Harold Pinter 1930-2008
Harold Pinter won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, three years before his death from cancer. He had a career of more than half a century as a playwright, director, actor and writer of screenplays for television and film.
He was without doubt the most influential English playwright of the twentieth century and so earns his place on this list. Like Charles Dickens, he was not only an actor and a leading man of letters of his time, but also a campaigner – in his case mainly political. Although in later life he expressed disdain for political organisations, in his younger days he was active in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Anti-Apartheid Movement. He opposed the Gulf War of 1991, the Afghanistan war and the invasion of Iraq. Although he was a Jew he supported the Palestine cause and spoke out in its support.
But Harold Pinter was first and foremost a writer. The distinctive style and quality of his dramas inspired the epithet ‘Pinteresque’ to describe a use of language that expresses a strange and mysterious situation smouldering with underlying, indefinable, menace. His dialogue is often funny and menacing at the same time. It is a dialogue in which the silences in it speak as loudly as the words. He uses repetitions in new ways, all to create the menace and a particular atmosphere that can only be termed ‘Pinteresque.’
Pinter wrote twenty-nine plays and several sketches and he collaborated in others. His most famous plays are classics of twentieth century drama and include such famous twentieth century plays as The Birthday Party, The Dumb Waiter, The Caretaker, The Collection, No Man’s Land, Other Places and Remembrance of Things Past.
He wrote the screenplays for literally scores of films, several, again, regarded as classics of British cinema and television. Apart from television and film versions of his own plays they include Sleuth, The Servant, The Comfort of Strangers, The Pumpkin Eaters, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Accident, and The Quiller Memorandum. Each of these films brim with the underlying mystery associated with Harold Pinter.
His first love was acting and he enjoyed acting in his own films and, at times, in those of others, until his death in 2008.