Dec 26, 2008

Entertainment - British playwright Harold Pinter dead

Hasan Suroor

LONDON: Harold Pinter, the Nobel Prize-winning distinguished British playwright , died on Christmas Eve after a prolonged illness, it was announced on Thursday.

He was 78 and suffering from liver cancer.

He is survived by his second wife Lady Antonia Fraser, a well-known writer in her own right. In a tribute, she said: “He was a great man , and it was a privilege to live with him for over 33 years.”

Mr. Pinter, whose plays were famously punctuated with long silences, had the distinction of spawning a distinct genre of playwriting which came to be known as “Pinteresque”. The term became part of the English vocabulary and was included in the Oxford English Dictionary. Mr. Pinter, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, remained uncompromisingly left-wing till the end. He was an outspoken critic of British and American foreign policy, especially the invasion of Iraq, and three years ago he announced that he was giving up his writing to concentrate on political work.

Author of more than 30 plays—the best-known among them being “The Caretaker” and “The Homecoming” — he also wrote film scripts including that of The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

Mr. Pinter was known as a keen observer of “suburban brooding” and credited with bringing realism into contemporary British theatre.

The Nobel Prize citation said that in his plays he “uncovers the precipice in everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression’s closed rooms”.

“This was a man who had plays with long silences, where characters did not always go anywhere — very much like real life. He brought a realism to the business,” said Tim Walker, a British theatre critic.

Born in Hackney, East London in 1930, Mr. Pinter was a passionate advocate of unilateral nuclear disarmament and a bitter critic of U.S. involvement in Central and South America. As a young man, he became a conscientious objector and was fined for refusing to undergo National Service in 1949. Later, he was to turn down knighthood though he accepted a string of other state honours.

Mr. Pinter started off as an actor under the stage name David Baron. His first triumph as a playwright came in 1957 when his play “The Room” was hailed as marking the start of a new era in British theatre. His long career as a playwright, poet and film writer was marked as much by praise as by controversies mostly relating to his political views.

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