Nobels: A Pinter Perfect Recipient

Article excerpt

Byline: David Ansen

Until Harold Pinter won the Nobel Prize in Literature last week, only three playwrights working in English had won this honor: George Bernard Shaw, Eugene O'Neill and, in 1969, the man whom Pinter often referred to as his major influence: Samuel Beckett. Heavyweight company indeed.

The 75-year-old English playwright hadn't been predicted to win, but it was hard to argue with the choice. Like Beckett, whose plays could be mistaken for no one else's, Pinter has created a singular (though much imitated), instantly identifiable style. In such unnerving classics as "The Caretaker," "The Homecoming," "The Collection," "Betrayal" and "No Man's Land"--paranoid chamber dramas as noted for their pregnant pauses for what is left unsaid as for their terse, insinuating dialogue--Pinter gave us chillingly thrilling glimpses of human relationships as a nasty game of psychological one-upmanship.

He wrote as an outsider, having grown up Jewish and working class, and early on feeling the bite of British anti-Semitism. Power was always his great, unstated theme, and in such later works as the one-act "One for the Road," which takes the form of an interrogation, he shifted his arena from the domestic to the political. A Pinter play is as precise in its form as it is ambiguous in its meaning.

Pinter may have been a master of the elliptical onstage, but in public life he's been increasingly vocal--and explicit--in his denunciation of the war on Iraq, and of both President George W. …