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Conscience Keeper of Our Age

Filed on December 27, 2008

Even as the literary world mourns the death of one of its shining stars, Harold Pinter, it’s almost tragic that the 78-year-old Nobel laureate could not live to see his favourite whipping boy, President George W Bush, whom he often referred to as “mass murderer”, demit office


— in this case, the White House. The hard-hitting British playwright (also an actor, director and screenwriter), whose best-known works included such classics as “The Caretaker” (1960), “The Homecoming” (1965) and “The Birthday Party” (1960), succumbed to cancer on Christmas Eve, thereby bringing to an end an era best characterised as ‘Pinteresque’, a phrase that was inducted into the English dictionary (coined after Pinter’s style of writing, peppered as it was with ‘pregnant pauses’).

Pinter’s literary affiliations (he won the Nobel for literature) took a backseat in his later years, when he assumed the role of being the staunchest critic of the American government, more specifically US foreign policy.

He strongly opposed the 1991 Gulf War, the 1999 NATO bombing campaign in Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War, the US’s 2001 war in Afghanistan, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Who can ever forget the peace rally that Pinter addressed on the eve of the Iraq War in London’s Hyde Park, where he called the Bush administration a “monster out of control”? “The country is run by a bunch of criminal lunatics... The planned attack on Iraq is an act of premeditated mass murder.” Sometime later, Pinter actually compared the US to Nazi Germany, saying, “it is beyond our imagining to know what they are going to do next and what they are prepared to do. There is only one comparison: Nazi Germany.”

In 2005, when Pinter was too ill to travel to Stockholm to accept the Nobel Prize, he launched into an attack as his acceptance speech was being telecast via video conferencing, “The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them.” He added that the US has supported “every right-wing military dictatorship in the world after the Second World War”.

Other than having a huge void in the world of literature, we have lost a staunch advocate of human rights and world peace — and someone who, at the same time,was passionate about cricket and the English countryside.





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