On this day: Harold Pinter wins a Nobel Prize
October 13 2005: the playwright is awarded the prestigious prize for literature
The Nobel Prize committee praised him as a writer “who in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression’s closed rooms.”
Born in 1930 in Hackney, Harold Pinter attended Hackney Downs school and then pursued a career on stage, screen and as a writer. He became known for plays including The Birthday Party and The Caretaker, as well as The Homecoming, for which he won a Tony award.
Married to Lady Antonia Fraser, throughout his life Pinter was a politically active. He turned down a knighthood from John Major, but in 2002 became a Companion of Honour.
When he died at the age of 78 in 2008, the JC described Pinter as latterly one of the Israel’s “strongest Jewish critics” but also an “early friend and supporter” of the country.
After the 1967 Six Day War, for example, he joined an emergency appeal for a Jewish youth emergency fund and formed part of a solidarity campaign for Israel. In 1981, he supported a book fair in aid of Ben Gurion University.
But he was also known for his anti-Israel rhetoric. He was a founding member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians and called for a boycott of Israeli produce.
It was not just his views on Israel that made him a hero of the extreme left. He was an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, and notoriously anti-American. In 1999 he condemned the NATO bombing of Serbia following Serbian massacres of Albanian Muslims in Kosovo and later joined the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic.
On being named as a recipient of the Nobel Prize, he said: “When I think back to past winners…I feel I'm in remarkable company. I never thought this would happen to me.”
What the JC said: Pinter’s political fury, his condemnation of torture and censorship, his outrage at state murder, is powered by the same direct anger that we can recognise in the troublemakers of the Bible, the Prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah. They, too, found the abuses and crimes of their society intolerable and berated them with ferocity.
See more from the JC archives here