Vale Harold Pinter ~ theatre notes

Friday, December 26, 2008

Vale Harold Pinter

I'm sad to hear that Harold Pinter has died, aged 78, after a long battle with cancer. Michael Billington, who wrote a recent biography of Pinter, has a moving memoir here. "Harold was a great dramatist and screenwriter, a ferocious polemicist, a fighter against all forms of hypocrisy," says Billington. "What we should also remember today is his generosity of spirit and his rage for life."

George Hunka's fine appreciation of the artist here. And Matt Clayfield quotes Pinter's Nobel lecture here. Another tribute from Jarrett here. And while I'm at it, my review of The Homecoming.

And I add to many other regrets the fact that, for reasons that I now can't remember but were probably trivial, I couldn't take up an invitation to come to his house and meet him. Carpe Diem.


Jarrett said...


I did a PhD in theatre at Stafndord in the 1980s, and Pinter was a constant companion. You might enjoy the remembrance on my blog.

All the best, Jarrett

Matt Scholten said...

Very sad news indeed but hopefully an end to great pain as well. I just received his book Various Voices as a Christmas gift from my parents and was actually reading it early this morning when a text message came through from a friend in the UK who told me the news. Had just been reading the final poem in the book "Death May Be Ageing" written in 2005 which ends with "But death permits you to arrange your hours, while he sucks the honey from your lovely flowers..." A truly massive loss to the world of theatre, politics and social conscience but a life well lived and a rich legacy for those of us lucky enough to have his words and silences to work with in the future... Vale HP.

And despite the sombre nature of this comment a belated Merry Christmas to you, Daniel and your family Alison x Matt

George Hunka said...

When I was talking to somebody at the Royal Court a few years ago to prepare an article for the New York Times, I mentioned that I wanted to run something about Pinter's then-upcoming performance in "Krapp's Last Tape." "Oh, you must come!" the Royal Court person said. "Can I set aside a few tickets for you?"

I don't have many regrets in this life, but my not getting to London for that is certainly one of them.

Abe Pogos said...

Pinter was a revelation to me in my early days as a writer. What struck me most was how he demonstrated the way we use language to avoid being understood, and that our simplest social interactions are often a struggle for power. He did that in a way that seemed true to what I had experienced and observed. It seems just as true to me twenty-five years later. While my failures are my own, anything worthwhile I've done, or will do, as a playwright, owes more to Pinter than anyone else.

duncan said...

Hi Alison,

I wrote this small poem in the few days after hearing about Harold Pinter's death. Thought it'd be appropriate for the site. I hope you are enjoying a well earned rest. Happy New Year.

Love offers grief as a kind of reward
An unveiling
Like the lost sun in deepest winter
And the shadows
Of a long watched tree
That creep across the window
The gathering thickness of air
In the well known room
The ceremony of the world and its ways
The monotonous inquisition of the clock

It is not a lily or a rose
But a weighty sod
That lands upon the heart
As the hour hand is dropped

And it is not a bird song
But the deafening sound of traffic
The ceaseless and the restless
That harrows and hollows and grates along the bone
The arrangement of familiar paths and hours
The detail of flowers
The wilting appreciation of their glory
The fading warmth of the sun

No counsel
No counsel indeed
But living as if mad, as if madly sane
And to keep on living
With almost imperceptible change

And then to never live again

So the next visitor arrives, as arranged
To interrupt the stillness of the still room –
To sit upon the chair
That will not reveal an anguish
From one to another
Yet its muteness irrefutably there

And still no lost impression revealed in the corridor
Only widowed moonlight wailing across the polished floor

The razor left behind
Rusted near the wooden handle

The shoes left agape for cold feet
The erstwhile erosion of their heel

The faithfulness of the shirts
Hanging without discernment of day or night
Neither ignorant or wise
The wardrobe door flung open
And their lifeless lack of surprise

Then the words still ringing
Peeling away like cathedral bells
Homeless as smoke from a chimney
Or autumn leaves
Of extinguished anguish
Fallen but not yet settled
Adrift in air
Like our peopled dreams that cannot find
Their faces among the dead
To put on
To touch…

Yet what we are
What we will become
Continues to stare
To lead is through the throng

O that no man’s land
With its wind whistling silences
Dropped like razors
Beneath our lolling tongues

We run from one likeness to another
With these dreams of the living and the dead
Songs that know not if they’ll be sung

Then evening comes with the paltry flickering of a star
The insignificance of marvelous apprehension
And the ever present remainder of emptiness
more or less

The wheeling pigeon ascending
Through the abandoned city
Flying the coop to come home

The veil of ashes lifted by its beating wing

Then the irrepressible strangeness of cut stone
The drawing of the blinds
The evening light glancing off the darkened window

We have always made our way to you
By way of fading signs

Duncan Graham, Dec 08