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Harold Pinter, “Nasty Man”

From yesterday's New York Times profile of Harold Pinter, we learn from the great playwright himself: “When I was an actor in rep, I always played sinister parts. The directors always said, ‘If there’s a nasty man about, cast Harold … Read More

By / October 8, 2007
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From yesterday's New York Times profile of Harold Pinter, we learn from the great playwright himself:

“When I was an actor in rep, I always played sinister parts. The directors always said, ‘If there’s a nasty man about, cast Harold Pinter.’”

These are accurate words from a charter member of the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic and signatory to a petition to "Free" the Butcher of Belgrade, far more accurate than he knows. Perhaps Pinter's directors back in the days when he "trod the boards" in repertory saw him for what he actually was, and valued his preternatural ability to play thugs well because Pinter is himself a thug. Sadly, the once-great cause of Defending Slobo died when the Serbian fascist passed away from a heart attack in his prison cell at the Hague. But through his defense of Milosevic and his other political pursuits, it is quite clear that Pinter was not acting when he "played sinister parts" or mimicked "nasty" men.

The Nobel Committee further tarnished the reputation of its once-prestigious Prize for Literature when it awarded the thing to Pinter two years ago. His acceptance speech, broadcast from a television studio in London, was an embittered rant against the United States and its “systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless” crimes. It was little different from much of the tripe you read on left-wing blogs today, but there was something particularly noxious about Pinter's address, delivered as an acceptance of an award for literature, not politics (though Pinter was decent enough to acknowledge that "the Sandinistas weren't perfect.")

But of course, real authoritarianism is not just today ascendant, but already ensconced, in Great Britain and the United States:

“The whole brunt of the media and the government is to encourage people to be highly competitive and totally selfish and uncaring of others. It’s escalated, and there’s a basic indifference to human fate on the part of authoritarian systems, which I believe exists not in a faraway country necessarily but here and now in this country.”

So the existence of "authoritarian systems" in places like North Korea, Cuba, Sudan or some other "faraway country" is disputed, unclear, couched in the qualifying phrase "not…necessarily." But its existence in Britain (and, presumably, it's overlord, the United States) is something of which the 2005 recipient of the Nobel laureate is quite sure.

It is too much to expect even the slightest bit of moralizing from the Times writer offering this breathless portrayal of Pinter. Maybe she's trying to tell us something in her title, "Still Pinteresque," which, as the story lets us know, the Financial Times once-referred to as "full of dark hints and pregnant suggestions, with the audience left uncertain as to what to conclude.” While this may be an apt description of Pinter's dramatic work, it certainly does not illuminate Pinter's rather blunt and unsophisticated politics, the motivations and meanings of which are neither hinted at nor uncertain, but actually quite clear. In the realm of the political, "Pinteresque" can be defined as a rancid, self-loathing for the West, with the corollary of useful idiocy expressed via support for totalitarian mass murderers with anti-America street cred.

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