terrorism suspects
at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Pinter said the United States and
its ally Britain -- "its own bleating little lamb" -- had
traded in death and "employed language to keep thought at bay."
"Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout
these countries. But you wouldn't know it. It never happened.
Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't
matter. There was no interest," he said in the trademark style
of his dramas.
Pinter, who will send his publisher to pick up the prize at
a ceremony on Saturday, gave insight into the genesis of his
plays, saying the first seed was a single line like the opening
of "The Homecoming": "What have you done with the scissors?"
Images then emerged of characters first called A, B and C
who would become people with names, made of "flesh and blood."
But even discussing drama, humour and satire he made digs
at the United States, saying of one play that "torturers become
easily bored, they need a bit of a laugh to keep their spirits
up" and citing the abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody in Iraq.
Relentless in his criticism of the United States, President
George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Pinter
expanded the criticism to "the majority of politicians" who
weave "a vast tapestry of lies" to keep themselves in power.
He concluded by calling for an "unflinching, unswerving and
fierce intellectual determination as citizens to define the
real truth of our lives and our societies."
"If such a determination is not embodied in our political
vision, we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to
us: the dignity of man."