The Nobel Prize speech: 'The truth is elusive, but the search is compulsive'

Pinter wrote this speech about his life, his work and his politics on winning the Nobel Prize three years ago.

In 1958 I wrote the following: "There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false."

I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?

Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. The search is your task. More often than not you stumble upon the truth in the dark, colliding with it or just glimpsing an image or a shape which seems to correspond to the truth, often without realising that you have done so. But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Sometimes you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost . . .–the-truth-is-elusive-but-the-search-is-compulsive-1211415.html



Leading article: A dramatic departure

Friday, 26 December 2008

Harold Pinter, for so long lauded as Britain's greatest living playwright, has died, his place in the pantheon of British playwrights assured. And it is hard not to imagine this master of the telling moment thoroughly relishing the many ironies attending his departure.

The death of this most anti-Establishment member of the Establishment was announced just as the whole country, so it seemed, was settling down to the most conventional of our festive meals. What is more, Pinter's broadcast obituaries preceded the day's great set-piece, the Queen's Christmas message, by a mere couple of hours. As someone in the business of staging and upstaging, he could hardly have done better for theatricality.

As for what was going on around those tables – the family conversations that descend imperceptibly into full-blown rows, and the tortuous phone-calls that follow – these are the conversations immortalised in so many Pinter plays. Loudly cheerful, or merely pretending to be so; halting, often awkward, pregnant with meaning – intended and unintended – they are the efforts of British society trying to communicate with itself; of Britons of a certain age and class, speaking, but all too often failing, to make themselves understood.



Harold Pinter: Nobel Prize-winning playwright and poet who dominated British theatre for four decades

How to describe such a life as Harold Pinter's, or to ask about his achievement without hearing that ringing baritone demanding (as he once did when asked how he was that day), "What kind of a question is that?"

Pinter was an actor and director, a poet and prose writer, the author of 20 screenplays, a cricketer and an impassioned political witness to his times; above all, for over 40 years he dominated the theatre.

When The Birthday Party opened in London in 1958, it ran for a weekfollowing catastrophic notices. On the Thursday afternoon the youngplaywright crept towards the dress circle to observe the matinée. He was alone: when an usher came to see him off since the circle was closed, his admission that he was the authorsoftened her attitude: "Oh, you poor chap . . . in you go." If instead he had sat downstairs in the stalls, he might have noticed Harold Hobson of The Sunday Times cooking up a review that would decisively launch his career the morning after the production closed. It was the beginning of half a century in which, in his own words, he gave his audience not what they wanted, but what he insisted on giving them . . .



Exit stage left: Harold Pinter dies

Harold Pinter, playwright, actor and political activist, dies aged 78

By Arifa Akbar, Arts correspondent
Friday, 26 December 2008Directors and actors joined Pinter's friends and wife, Lady Antonia Fraser, yesterday to pay tribute to the Nobel Laureate whose style and literary significance has been compared to James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Albert Camus. He died on Christmas Eve.

Not only a remarkable playwright with one of the most illustrious careers in contemporary theatre, Pinter's career also encompassed acting, poetry and political activism as a vociferous critic of American and British foreign policy . . .



Jonathan Heawood: For Pinter, the outsider came first

In his art he sought to describe injustice. In his life, justice was what he tried to create

Saturday, 27 December 2008

As even the most respectful tributes have been forced to acknowledge, Harold Pinter was not an easy man. The rage that animated his work for 50 years could also manifest itself in his personal life. He did not suffer fools gladly, and was likely to answer an innocent "Good morning" with the demand to know what was so bloody good about it.

Yet this anger was underscored by a fervent belief in justice. From his early psychological dramas to the late political plays, the imaginary world he created is unspeakably unjust. His characters say and do horrendous things to each other and get away with it. "I've never been able to write a happy play," he said; and a happy ending tagged on to any of his works would be as ridiculous as Nahum Tate's rewrite of King Lear, in which Lear survives and Cordelia marries Edgar . . .

There is no possibility of such redemption in any of Pinter's plays. Yet it is this impotence which makes his work so distinct, and is why the Pinteresque condition so closely resembles the Kafkaesque . . .



Harold Pinter by Michael Gambon and Tony Benn

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Further to the obituary of Harold Pinter (26 December), he wasn't just a good director – he was the best, writes Michael Gambon. Harold was very plain speaking, not really going in for lavish phrases.

And it was always clear that he was at heart a very fun guy. People say that he was sour but that was never my experience; rather one got a sense of his playfulness. Often he'd have a drink and a fag, back in the day when he used to smoke, that is. Not whisky, as some people said – beer, usually, or maybe a glass of white wine. He'd sit quite still on his chair, watching rehearsals proceed.

The thing to understand about Harold is that he just loved actors. He was an actor himself, of course. So he'd give you a lot of room to play around in your role, rather than being domineering or prescriptive as some directors might. He liked flexibility, and gave it to others.

To me he was much more of a literary than a political figure. I didn't really get to see the other side of him, which other people might focus on. He became quieter in his later years, as he was very ill at times. And he could be a bit grim sometimes – not rude, really, just a little short with people, irritable. As a director, Harold was always a very direct speaker; he wouldn't really go in for small talk or chit-chat.

He leaves the most enormous gaping hole behind him. It's like someone you know leaving you behind as they head elsewhere. I think of Harold as the iron rod of English theatre: without him we're much weaker . . .



Actors in Pinter play lead tributes to legend

'No Man's Land' cast honour writer who railed against oppression

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Actors in the current production of Harold Pinter's No Man's Land yesterday led tributes to the legendary playwright, actor and activist.

Michael Gambon, David Walliams, Nick Dunning and David Bradley led a minute's silence at the Duke of York theatre in St Martin's Lane, London, where the first performance of a work by Pinter since his death was watched by 650 people. The Nobel Prize winner died on Wednesday aged 78 after a long battle with cancer.

"I'm very honoured to have known him personally and professionally over the past 10 years. It's a huge loss," Bradley said yesterday morning. "People from Germany, Israel and China would come backstage saying Harold Pinter was so important to them. He wrote about oppression and people taking terrible advantage and oppressing each other on a personal level. Although he did not write the plays in an overtly political way they stood the test of time because they have universal themes. They meant so much to people in different ways."



Harold Pinter: True star of the screen

Rare among playwrights, Harold Pinter proved as adept at writing for the cinema as for the theatre, says Geoffrey MacNab

Saturday, 27 December 2008

They may be in demand to adapt novels (as Tom Stoppard and Christopher Hampton have done with considerable success) or to oversee screen versions of their best-known stage works. However, whatever their fame or achievements in their own field, they tend to be regarded as hired hands when they venture into film-making. Even when they do deserve credit, they often fail to get it. Few, for example, remember that Clifford Odets, the writer of Waiting for Lefty and Awake and Sing! and a key figure in 1930s New York theatre, also wrote the screenplay for the 1957 masterpiece Sweet Smell of Success . . .



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