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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 October 2005, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
Pinter wins Nobel literary prize
Harold Pinter
Pinter recently celebrated his 75th birthday
Controversial British playwright and campaigner Harold Pinter has won the 2005 Nobel Prize for literature.

Pinter, 75, whose plays include The Birthday Party and Betrayal, was announced as the winner of the $1.3m (723,000) cash prize on Thursday.

The Nobel academy said Pinter's work "uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms".

The playwright is known for speaking out on issues like the war on Iraq.

Pinter told reporters: "I've been writing plays for about fifty 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 Hall, 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.

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
Horace Engdahl
Nobel permanent secretary
Pinter, widely regarded as the UK's greatest living playwright, is well-known for his left-wing political views.

A critic of US and UK foreign policy, he has voiced opposition on a number of issues including the bombing of Afghanistan in 2001.

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."

His spare style, full of threatening silences, has given rise to the adjective "Pinteresque".

The author of more than 30 plays, Pinter also writes prose.

His screenplays for film and television, include the 1981 movie The French Lieutenant's Woman based on John Fowles' novel.

The Londoner, the son of a Jewish tailor, is also known for campaigning for human rights.

Pinter, who celebrated his 75th birthday this week, was a vocal critic of the policies of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

Harold Pinter
Pinter's plays are filled with obsession, jealousy and hatred

He was diagnosed with cancer in 2002 but still voiced opposition to war on Iraq, joining other artists such as Blur and Ken Loach in sending a letter to Downing Street.

Earlier this year he said he was giving up writing plays to focus on other forms of writing, including his poetry.

"I'm using a lot of energy more specifically about political states of affairs, which I think are very worrying as things stand," he said.

Last year he received the Wilfred Owen award for poetry for a collection of work criticising the war in Iraq.

Early experiences

"We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery and degradation to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East'," he said in a speech in March.

During his youth Pinter experienced anti-Semitism, which he said had been important in his decision to become a dramatist.

He was fined for being a conscientious objector in 1949 after refusing to do National Service.

He began a course at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada) but left after two terms.

After a spell touring Ireland in a repertory company, Pinter made his playwrighting debut in 1957 with The Room.

Harold Pinter in Mojo
Pinter played a gangster in the 1997 film Mojo

Other early successes included The Birthday Party in 1958, The Caretaker in 1959 and The Homecoming in 1964.

His most recent play, Remembrance Of Things Past, was published in 2000, and performed at London's National Theatre.

In winning the Nobel prize, he joins a list of winners including Samuel Beckett, John Steinbeck, Sir Winston Churchill and TS Eliot.

Frenchman Jean-Paul Sartre won the award in 1964 but declined it.

Your comments:

This is great news, despite the Nobel literary prize for once again being given to a writer from the English speaking world. I would have thought Orhan Pamuk would have been a deserved winner too. But I am somehow bewildered that you (the BBC) describe Pinter as "controversial". Surely being controversial, should be one of the requirements for being a playwriter.
Orhan Tsolak, London

This honour for Harold Pinter is long overdue. Pinter has suffered the usual fate of writers and artists in Britain in being characterised by the press as something that will translate for those not interested in art;ie grumpy old man. We should be honouring someone whose voice - in all its meanings - has long been a cultural movement by itself. Congratulations Harold.
Jo Tuffs, Broadstairs Kent

Though undoubtely a worthy recipient. He would not have been awarded it had he approved of the invasion of Iraq.
Peter Bolt, Redditch UK

Finally, a worthy winner with a huge body of work that entered public consciousness decades ago and has continued to make us better and wiser. I suggested a Pinter Pause of silence as a mark of our respect.
Heather Mallick, Toronto, Canada

Harold Pinter's work is impenetrable to almost everyone, although "art critics" do attempt pretentious but untestable analyses of it. He has damaged ordinary people's attempts to embrace modern drama. He is the stereotype of a self-important art-establishment "luvvie" and he would have contributed more as a bus driver.
David Brown, Bristol UK

Bravo! It's time Mr Pinter received the full recognition he has earned.
Sam Blate, Near Washington, DC

An excellent choice. Harold Pinter deserves this prize not only for his writing but his campaigning. Both are intertwined in a life of amazing achievement.
Raymond Rudaizky, London U.K.

I do feel Pinter deserves the prize, despite his political views, not because of them. The brilliance of his earlier work has been obscured by a shrill moralizing tone. How interesting that the Nobel academy would reward a political preaching that negates the unsettling mysteries Pinter seems to have lost his mastery over.
Brian F. Beatty, New York, New York

Now is the Pinter of our discontent made glorious summer... Well done, Harold old man, you may be something of a figure of fun, but now they'll have to take you seriously!
Herbert G., Leeds, UK

A richly deserved honour. Pinter's plays are funny, poetic, enigmatic and tragic all at the same time.
Richard, Brighton, UK

Good to see the master of the pause getting the highest recognition and joining his mentor Beckett.

His plays are murder to read and act - brilliant, absorbing to watch.

Well done HP
Matt Worrall, London, England

A well-deserved award for a great mind of our times.
Theo Balasas, Leicester, UK

Well deserved,
Sylvia Moe, France

Pinters choice seems both good and balanced. He is an outstanding playwright. I cannot but wonder about the BBC article. It is mentioned twice that he apparently has been against the war in Iraq. There is no indication in the motivation from the Swedish academy or elsewhere that this was an in anyway deciding factor. Maybe an edit would be in order.

Simon, Latvia Riga

Champagne is in the fridge. I am so delighted for Harold and what a wonderful birthday present for Thatcher! I'm watching 'Langrishe go down' as a tribute to Harry boy as I do the ironing - with his superb screenplay and his lovely drunken performance. Can't wait for Krapp's last tape - my favourite living author performing my favourite dead one.
Sara Masson, London

Splendid news. A fitting tribute to England's most interesting dramatist for many years. Congratulations!
Rich, London

Jack: So .... [pause]
Jack: So he won then. [pause]
Jill: Yes.
Jack: Yes. [longer pause]
Jack: He waited long enough.
Jill: Yes.
Jack: Yes ... he did. [pause]
Jill: Yes, he certainly waited long enough.
Jack: Words. [pause]
Jill: What?
Jack: Words, in conversion, he was good at that. [pause]
Jill: Yes ... he waited long enough.
Jack: I think... [pause]
Jill: ...and pauses, he was good at that too.
Jack: Yes.
Jill: Yes. [pause]
Jack: Yes. [pause] I think his word/time ratio was the smallest ever heard.
Jill: Yes.
Jack: Yes. [pause]
Jill: Yes, he waited long enough...
Jack: Well done, that's what they say...
Jill: Yes, they do say that...
Jack: Well done, like the toast... [long pause]... How's your cornflakes, then?
... and so on..
John Grady, Wokingham, Berks,UK

Wonderful! Long overdue. Let's have a birthday party.
Dennis Marshall, Crestone, CO USA

I met Harold Pinter in 1988 when he came to the book launch of poems published by my dear companion Michael Wilder. Not only did he attend the party for Toy Town but Mr Pinter was gracious enough to mount the podium and read to the attending throng. It was a milestone moment. His plays resonate throughout the British theatre and beyond. He writes with clarity and an accuracy of observation and as such is a well deserved recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005. Well done, sir!
Anne Ramsey (Bellman) (Sandground), Austin, Texas, USA

He gave permission to a generation to think outside convention
Nick Cation, Sydney Australia

From your story it appears he won the award based on his hatred of the United States rather than on his merits as a writer. If his merits were the basis then he could have won the award years ago; his early successes occurring in the late fifties and his most recent play being published five years ago. Pip! pip!
Chris, Milwaukee

Pinter plays have always reflected modern life - people talking at cross purposes and no-one knowing what the hell is going on.
Ian, Newark, UK

Magnificently well deserved. Bravo!
James Hulbert, Gainesville, FL, USA

More than deserved. There are very few modern playwrights with a record as consistent as Pinter's. The spareness of his work cuts through so much of the dense clamour of our time - his unwavering political and moral beliefs only reinforce this. He did not look well in a Dublin hotel restaurant last weekend - here's hoping the Nobel brings more wry smiles to his face.
DublinBloke, Dublin, Ireland

At last a Nobel Prize for Literature to an outstanding playwright. Well deserved and my heartfelt congratulations to Harold Pnter - a man of exemplary courage and an example to us all on top of his great talent. After the Jelinek debacle last year, at last a Prizewinner worthy of the honour!
Clarissa Henry, Vienna, Austria

Congratulatulations Harold Pinter. Wonderful exciting work. Thank you.
cyril satorsky, Montreal, Canada

Congratulations to Harold Pinter. I also hope it helps brings his admirable political views across to a wider audience. The man talks sense.
Jennifer Murray, Walthamstow London

Prabakar Balasubramanian, Chennai and India

Thoroughly deserved award for an author of so many great works, and a man of such great conscience.

Martin, kent, england

It should have ben Orhan Pamuk, but nonetheless well deserved, but has anyone read any of his books recently?
Sarah Lee, Oxford, UK

Richly deserved. (Pause.)
Paul Randall, Chichester, Sussex

I am thrilled that this man, this writer, whose worked has reached into the oppressive lives that so many live, has received this high honor.

Moreover, in these most distressful times,it is critical that people with strong voices speak out; Pinter has and continues to do this. And those of us who share his (correct!) political views have been affirmed.

The Selection Committe has chosen wisely!

Barbara Bachur, Baltimore, MD USA

I hadn't realized until reading this piece just how much Pinter has written over the years. All of it worthwhile. The Nobel Committee always seeks to award the prize to someone with a long track-record of excellence. Pinter is such a person. Congratulations,
Jan, England

Totally well-deserved. Pinter is right up there with Beckett as one of the most distinctive and powerful voices in theatre of the 20th century. A huge influence on other playwrights.
Tim Rhys, Cardiff

Bravo for Pinter. Bravo for the Nobel committee. It's about time!
Roy Hayes, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Pinter's dramatic impact
10 Oct 05 |  Arts
'Political element' to Pinter prize
13 Oct 05 |  Entertainment
Pinter 'to give up writing plays'
28 Feb 05 |  Entertainment

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