Walker's World: Pinter's anti-U.S. Nobel


Editor's note: This article contains poetic obscenities and vulgarities.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- The award Thursday to British playwright Harold Pinter of the Nobel prize for literature rightly recognizes, in the week of his 75th birthday, one of the most original and outstanding dramatists of our time.


The prize also, however, carries a significant political message that is likely to be hailed by anti-American forces around the world, just as the Nobel prize for Alexander Solzhenitsyn 30 years ago represented a deliberate denunciation of Soviet censorship and its police state and Gulag.

In Pinter's case, it is unlikely the literary achievements the Nobel committee chose to reward included his short poem on the eve of the Iraq war, titled "God Bless America." It begins:

"Here they go again,

The Yanks in their armored parade

Chanting their ballads of joy


As they gallop across the big world

Praising America's God."

A year later, poetic inspiration struck again, and Pinter wrote a short poem titled "Democracy."

It reads, in full, as follows:

"There's no escape.

The big pricks are out.

They'll fuck everything in sight.

Watch your back."

His political rhetoric is usually crude and deliberately offensive, and certainly consistent. The first Gulf War in 1991 inspired him to comment in The Observer: "What the U.S. is doing is perfectly simple. It's asserting what it conceives to be its spiritual destiny: 'I am God: get out of my fucking way.' This stink is with us forever."

He is not only a critic of America. He was a strong supporter of Jewish dissidents in the Soviet Union, and a campaigner for the freedom of imprisoned writers everywhere, whatever the politics of the regime that imprisons them. He has been a consistent campaigner against war since 1949, when he went to prison on principle because he refused to be conscripted into the British forces.

In recent years, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been a regular target. In one of his most sustained (and now oft-quoted) attacks on the Bush administration and on Blair in 2003, Pinter said:


"I've been taken to task recently by the American ambassador to Britain for calling the U.S. administration a bloodthirsty wild animal. All I can say is: take a look at Donald Rumsfeld's face and the case is made. I believe that not only is this contemplated act criminal, malevolent and barbaric, it also contains within itself a palpable joy in destruction. Power, as has often been remarked, is the great aphrodisiac, and so, it would seem, is the death of others.

"The Americans have the ostensible support of the 'international community' through various sure-fire modes of intimidation: bullying, bribery, blackmail and bullshit. The 'international community' becomes a degraded entity bludgeoned into the service of a brutal military force out of control. The most despicable position is that of course of this country which pretends to stand shoulder to shoulder with its great ally while in fact being more of a whipped dog than anyone else. We are demeaned, undermined and dishonored by our government's contemptible subservience to the United States."

The Nobel committee made a guarded but fairly obvious reference to Pinter's political views when it said he had become their laureate because his work "uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms."


Shortly after learning he had won the $1.3 million award, which was widely hailed in British literary and theatrical circles, Pinter referred to his prominent role as a campaigner against the U.S.-led wars against Serbia and Iraq, saying: "Iraq is just a symbol of the attitude of Western democracies to the rest of the world."

His speech in December when the award is presented is likely to be a memorable event, not just because he is likely to say what he thinks of the American and British governments, but also because of the potential power of his prose. A characteristic of Pinter's drama was that it was so often undramatic by the standards of the conventional theater and conveyed with significant pauses and deliberate understatement, and with an extraordinarily acute ear for the subtleties of British speech. In his political prose, there is no understatement, few silences and little subtlety, but the powerful tradition of British public rhetoric is given free rein.

Whatever may be said of his politics, there is no disputing his literary importance. Pinter' s plays "The Caretaker" and "The Birthday Party," "The Homecoming" and "The Betrayal" helped to yank 20th century British drama out of its cozy drawing-rooms and into the more menacing and profound worlds of Kafka and Beckett. (It was announced last week that Pinter, who also has a powerful reputation as an actor and director, will appear at London's Royal Court theater in Samuel Beckett's play "Krapp's Last Tape," in what will be a highlight of the English Stage Company's 50th anniversary celebrations next year.)


Pinter's sense of drama, and his fury at the Iraq war and its aftermath, may well tempt him to use the platform of the Nobel presentation for another high-profile onslaught against Bush and Blair. Indeed, friends of Pinter in London say he may well choose to declare in public one of the few things he ever wrote that was widely censored. Titled "American football (A Meditation on the Gulf War)," it was rejected for publication in Britain by the Independent, the Observer, and the Guardian newspapers, by the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books. It reads, in full:

Hallelullah! It works.

We blew the shit out of them. We blew the shit right back up their own ass

And out their fucking ears.

It works. We blew the shit out of them. They suffocated in their own shit!

Hallelullah. Praise the Lord for all good things. We blew them into fucking shit.

They are eating it. Praise the Lord for all good things.

We blew their balls into shards of dust,

Into shards of fucking dust. We did it.

Now I want you to come over here and kiss me on the mouth.

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