At the British Library in 2004
|Born||10 October 1930
Hackney, East London, England
|Died||24 December 2008 (aged 78)
West London, England
|Occupation||Playwright, screenwriter, actor, director, poet|
|Notable award(s)||David Cohen Prize (1995)
Laurence Olivier Award (1996)
Companion of Honour (2002)
Nobel Prize in Literature (2005)
Légion d'honneur (2007)
|Spouse(s)||Vivien Merchant (1956–1980)
Antonia Fraser (1980–2008)
|Children||one son with Merchant
six stepchildren with Fraser
Harold Pinter, CH, CBE (10 October 1930 – 24 December 2008), was an English playwright, screenwriter, actor, director, political activist and poet. He was among the most influential British playwrights of modern times. In 2005 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. After publishing poetry and acting in school plays as a teenager in London, Pinter began his professional theatrical career in 1951, touring Ireland and then performing in repertory throughout England for several years. Beginning with his first play, The Room (1957), Pinter's writing career spanned over 50 years and produced 29 original stage plays, 27 screenplays, many dramatic sketches, radio and TV plays, poetry, one novel, short fiction, essays, speeches, and letters. His best-known plays include The Birthday Party (1957), The Caretaker (1959), The Homecoming (1964), and Betrayal (1978), each of which he adapted to film. His screenplay adaptations of others' works include The Servant (1963), The Go-Between (1970), The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981), The Trial (1993), and Sleuth (2007). He directed almost 50 stage, television, and film productions and acted extensively in radio, stage, television, and film productions of his own and others' works.
Pinter's dramas often involve strong conflicts between ambivalent characters who struggle for verbal and territorial dominance and for their own versions of the past. Stylistically, these works are marked by theatrical pauses and silences, comedic timing, irony, and menace. Thematically ambiguous, they raise complex issues of individual identity oppressed by social forces, language, and vicissitudes of memory. In 1981, Pinter stated that he was not inclined to write plays explicitly about political subjects; yet in the mid-1980s he began writing overtly political plays. This "new direction" in his work and his left-wing political activism stimulated additional critical debate. Pinter, his work, and his politics have been the subject of voluminous critical commentary.
Pinter received numerous awards, including the Tony Award for Best Play in 1967 for The Homecoming, the BAFTA awards, the French Légion d'honneur and 20 honorary degrees. Festivals and symposia have been devoted to him and his work. In awarding the Nobel Prize, the Swedish Academy noted, "That he occupies a position as a modern classic is illustrated by his name entering the language as an adjective used to describe a particular atmosphere and environment in drama: 'Pinteresque'".
Despite frail health after being diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in December 2001, Pinter continued to act on stage and screen, last performing the title role of Samuel Beckett's one-act monologue Krapp's Last Tape, for the 50th anniversary season of the Royal Court Theatre, in October 2006. He died from liver cancer on 24 December 2008. He was buried the following week at Kensal Green Cemetery in North West London.
Pinter was born on 10 October 1930, in Hackney, East London, England, to Jewish, lower-middle class, native-English parents of Eastern-European ancestry. His father, Jack Pinter (1902–1997), was a ladies' tailor, and his mother, Frances (née Moskowitz; 1904–1992), was a homemaker and cook. Pinter believed an aunt's erroneous view that the family was Sephardic and had fled the Spanish Inquisition; thus, for his early poems, Pinter used the pseudonym Pinta and at other times used variations such as da Pinto. Later research revealed the legend to be apocryphal. Three of Pinter's grandparents came from Poland and the fourth from Odessa, so the family was Ashkenazic.
He was evacuated from the family home in London--"a solid, red-brick, three-storey villa just off the noisy, bustling, traffic-ridden thoroughfare of the Lower Clapton Road" to Cornwall and Reading in 1940 and 1941. The "life-and-death intensity of daily experience" before and during the Blitz left Pinter with profound memories "of loneliness, bewilderment, separation and loss: themes that are in all his works".
Although he was an only child, Pinter discovered his social potential as a student at Hackney Downs School, a London grammar school, between 1944 and 1948. "Partly through the school and partly through the social life of Hackney Boys' Club ... he formed an almost sacerdotal belief in the power of male friendship. The friends he made in those days—most particularly Henry Woolf, Michael (Mick) Goldstein and Morris (Moishe) Wernick—have always been a vital part of the emotional texture of his life". A major influence on Pinter was his inspirational English teacher Joseph Brearley, who directed him in school plays and with whom he took long walks, talking about literature. According to Pinter's biographer Michael Billington, under Brearley's instruction, "Pinter shone at English, wrote for the school magazine and discovered a gift for acting." He played Romeo and Macbeth, in 1947 and 1948, in productions directed by Brearley.
At the age of 12, Pinter began writing poetry, and in Spring 1947, his poetry was first published in the Hackney Downs School Magazine. In 1950, his poetry was first published outside the school magazine in Poetry London, some of it under the pseudonym "Harold Pinta".
Pinter enjoyed running and broke the Hackney Downs School sprinting record. He was an avid cricket enthusiast, taking his bat with him when evacuated during the Blitz. In 1971 he told Mel Gussow: "one of my main obsessions in life is the game of cricket—I play and watch and read about it all the time". Being Chairman of the Gaieties Cricket Club and a lifetime support[er] of Yorkshire Cricket Club, Pinter devoted an entire section of his official website to the sport ("Gaieties Cricket Club"). One wall of his study was dominated by a portrait of himself as a young man playing cricket. "The painted Mr. Pinter, poised to swing his bat, has a wicked glint in his eye; testosterone all but flies off the canvas". Pinter approved of the "urban and exacting idea of cricket as a bold theatre of aggression". After his death, several of his school contemporaries recalled his achievements in sports, especially cricket and running. The BBC Radio 4 memorial tribute included an essay on Pinter and cricket.
Other interests that Pinter mentioned to interviewers are family, love and sex, drinking, writing, and reading. According to Billington, "If the notion of male loyalty, competitive rivalry and fear of betrayal forms a constant thread in Pinter's work from The Dwarfs onwards, its origins can be found in his teenage Hackney years. Pinter adores women, enjoys flirting with them, worships their resilience and strength. But, in his early work especially, they are often seen as disruptive influences on some pure, Platonic ideal of male friendship: one of the most crucial of all Pinter's lost Edens".
Beginning in late 1948, Pinter attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art for two terms, but hating the school, missed most of his classes, feigned a nervous breakdown, and dropped out in 1949. In 1948 he was also "called up for National Service", registered as a conscientious objector, was brought to trial twice, and was ultimately fined by the magistrate for refusing to serve. He had a small part in the Christmas pantomime Dick Whittington and His Cat at the Chesterfield Hippodrome in 1949 to 1950. From January to July 1951, he attended the Central School of Speech and Drama.
From 1951 to 1952, he toured Ireland with the Anew McMaster repertory company, playing over a dozen roles. In 1952 he began acting in regional English repertory productions; from 1953 to 1954, he worked for the Donald Wolfit Company, King's Theatre, Hammersmith, performing eight roles. From 1954 until 1959, Pinter acted under the stage name David Baron. In all, Pinter played nearly twenty-five roles under that name. To supplement his income from acting, Pinter worked as a waiter, a postman, a bouncer and snow-clearer, meanwhile "harbouring ambitions as a poet and writer". In October 1989, Pinter recalled: "I was in English rep as an actor for about 12 years. My favourite roles were undoubtedly the sinister ones. They're something to get your teeth into". During that period, he also performed occasional roles in his own and others' works (for radio, TV, and film), as he did later as well.
From 1956 until 1980, Pinter was married to Vivien Merchant, an actress whom he met on tour, probably best known for her performance in the 1966 film Alfie. Their son, Daniel, was born in 1958. Through the early 1970s, Merchant appeared in many of Pinter's works, most notably The Homecoming on stage (1965) and screen (1973), but the marriage was turbulent. For seven years, from 1962 to 1969, Pinter was engaged in a clandestine affair with BBC-TV presenter and journalist Joan Bakewell, which inspired his 1978 play Betrayal. Initially the play was thought to be a response to his 1975 affair with historian Antonia Fraser, the wife of Hugh Fraser, and Pinter's "marital crack-up". Billington showed, however, that the play was inspired by Pinter's earlier affair with Bakewell.
Though the Pinters had both met Antonia Fraser in 1969, when they worked together on a National Gallery programme about Mary, Queen of Scots, it was not until January 1975 that Pinter became romantically involved with her. The affair lasted six weeks. After Merchant returned from acting in Death of a Salesman at the Hong Kong Arts Festival, where she had become ill and had to return home, Pinter felt he could not tell her about "his state of emotional turmoil, though he did confide in Peggy Ashcroft, as well as to Peter Hall and [artist] Guy Vaesen". Pinter confessed the affair to his wife in late March 1975. After that, "Life in Hanover Terrace gradually became impossible", and Pinter moved out of their house on 28 April 1975, five days after Hall's première of No Man's Land. First, Pinter stayed in an apartment owned by Sam Spiegel, and next he moved in with Donald Pleasence and his family, where he was joined by his son Daniel, as Pinter found that "Vivien couldn't cope with bringing up Daniel alone". Merchant made the break-up public, granting interviews to the papers, and on 27 July 1975, she filed for divorce, resulting in further interest in the press. "For all concerned, it was a traumatic summer: one of separation, confrontation, pursuit and flight. What kept the story alive were Vivien's indiscretions.... Everyone else, to their credit, maintained a stoical silence".
After spending two years living in borrowed and rented quarters, in August 1977, Pinter and Antonia Fraser moved into the Frasers' family home in Holland Park, where he wrote Betrayal. After the Frasers' divorce had become final in 1977 and the Pinters' in 1980, Pinter married Fraser in late October 1980. Because of a two-week delay in Merchant's signing the divorce papers, however, the reception had to precede the actual ceremony, originally scheduled to occur on his 50th birthday. Vivien Merchant died of acute alcoholism in the first week of October 1982 at the age of 53. Pinter "did everything possible to support" her until her death and regretted that he ultimately became estranged from their son, Daniel, after their separation, Pinter's remarriage, and Merchant's death.
A reclusive gifted musician and writer, Daniel stopped using the surname Pinter in the summer of 1975, when he was living with Pinter and Antonia Fraser, adopting instead Brand, his maternal grandmother's maiden name. Pinter later claimed this was "largely pragmatic move on Daniel's part designed to keep the press... at bay". Fraser recalled that Daniel "was very nice to me at a time when it would have been only too easy for him to have turned on me ... simply because he had been the sole focus of his father's love and now manifestly wasn't." Still unreconciled at the time of his father's death, Daniel Brand did not attend Pinter's funeral.
Billington observes that "The break-up with Vivien and the new life with Antonia was to have a profound effect on Pinter's personality and his work", while Fraser denies that she had any direct input into his plays. She stated that "other people [such as Peggy Ashcroft, among others] had a shaping influence on his politics" and attributed changes in his writing and political views to a change from "an unhappy, complicated personal life ... to a happy, uncomplicated personal life," so that "a side of Harold which had always been there was somehow released. I think you can see that in his work after No Man's Land , which was a very bleak play".
Pinter was content in his second marriage and enjoyed family life with his six adult stepchildren and 17 step-grandchildren. Even after battling cancer for several years, he considered himself "a very lucky man in every respect." The New York Times noted in a 2007 interview that Pinter's "latest work, a slim pamphlet called 'Six Poems for A.,' comprises poems written over 32 years, with 'A' being Lady Antonia. The first of the poems was written in Paris, where she and Pinter traveled soon after they met. More than three decades later the two were rarely apart, and Mr. Pinter turned soft, even cozy, when he talked about his wife". In the interview, Pinter "acknowledged that his plays—full of infidelity, cruelty, inhumanity, the lot—seem at odds with his domestic contentment. 'How can you write a happy play?' he said. 'Drama is about conflict and degrees of perturbation, disarray. I've never been able to write a happy play, but I've been able to enjoy a happy life' ." After his death, Fraser told The Guardian: "He was a great, and it was a privilege to live with him for over 33 years. He will never be forgotten".
In 1948–49, when he was 18, Pinter opposed the politics of the Cold War, leading to his decision to become a conscientious objector and to refuse to comply with National Service in the British military. But he was not a pacifist. He told interviewers that, if he had been old enough at the time, he would have fought against the Nazis in World War II. He seemed to express ambivalence about politicians in his 1966 Paris Review interview conducted by Lawrence M. Bensky. Yet, he had actually been an early member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the United Kingdom and also had supported the British Anti-Apartheid Movement (1959–1994), participating in British artists' refusal to permit professional productions of their work in South Africa in 1963 and in subsequent related campaigns. In "A Play and Its Politics", a 1985 interview, Pinter described his earlier plays retrospectively from the perspective of the politics of power and the dynamics of oppression.
In his last twenty-five years, Pinter increasingly focused his essays, interviews and public appearances directly on political issues. He was an officer in International PEN, travelling with American playwright Arthur Miller to Turkey in 1985 on a mission co-sponsored with a Helsinki Watch committee to investigate and protest against the torture of imprisoned writers. There he met victims of political oppression and their families. Pinter's experiences in Turkey and his knowledge of the Turkish suppression of the Kurdish language inspired his 1988 play Mountain Language. He was also an active member of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, an organisation that "campaigns in the UK against the U.S. blockade of Cuba". In 2001 Pinter joined the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milošević (ICDSM), which appealed for a fair trial for and the freedom of Slobodan Milošević, signing a related "Artists' Appeal for Milošević" in 2004.
He strongly opposed the 1991 Gulf War, the 1999 NATO bombing campaign in Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War, the United States' 2001 War in Afghanistan, and the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Among his provocative political statements, Pinter called Prime Minister Tony Blair a "deluded idiot" and compared the administration of President George W. Bush to Nazi Germany. He stated that the U.S. "was charging towards world domination while the American public and Britain's 'mass-murdering' prime minister sat back and watched." He was very active in the antiwar movement in the United Kingdom, speaking at rallies held by the Stop the War Coalition and frequently criticising American aggression: "the invasion of Iraq [was a] bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the conception of international law."
The award of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Pinter and his sharp political statements have elicited strong criticism and even, at times, provoked ridicule and personal attacks. For example, the historian Geoffrey Alderman, author of the official history of Hackney Downs School, wrote that "Whatever his merit as a writer, actor and director, on an ethical plane Harold Pinter seems to me to have been intensely flawed, and his moral compass deeply fractured." David Edgar, writing in The Guardian, defended Pinter against what he termed Pinter's "being berated by the belligerati" like Johann Hari, who felt that he did not "deserve" to win the Nobel Prize. Later he continued to campaign against the Iraq War and on behalf of other political causes that he supported. For example, he signed the mission statement of Jews for Justice for Palestinians in 2005 and its full-page advertisement, "What Is Israel Doing? A Call by Jews in Britain", published in The Times on 6 July 2006. and was a patron of the Palestine Festival of Literature.
Pinter's acting career spanned over fifty years and, although he often played villains, included a wide range of roles on stage and in radio, film, and television. In addition to roles in radio and television adaptations of his own plays and dramatic sketches, early in his screenwriting career he made several cameo appearances in films based on his own screenplays; for example, as a society man in The Servant (1963) and as Mr. Bell in Accident (1967), both directed by Joseph Losey; and as a bookshop customer in his later film Turtle Diary (1985), starring Michael Gambon, Glenda Jackson, and Ben Kingsley.
Pinter's notable film and television roles included the corrupt lawyer Saul Abrahams, opposite Peter O'Toole, in BBC TV's Rogue Male (1976), a remake of the 1941 film noir Man Hunt, released on DVD in 2002; and a drunk Irish journalist in Langrishe, Go Down (starring Judi Dench and Jeremy Irons) distributed on BBC Two in 1978 and released in movie theatres in 2002. Pinter's later film roles included the criminal Sam Ross in Mojo (1997), written and directed by Jez Butterworth, based on Butterworth's play of the same name; Sir Thomas Bertram (his most substantial feature-film role) in Mansfield Park (1998), a character that Pinter described as "a very civilised man ... a man of great sensibility but in fact, he's upholding and sustaining a totally brutal system [the slave trade] from which he derives his money"; and Uncle Benny, opposite Pierce Brosnan and Geoffrey Rush, in The Tailor of Panama (2001). In television films, he played Mr. Bearing, the father of ovarian cancer patient Vivian Bearing, played by Emma Thompson (and directed by Mike Nichols), in the HBO film of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Wit (2001); and the Director opposite John Gielgud (Gielgud's last role) and Rebecca Pidgeon in Catastrophe, by Samuel Beckett, directed by David Mamet as part of Beckett On Film (2001).
Pinter began to direct more frequently during the 1970s, becoming an associate director of the National Theatre (NT) in 1973. He directed almost 50 productions of his own and others' plays for stage, film, and television, including 10 productions of works by Simon Gray: the stage and/or film premières of Butley (stage, 1971; film, 1974), Otherwise Engaged (1975), The Rear Column (stage, 1978; TV, 1980), Close of Play (NT, 1979), Quartermaine's Terms (1981), Life Support (1997), The Late Middle Classes (1999), and The Old Masters (2004). Several of those productions starred Alan Bates (1934–2003), who originated the stage and screen roles of not only Butley but also Mick in Pinter's first major commercial success, The Caretaker (stage, 1960; film, 1964); and in Pinter's double-bill produced at the Lyric Hammersmith in 1984, he played Nicolas in One for the Road and the cab driver in Victoria Station. Among over 35 plays that Pinter directed were Next of Kin (1974), by John Hopkins; Blithe Spirit (1976), by Noël Coward; Circe and Bravo (1986), by Donald Freed; Taking Sides (1995), by Ronald Harwood; and Twelve Angry Men (1996), by Reginald Rose.
Pinter is the author of 29 plays and 15 dramatic sketches and the co-author of two works for stage and radio. Along with the 1967 Tony Award for Best Play for The Homecoming and several other American awards and award nominations, he and his plays received many awards in the UK and elsewhere throughout the world. His style has entered the English language as an adjective, "Pinteresque", although Pinter himself disliked the term and found it meaningless.
Pinter's first play, The Room, written and first performed in 1957, was a student production at the University of Bristol, directed by his good friend, actor Henry Woolf, who also originated the role of Mr. Kidd (which he reprised in 2001 and 2007). After Pinter mentioned that he had an idea for a play, Woolf asked him to write it so that he could direct it to fulfill a requirement for his postgraduate work. Pinter wrote it in three days. The production was "a staggeringly confident debut which attracted the attention of a young producer, Michael Codron, who decided to present Pinter's next play, The Birthday Party, at the Lyric Hammersmith, in 1958".
Written in 1957 and produced in 1958, Pinter's second play, The Birthday Party, one of his best-known works, was initially both a commercial and critical disaster, despite a rave review in the The Sunday Times by its influential drama critic Harold Hobson, which appeared only after the production had closed and could not be reprieved. Critical accounts often quote Hobson's prophetic words:
I am well aware that Mr Pinter[']s play received extremely bad notices last Tuesday morning. At the moment I write these it is uncertain even whether the play will still be in the bill by the time they appear, though it is probable it will soon be seen elsewhere. Deliberately, I am willing to risk whatever reputation I have as a judge of plays by saying that The Birthday Party is ... First [Class]; and that Pinter, on the evidence of his work, possesses the most original, disturbing and arresting talent in theatrical London.... Mr Pinter and The Birthday Party, despite their experiences last week, will be heard of again. Make a note of their names.
Hobson was generally credited by Pinter himself and other critics as bolstering him and perhaps even rescuing his career;
In a review published in 1958, borrowing from the subtitle of The Lunatic View: A Comedy of Menace, a play by David Campton, critic Irving Wardle called Pinter's early plays "comedy of menace"—a label that people have applied repeatedly to his work. Such plays begin with an apparently innocent situation that becomes both threatening and "absurd" as Pinter's characters behave in ways often perceived as inexplicable by his audiences and one another. Pinter acknowledges the influence of Samuel Beckett, particularly on his early work; they became friends, sending each other drafts of their works in progress for comments.
Pinter wrote The Hothouse in 1958, which he shelved for over 20 years (See "Overtly political sketches" below). He next wrote The Dumb Waiter (1959), which premiered in Germany and was then produced in a double bill with The Room at the Hampstead Theatre Club, in London, in 1960. It was not produced very often thereafter until the 1980s, and it has been revived more frequently since 2000, including the West End Trafalgar Studios production in 2007. The first production of The Caretaker, at the Arts Theatre Club, in London, in 1960, established Pinter's theatrical reputation. Large radio and television audiences for his one-act play A Night Out, along with the popularity of his revue sketches, propelled him to further critical attention. In 1964, four years after the success of The Caretaker, through its long run at the Duchess Theatre, which garnered an Evening Standard Award, The Birthday Party was revived both on television (with Pinter himself in the role of Goldberg) and on stage (directed by Pinter at the Aldwych Theatre) and was well-received.
By the time Peter Hall's London production of The Homecoming (1964) reached Broadway in 1967, Pinter had become a celebrity playwright, and the play garnered four Tony Awards, among other awards During this period, Pinter also wrote the radio play A Slight Ache, first broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in 1959 and then adapted to the stage and performed at the Arts Theatre Club in 1961. A Night Out (1960) was broadcast to a large audience on Associated British Corporation's television show Armchair Theatre, after being transmitted on BBC Radio 3, also in 1960. His play Night School was first televised in 1961 on Associated Rediffusion. The Collection premièred at the Aldwych Theatre in 1962, and The Dwarfs, adapted from Pinter's then unpublished novel of the same title, was first broadcast on radio in 1960, then adapted for the stage (also at the Arts Theatre Club) in a double bill with The Lover, which was then televised on Associated Rediffusion in 1963; and Tea Party, a play that Pinter developed from his 1963 short story, first broadcast on BBC TV in 1965.
Working as both a screenwriter and as a playwright, Pinter composed a script called The Compartment (1966), for a trilogy of films to be contributed by Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, and Pinter, of which only Beckett's film, entitled Film, was actually produced. Then Pinter turned his unfilmed script into a television play, which was produced as The Basement, both on BBC 2 and also on stage in 1968.
From the late 1960s through the early 1980s, Pinter wrote a series of plays and sketches that explore complex ambiguities, elegiac mysteries, comic vagaries, and other "quicksand"-like characteristics of memory and which critics sometimes classify as Pinter's "memory plays". These include Landscape (1968), Silence (1969), Night (1969), Old Times (1971), No Man's Land (1975), The Proust Screenplay (1977), Betrayal (1978), Family Voices (1981), Victoria Station (1982), and A Kind of Alaska (1982). Some of Pinter's later plays, including Party Time (1991), Moonlight (1993), Ashes to Ashes (1996), and Celebration (2000) draw upon some features of his "memory" dramaturgy in their focus on the past in the present, but they have personal and political resonances and other tonal differences from these earlier memory plays.
After a three-year period of creative drought in the early 1980s after his marriage to Antonia Fraser and the death of Vivien Merchant, Pinter's plays tended to become shorter and more overtly political, serving as critiques of oppression, torture, and other abuses of human rights, linked by the apparent "invulnerability of power". Just before this hiatus, in 1979, Pinter re-discovered his manuscript of The Hothouse, which he had written in 1958 but had set aside. He revised it and then directed its first production himself at Hampstead Theatre, in London, in 1980. Like his plays of the 1980s, The Hothouse is about authoritarianism and the abuses of power politics, but it is also highly comic, like his earlier comedies of menace. Pinter played the major role of Roote in a revival at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester, in 1995.
Pinter's brief dramatic sketch Precisely (1983) is a duologue between two bureaucrats exploring the absurd power politics of mutual nuclear annihilation and deterrence. His first overtly political one-act play is One for the Road (1984). In 1985, Pinter stated that whereas his earlier plays presented "metaphors" for power and powerlessness, the later ones present literal "realities" of power and its abuse. Pinter's "political theater dramatizes the interplay and conflict of the opposing poles of involvement and disengagement". Mountain Language (1988) concerned the Turkish suppression of the Kurdish language. The dramatic sketch The New World Order (1991) provides "ten nerve wracking minutes" of two men threatening to torture a third man who is blindfolded, gagged, and bound in a chair; Pinter directed the British première at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, where it opened on 9 July 1991, and the production then transferred to Washington, D.C. and was revived there in 1994. Pinter next wrote the longer political satire Party Time (1991), which premièred at the Almeida Theatre, in London, in a double-bill with Mountain Language. After Pinter adapted it as a television screenplay in 1992, he directed it for broadcast.
Intertwining political and personal concerns, his next full-length plays, Moonlight (1993) and Ashes to Ashes (1996) are set in domestic households and focus on dying and death; Devlin and Rebecca in Ashes to Ashes allude to unspecified "atrocities", in their conversations, that relate to the Holocaust. After experiencing the deaths of first his mother (1992) and then his father (1997), again merging the personal and the political, Pinter wrote the poems "Death" (1997) and "The Disappeared" (1998).
Pinter's last stage play, Celebration (2000), is a social satire, set in an opulent restaurant, which lampoons The Ivy, a gathering place for the theatre crowd near Covent Garden in London's West End theatre district, and its patrons who "have just come from performances of either the ballet or the opera. Not that they can remember a darn thing about what they saw, including the titles. [These] gilded, foul-mouthed souls are just as myopic when it comes to their own table mates (and for that matter, their food), with conversations that usually connect only on the surface, if there." The play may appear superficially to have fewer overtly political resonances than some of the plays from the 1980s and 1990s. Its central male characters, however, brothers named Lambert and Matt, are members of the elite (like the men "in charge" in Party Time), who describe themselves as "peaceful strategy consultants [because] we don't carry guns". At the next table, Russell, a banker, describes himself as a "totally disordered personality ... a psychopath", while Lambert "vows to be reincarnated as '[a] more civilised, [a] gentler person, [a] nicer person'". Extreme viciousness underlies these characters' smoother exteriors. Celebration evokes familiar Pinteresque political contexts: "The ritzy loudmouths in 'Celebration' ... and the quieter working-class mumblers of 'The Room' ... have everything in common beneath the surface". "Money remains in the service of entrenched power, and the brothers in the play are 'strategy consultants' whose jobs involve force and violence.... It is tempting but inaccurate to equate the comic power inversions of the social behavior in Celebration with lasting change in larger political structures", according to Grimes, who finds the play indicative of Pinter's pessimism about the possibility of changing the status quo.
As the Waiter's often comically unbelievable reminiscences about his grandfather demonstrate in Celebration, Pinter's final stage plays also extend some expressionistic aspects of his earlier "memory plays", while harkening back to his "comedies of menace", as illustrated in the characters and in the Waiter's final speech: "My grandfather introduced me to the mystery of life and I'm still in the middle of it. I can't find the door to get out. My grandfather got out of it. He got right out of it. He left it behind him and he didn't look back. He got that absolutely right. And I'd like to make one further interjection.
He stands still. Slow fade."
Around the same time, Remembrance of Things Past, Pinter's adaptation of his unpublished screenplay, and the revival of The Caretaker directed by Patrick Marber and starring Michael Gambon, Rupert Graves, and Douglas Hodge, played simultaneously in London's West End (both 2000–2001).
Like Celebration, Pinter's next-to-last sketch, Press Conference (2002), "invokes both torture and the fragile, circumscribed existence of dissent". For its première in the National Theatre's two-part production of Sketches, despite undergoing chemotherapy at the time, Pinter played the ruthless Minister willing to murder little children for the benefit of "The State".
Pinter was the author of 27 screenplays and film scripts for cinema and television, many of which were filmed, or adapted as stage plays. His fame as a screenwriter began with his three screenplays written for films directed by Joseph Losey, leading to their close friendship: The Servant (1963), based on the novel by Robin Maugham and starring Dirk Bogarde and James Fox; Accident (1967), adapted from the novel by Nicholas Mosley and starring Bogarde, Pinter's first wife Vivien Merchant, Jacqueline Sassard, Delphine Seyrig, and Michael York; and The Go-Between (1970), based on the novel by L. P. Hartley and starring Alan Bates and Julie Christie. Films based on Pinter's adaptations of his own stage plays are The Caretaker (1963), directed by Clive Donner; The Birthday Party (1968), staged by William Friedkin; The Homecoming (1973), directed by Peter Hall; and Betrayal (1983), with David Hugh Jones directing.
Pinter also wrote many screenplays based on novels, including The Pumpkin Eater (1964), adapted from the novel by Penelope Mortimer, directed by Jack Clayton and starring Anne Bancroft, Peter Finch, James Mason, and Maggie Smith, among others; The Quiller Memorandum (1966), from the 1965 spy novel The Berlin Memorandum, by Elleston Trevor, directed by Michael Anderson, starring George Segal and featuring Senta Berger, Alec Guinness, and Max von Sydow; The Last Tycoon (1976), from the unfinished novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, staged by Elia Kazan, and starring Tony Curtis, Robert De Niro, Robert Mitchum, Jeanne Moreau, Jack Nicholson, Donald Pleasence, and Theresa Russell; The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981), from the novel by John Fowles, directed by Karel Reisz, and starring Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep; Turtle Diary (1985), from the novel by Russell Hoban, starring Michael Gambon, Glenda Jackson, and Ben Kingsley; The Heat of the Day (1988), a television film, from the 1949 novel by Elizabeth Bowen; The Comfort of Strangers (1990), from the novel by Ian McEwan, directed by Paul Schrader and starring Rupert Everett, Helen Mirren, Natasha Richardson, and Christopher Walken; and The Trial (1993), from the novel by Franz Kafka, directed by David Hugh Jones and starring Kyle MacLachlan, with cameo appearances by Anthony Hopkins, Alfred Molina and others.
His commissioned screenplay adaptations from others' works for the films The Handmaid's Tale (1990), The Remains of the Day (1990), and Lolita remain unpublished and, in the case of the latter two films, uncredited, though several scenes from or aspects of his scripts were also used in these finished films. His screenplays The Proust Screenplay (1972), Victory (1982), and The Dreaming Child (1997) and his unpublished screenplay The Tragedy of King Lear (2000) have not been filmed. A section of Pinter's Proust Screenplay was, however, released as the 1984 film Swann in Love (Un amour de Swann), directed by Volker Schlöndorff and starring Jeremy Irons and Ornella Muti, and it was also adapted by Michael Bakewell as a 2-hour radio drama broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in 1995. Later Pinter and director Di Trevis collaborated to adapted it for the stage, as Remembrance of Things Past, opening at the National Theatre in 2000.
Pinter's screenwriting career culminated in his last filmed screenplay adaptation of the 1970 Tony Award-winning play Sleuth, by Anthony Shaffer, which was commissioned by Jude Law, one of the film's producers. It is the basis for the 2007 film Sleuth, directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Law as Milo Tindle (played by Caine in the 1972 film of Sleuth) and Michael Caine as Andrew Wyke (played by Laurence Olivier in the earlier film). Pinter's screenplays for both The French Lieutenant's Woman and Betrayal were nominated for Academy Awards in 1981 and 1983, respectively.
From 16 to 31 July 2001, a Harold Pinter Festival celebrating his work, curated by Michael Colgan, artistic director of the Gate Theatre, Dublin, was held as part of the annual Lincoln Center Festival at Lincoln Center in New York City. Pinter participated both as an actor, as Nicolas in One for the Road, and as a director of a double bill pairing his last play, Celebration, with his first play, The Room. As part of a two-week "Harold Pinter Homage" at the World Leaders Festival of Creative Genius, held from 24 September to 30 October 2001, at Harbourfront Centre, in Toronto, Canada, Pinter presented a dramatic reading of Celebration (2000) and also participated in a public interview as part of the International Festival of Authors.
In December 2001, Pinter was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer, for which, in 2002, he underwent an operation and chemotherapy. During the course of his treatment, he directed a production of his play No Man's Land, wrote and performed in a new sketch, "Press Conference", for an otherwise retrospective production of his dramatic sketches at the National Theatre. From 2002, having become increasingly active in political causes, From 9 to 25 January 2003, the Manitoba Theatre Centre, in Manitoba, Canada, held a nearly month-long PinterFest, in which over a 130 performances of a dozen of Pinter's plays were performed by a dozen different theatre companies. Productions during the Festival included: The Hothouse, Night School, The Lover, The Dumb Waiter, The Homecoming, The Birthday Party, Monologue, One for the Road, The Caretaker, Ashes to Ashes, Celebration, and No Man's Land,.
Pinter continued to write and present politically-charged poetry, essays, speeches and two new screenplay adaptations of others' plays, The Tragedy of King Lear (completed in 2000 but unfilmed); and "Sleuth", based on Anthony Shaffer's 1970 play Sleuth (written in 2005 and revised for the 2007 film Sleuth).
In 2005, Pinter stated that he would stop writing plays to dedicate himself to his political activism and writing poetry: "I think I've written 29 plays. I think it's enough for me.... My energies are going in different directions—over the last few years I've made a number of political speeches at various locations and ceremonies ... I'm using a lot of energy more specifically about political states of affairs, which I think are very, very worrying as things stand." Some of this later poetry included "The 'Special Relationship'", "Laughter", and "The Watcher".
From 2005, Pinter battled post-oesophageal cancer and other ill health, including a rare skin disease called pemphigus and "a form of septicaemia that afflict[ed] his feet and made it difficult for him to walk." Yet, he completed his screenplay for the film of Sleuth in 2005. His last dramatic work for radio, Voices (2005), a collaboration with composer James Clarke, adapting such selected works by Pinter to music, premièred on BBC Radio 3 on his 75th birthday. 10 October 2005. Three days later, it was announced that he had won the 2005 Nobel Prize in Literature.
In an interview of Pinter in 2006, conducted by critic Michael Billington as part of the Cultural Programme of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, Pinter confirmed that he would continue to write poetry but not plays. In response, the audience shouted No, urging him to keep writing. Along with the international symposium on Pinter: Passion, Poetry, Politics, curated by Billington, the 2006 Europe Theatre Prize theatrical events celebrating Pinter included new productions (in French) of Precisely (1983), One for the Road (1984), Mountain Language (1988), The New World Order (1991), Party Time (1991), and Press Conference (2002) (French versions by Jean Pavans); and Pinter Plays, Poetry & Prose, an evening of dramatic readings by actors Charles Dance, Michael Gambon, Jeremy Irons, and Penelope Wilton, directed by Alan Stanford, of the Gate Theatre, Dublin. In June 2006, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) hosted a celebration of Pinter's films curated by his friend, playwright David Hare. Hare introduced the selection of film clips by saying: "To jump back into the world of Pinter's movies ... is to remind yourself of a literate mainstream cinema, focused as much as Bergman's is on the human face, in which tension is maintained by a carefully crafted mix of image and dialogue."
After returning to London from the Edinburgh International Book Festival, in September 2006, Pinter began rehearsing for his performance of the role of Krapp in Samuel Beckett's one-act monologue Krapp's Last Tape, which he performed from a motorized wheelchair in a limited run the next month at the Royal Court Theatre to sold-out audiences and "ecstatic" critical reviews. The production ran only nine performances, from 12 October, two days after Pinter's 76th birthday, to 24 October 2006, and was the most sought-after ticket in London during the 50th-anniversary celebration season of the Royal Court Theatre. One performance was filmed, produced on DVD, and shown on BBC Four on 21 June 2007.
Also in 2006, Sheffield Theatres hosted Pinter: A Celebration for a full month (11 October – 11 November 2006). It featured selected productions of Pinter's plays (in order of presentation): The Caretaker, Voices, No Man's Land, Family Voices, Tea Party, The Room, One for the Road, and The Dumb Waiter; films (most his screenplays; some in which Pinter appears as an actor): The Go-Between, Accident, The Birthday Party, The French Lieutenant's Woman, Reunion, Mojo, The Servant, and The Pumpkin Eater; and other related events, such as critical discussions, a Pinter quiz, a celebration of cricket, the BBC Two documentary film Arena: Harold Pinter, a consideration of Pinter's pacifist writing, and a screening of Pinter's passionate 45-minute Nobel Prize lecture.
In 2007, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of The Dumb Waiter, Lee Evans and Jason Isaacs starred as Gus and Ben in a West End revival at the Trafalgar Studios, from 2 February through 24 March 2007. Later in February 2007, John Crowley's film version of Pinter's play Celebration (2000) was shown on More4 (Channel 4, UK). The cast included James Bolam, Janie Dee, Colin Firth, James Fox, Michael Gambon, Julia McKenzie, Sophie Okonedo, Stephen Rea and Penelope Wilton. On 18 March 2007, BBC Radio 3 broadcast a new radio production of The Homecoming, directed by Thea Sharrock and produced by Martin J. Smith, with Pinter performing the role of Max (for the first time; he had previously played Lenny on stage in 1964), also starring Michael Gambon, Rupert Graves, Samuel West, James Alexandrou, and Gina McKee. A revival of The Hothouse, with a cast including Stephen Moore, Lia Williams, and Henry Woolf, opened at the National Theatre, in London, on 11 July 2007, playing through 27 July, concurrently with a revival of Betrayal at the Donmar Warehouse, starring Toby Stephens, Dervla Kirwan, and Samuel West, directed by Roger Michell.
Revivals in 2008 included the 40th anniverary production of the American première of The Homecoming on Broadway starring James Frain, Ian McShane, Raúl Esparza, Michael McKean, and Eve Best, directed by Daniel J. Sullivan, which opened on 16 December 2007 in a limited engagement through 13 April 2008. From 8 to 24 May 2008, the Lyric Hammersmith celebrated the 50th anniversary of The Birthday Party with a revival and related events, including a gala performance and reception hosted by Harold Pinter on 19 May 2008, exactly fifty years after its London première there.
The final revival during Pinter's lifetime was a production of No Man's Land, directed by Rupert Goold, opening at the Gate Theatre, Dublin August 2008 and then transferring to the Duke of York's Theatre, London, where it played through 3 January 2009. On the Monday before Christmas 2008, during the play's break, Pinter was admitted to Hammersmith Hospital, where he died on Christmas Eve from liver cancer On 26 December 2008, when No Man's Land reopened at the Duke of York's, the actors paid tribute to Pinter from the stage, with Gambon reading Hirst's monologue about his "photograph album" from Act Two that Pinter had asked him to read at his funeral, ending with a standing ovation from the audience, many of whom were in tears:
I might even show you my photograph album. You might even see a face in it which might remind you of your own, of what you once were. You might see faces of others, in shadow, or cheeks of others, turning, or jaws, or backs of necks, or eyes, dark under hats, which might remind you of others, whom once you knew, whom you thought long dead, but from whom you will still receive a sidelong glance, if you can face the good ghost. Allow the love of the good ghost. They possess all that emotion ... trapped. Bow to it. It will assuredly never release them, but who knows ... what relief ... it may give them ... who knows how they may quicken ... in their chains, in their glass jars. You think it cruel ... to quicken them, when they are fixed, imprisoned? No ... no. Deeply, deeply, they wish to respond to your touch, to your look, and when you smile, their joy ... is unbounded. And so I say to you, tender the dead, as you would yourself be tendered, now, in what you would describe as your life.
Pinter's funeral was a private, half-hour secular ceremony conducted at the graveside at Kensal Green Cemetery, 31 December 2008. The eight readings had been selected in advance by Pinter. Michael Gambon read the "photo album" speech from No Man's Land and three other readings, including the poem "Death" (1997). Other readings honoured Pinter's widow and his love of cricket. Many notable theatre people, including Tom Stoppard, attended, but Pinter's estranged son, Daniel, did not. At the end of the ceremony, Pinter's tearful widow, Antonia Fraser, stepped forward to his grave and quoted Horatio's speech after the death of Prince Hamlet: "Now cracks a noble heart. Goodnight, sweet prince, /And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!"
The night before Pinter's burial, theatre marquees on Broadway dimmed their lights for a minute in tribute, and on the final night of No Man's Land at the Duke of York's Theatre on 3 January 2009, all of the Ambassador Theatre Group in the West End dimmed their lights for an hour to honour the playwright. The Sydney Festival, Dublin's Gate Theatre, and the Sydney Theatre Company, whose co-artistic directors are Australian actress Cate Blanchett and her husband, Andrew Upton, on 1 February, gave a free, hour-long tribute performance of readings from Pinter's works. It was directed and introduced by Colgan and featured Blanchett, fellow Australian actor Robert Menzies (grandson of former Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies), and others.
Diane Abbott, the Member of Parliament for Hackney North & Stoke Newington proposed "an Early Day Motion" in the House of Commons to support residents' campaign to restore the Clapton Cinematograph Theatre, established in Lower Clapton Road in 1910, and to turn it into a memorial to Pinter "to honour this Hackney boy turned literary great". On 2 May 2009, a free public memorial tribute was held at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York. It was part of the Fifth Annual PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, taking place in New York City. Another memorial celebration was held in the National Theatre, in London, on the evening of 7 June 2009. It consisted of excerpts and readings from Pinter's writings by nearly three dozen of Britain's most-accomplished actors, many of whom were his friends and associates, including: Eileen Atkins, David Bradley, actor-director Harry Burton, Kenneth Cranham, Janie Dee, Andy de la Tour, Lindsay Duncan, Colin Firth, Henry Goodman, Sheila Hancock, Douglas Hodge, Jeremy Irons, Jude Law, Gina McKee, Roger Lloyd Pack, Stephen Rea, Alan Rickman, Michael Sheen, Indira Varma, Samuel West, Lia Williams, Penelope Wilton, Susan Wooldridge, and Henry Woolf; and a troupe of students from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. It was directed by Ian Rickson, who had directed Pinter in Krapp's Last Tape at the Royal Court Theatre in October 2006.
On 16 June 2009, Antonia Fraser officially opened the Harold Pinter Room & Studio at the Hackney Empire, renaming the Hackney Empire Hospitality Suite. Most of an issue of the Arts Tri-Quarterly Areté was devoted to pieces remembering Pinter, beginning with Pinter's 1987 unpublished love poem dedicated "To Antonia" and his poem "Paris", written in 1975, the year that he and Fraser began living together. These poems are followed by brief memoirs by some of Pinter's associates and friends, including Patrick Marber, Nina Raine, Nicholas Murray, Tom Stoppard, Peter Nichols, Susanna Gross, Marigold Johnson, Francis Wyndham, Nick Hern, Richard Eyre, Sarah Johnson, Ronald Harwood, David Hare, and Nigel Williams. Michael Colgan, who has previously curated four festivals of Pinter's work, including the 2001 Harold Pinter Festival, at Lincoln Center in New York City, has announced that he is preparing for another retrospective of Pinter's work in Dublin, scheduled for 2010, to mark Pinter's 80th birthday.
A memorial cricket match is scheduled for 27 September 2009 at Lord's Cricket Ground between the Gaieties Cricket Club and the Lord's Taverners, followed by "a concert of words and music in the Long Room in the Lords pavillion to celebrate Harold Pinter's love of cricket," featuring such performers as Janie Dee, Judi Dench, Michael Gambon, Bill Nighy, Roger Lloyd Pack, and Samuel West. The winner of a public auction of the 2005 portrait of Pinter by Joe Hill–"a gift to Pinter from his team mates at Gaieties Cricket Club as a mark of their esteem and gratitude for Pinter's 40 years service to the club"–will be announced, with the proceeds going to benefit youth causes supported by the Taverners.
An Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and an Honorary Fellow of the Modern Language Association of America (1970), Pinter was appointed CBE in 1966 and became a Companion of Honour in 2002, having declined a knighthood in 1996. In 1995 and 1996 he accepted the David Cohen Prize, in recognition of a lifetime of literary achievement, and the Laurence Olivier Special Award for lifetime achievement in the theatre, respectively. In 1997 he became a BAFTA Fellow. He received the World Leaders Award for "Creative Genius" as the subject of a week-long "Homage" in Toronto, in October 2001. In 2004, he received the Wilfred Owen Award for Poetry for his "lifelong contribution to literature, 'and specifically for his collection of poetry entitled War, published in 2003'". In March 2006 he was awarded the Europe Theatre Prize in recognition of lifetime achievements pertaining to drama and theatre. In conjunction with that award, critic Michael Billington coordinated an international conference on Pinter: Passion, Poetry, Politics, including scholars and critics from Europe and the Americas, held in Turin, Italy, from 10 to 14 March 2006.
In October 2008, the Central School of Speech and Drama announced that Pinter had agreed to become its president and awarded him an honorary fellowship in its graduation ceremony. On his appointment Pinter commented: "I was a student at Central in 1950–51. I enjoyed my time there very much and I am delighted to become president of a remarkable institution". But Pinter had to receive that honorary degree, his 20th, in absentia, due to ill health. His presidency of the School was brief, as he died just two weeks after the graduation ceremony, on 24 December 2008.
On 13 October 2005 the Swedish Academy announced that it had decided to award the Nobel Prize in Literature for that year to Pinter, who "in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms", instigating some public controversy and criticism relating both to characteristics of Pinter's work and to his politics. When interviewed that day about his reaction to the announcement, Pinter joked: "I was told today that one of the Sky channels said this morning that 'Harold Pinter is dead'. Then they changed their mind and said, 'No, he's won the Nobel prize.' So I've risen from the dead". The Nobel Prize Awards Ceremony and related events throughout Scandinavia took place in December 2005. After the Academy notified Pinter of his award, he had planned to travel to Stockholm to present his lecture in person. In November, however, discovering an infection that would nearly kill him, his doctor hospitalised him and barred such travel. His publisher, Stephen Page of Faber and Faber accepted his Nobel Diploma and Nobel Medal at the Awards Ceremony.
Though still hospitalised, Pinter videotaped his Nobel Lecture, "Art, Truth and Politics", at a Channel 4 studio. The lecture was projected on three large screens at the Swedish Academy on the evening of 7 December 2005. It was simultaneously transmitted on More 4 in the UK that evening. The 46-minute lecture was introduced on television by Pinter's friend, David Hare. The text and streaming video formats (without Hare's introduction) were later posted on the Nobel Prize and Swedish Academy official websites. It has been widely distributed by print and online media and has been the source of much commentary and debate. The lecture provoked extensive public controversy, with some commentators accusing Pinter of "anti-Americanism". In the lecture, however, Pinter emphasizes that he criticizes policies and practices of American administrations (and those who voted for them), not all American citizens, many of whom he recognizes as "demonstrably sickened, shamed and angered by their government's actions".
As a result of his Nobel Prize and lecture, interest in Pinter's life and work surged, leading to new revivals of his plays and new editions of his works, such as The Essential Pinter and The Dwarfs, by Grove Press, and a three-volume box set including The Birthday Party, No Man's Land, Mountain Language, and Celebration entitled Four Plays, by Faber and Faber.
On 18 January 2007 the French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin presented Pinter with France's highest civil honour, the Légion d'honneur, at a ceremony at the French embassy in London. De Villepin praised Pinter's poem "American Football" (1991) stating: "'With its violence and its cruelty, it is for me one of the most accurate images of war, one of the most telling metaphors of the temptation of imperialism and violence.'" In response, Pinter praised the French opposition to the war in Iraq. M. de Villepin concluded: "The poet stands still and observes what doesn't deserve other men's attention. Poetry teaches us how to live and you, Harold Pinter, teach us how to live." He said that Pinter received the award particularly "because in seeking to capture all the facets of the human spirit, [Pinter's] works respond to the aspirations of the French public, and its taste for an understanding of man and of what is truly universal." Lawrence Pollard observed that "the award for the great playwright underlines how much Mr Pinter is admired in countries like France as a model of the uncompromising radical intellectual."
Some scholars and critics challenge the validity of Pinter's critiques of what he terms "the modes of thinking of those in power" or dissent from his retrospective viewpoints on his own work. In 1985, Pinter recalled that his early act of conscientious objection resulted from being "terribly disturbed as a young man by the Cold War. And McCarthyism.... A profound hypocrisy. 'They' the monsters, 'we' the good. In 1948 the Russian suppression of Eastern Europe was an obvious and brutal fact, but I felt very strongly then and feel as strongly now that we have an obligation to subject our own actions and attitudes to an equivalent critical and moral scrutiny." Scholars agree that Pinter's dramatic rendering of power relations results from this astute scrutiny.
Pinter's aversion to any censorship by "the authorities" is epitomised in Petey's line at the end of The Birthday Party. As the broken-down and reconstituted Stanley is being carted off by the figures of authority Goldberg and McCann, Petey calls after him, "Stan, don't let them tell you what to do!" Pinter told Gussow in 1988, "I've lived that line all my damn life. Never more than now". The example of Pinter's stalwart opposition to what he termed "the modes of thinking of those in power"—the "brick wall" of the "minds" perpetuating the "status quo"—infused the "vast political pessimism" that some academic critics may perceive in his artistic work, its "drowning landscape" of harsh contemporary realities, with some residual "hope for restoring the dignity of man".
The trap with Harold's work, for performers and audiences, is to approach it too earnestly or portentously. I have always tried to interpret his plays with as much humor and humanity as possible. There is always mischief lurking in the darkest corners. The world of The Caretaker is a bleak one, its characters damaged and lonely. But they are all going to survive. And in their dance to that end they show a frenetic vitality and a wry sense of the ridiculous that balance heartache and laughter. Funny, but not too funny. As Pinter wrote, back in 1960: "As far as I am concerned The Caretaker IS funny, up to a point. Beyond that point, it ceases to be funny, and it is because of that point that I wrote it."
His dramatic conflicts present serious implications for his characters and his audiences, leading to sustained inquiry about "the point" of his work and multiple "critical strategies" for developing interpretations and stylistic analyses of it.
Pinter's unpublished manuscripts and letters to and from him are held in the Modern Literary Manuscripts division of the British Library. Smaller collections of Pinter manuscripts are in the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, the University of Texas at Austin; The Lilly Library, Indiana University at Bloomington; the Mandeville Special Collections Library, Geisel Library, at the University of California, San Diego; the British Film Institute, in London; and the Margaret Herrick Library, Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Beverly Hills, California.