Friday, December 26, 2008

Harold Pinter: A Distorted Anti-West Vision

On learning of his Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005 Harold Pinter diplomatically acknowledged that he was unsure to what extent his political activism had played a part in the award. Unfortunately, that open question does a disservice to Pinter’s memory and to the credibility of the Nobel Committee; for while Pinter’s contribution to literature was a great one, his contribution to politics was less so...

Yet the political world that Pinter conjured up was an extravagant fantasy. In it, the Western democracies exemplified not imperfection or even moral failings, but venality and bloodlust. To Pinter, the modern US had only one point of comparison: “Nazi Germany wanted total domination of Europe and they nearly did it. The US wants total domination of the world and is about to consolidate that.”

In its nefarious designs, according to Pinter, the American leadership was assisted by a culpable populace and a mass-murdering British prime minister. In his Nobel lecture, Pinter asked rhetorically, with reference to Tony Blair and President Bush: “How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal?”

Pinter’s political message...was sophistry couched in the unrelentingly scatological language of the lavatory wall. Posterity will surely judge Harold Pinter as an impassioned voice and a great artistic talent; it is less likely to honour or even recall the areas in which he went astray.

Oliver Kamm deftly diagnoses the muddled and mean-spirited perspective of the late playwright (and husband of Lady Antonia Fraser) Harold Pinter in this Times (U.K.) article.