Pinter Wins Nobel Prize in Literature
In honoring British playwright Harold Pinter on Thursday, Nobel Prize judges have again chosen an artist of literary achievement and political contention.
The 75-year-old Pinter, the most influential British playwright of his generation, is also an unrelenting critic of the U.S. involvement in Iraq, and of the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair.
"I think the world is going down the drain if we're not very careful," a frail but defiant Pinter, who has been treated for throat cancer in recent years, said to reporters outside his London home.
Pinter will receive $1.3 million for winning the Nobel, and can expect a boost in sales. His U.S. publisher, Grove/Atlantic, Inc., announced Thursday that it will print another 25,000 copies of a new collection of political writings, "Death Etc.," for a total of 31,000. A volume of his plays has been climbing quickly on Amazon.com.
On Thursday, leaning on a cane and sporting a bandaged head after a fall, Pinter told reporters that he felt "quite overwhelmed" by the honor. "I have no idea why they gave me the award. I respect their judgment. I am very grateful," he said.
Pinter continues a long tradition of Nobel laureates who believe in taking sides and not settling for art for art's sake.
Last year's winner, Austria's Elfriede Jelinek, once instructed her publishers to withhold the performance rights of her plays in Austrian theaters as long as the rightist Freedom Party was part of the government.
Germany's Guenter Grass, who won in 1999, has been one of his country's leading liberals and repeatedly questioned the reunification of East and West Germany. American John Steinbeck, winner in 1962, supported numerous Democrats. More famously, he immortalized the poverty of the Depression with his classic, "The Grapes of Wrath."
British playwright David Hare cited Pinter's political engagement in praising his Nobel win.