Some of the biggest names in the arts have applauded the decision to award playwright Harold Pinter the 2005 Nobel Prize for literature.
Pinter recently celebrated his 75th birthday
Pinter, writer of The Birthday Party and Betrayal, is widely-seen as the UK's greatest living playwright.
Fellow writer Sir Tom Stoppard said the award was "wholly deserved" while director Sir Peter Hall said Pinter was a "great and original poet of theatre".
Actor and director Sir Alan Ayckbourn said it was a "most fitting award".
Sir Alan, who appeared in a production of The Caretaker directed by Pinter, said: "I'm absolutely delighted. It couldn't have happened to a nicer person."
Pinter, who has been an outspoken critic of the US and UK governments for their decision to invade Iraq, has become an iconic figure for many opposed to the war.
"Iraq is just a symbol of the attitude of western democracies to the rest of the world," said Pinter on Thursday after learning of his win.
The UK Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell also paid tribute to the writer.
"Harold Pinter has been a colossal figure in British literature for nearly 50 years.
"His work as playwright, poet and polemicist has given him a well-deserved international reputation, and I'm delighted that he's now been further recognised with the Nobel Prize."
The Nobel academy said Pinter's work "uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms".
Pinter told reporters on Thursday: "I've been writing plays for about 50 years and I'm also pretty politically engaged. And I'm not at all sure to what extent that fact, that fact had anything to do with this award.
"I am both deeply engaged in art and deeply engaged in politics and sometimes those two meet and sometimes they don't. It's all going to be very interesting."
He is the first British winner since VS Naipaul in 2001.
Theatre director Sir Peter, who has worked with Pinter for more than 40 years, said the award was "a great prize for a great and original poet of the theatre".
"I'm delighted at the news," he said.
British playwright David Hare said: "I couldn't be happier. This is a brilliant choice."
The prize announcement was made by the permanent secretary of the Swedish academy, Horace Engdahl, in Stockholm.
The academy's citation said: "Pinter restored theatre to its basic elements: an enclosed space and unpredictable dialogue, where people are at the mercy of each other and pretence crumbles."