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Tuesday, 1 June, 1999, 13:07 GMT 14:07 UK
Harold Pinter takes on Nato
One of the UK's most important playwrights, Harold Pinter has challenged audiences around the world since his play The Birthday Party first hit London in 1958. He has become increasingly outspoken about the issues of the day and now talks to BBC HARDtalk about his current concerns over the Kosovo crisis.

"This Nato action is not only illegal, immoral, and also crazy and infantile, it will achieve absolutely nothing," says Harold Pinter.

The playwright, who describes himself as "a bit of an old warrior", has been speaking out on human rights issues since the overthrow of Chile's President Allende back in the 1970s, and how he is standing his ground over the crisis in the Balkans.

Angry at Nato's intervention, Pinter claims "the plight of the Kosovo people is irrelevant to the US and the UK".

Instead he says the two nations are more interested in "domination and assertion of power", and are pursuing a course which will "only agravate the misery and the horror and devastate the country".

Such outspoken views have seen Pinter attacked by the British press, but he remains determined to have his say.

"I live in a very hostile press world because I speak my mind," he says. "The tradition for artists in Britain is to shut up and write."

But Pinter feels that as British citizen he has an "obligation" to speak out about the bombing, "Not as an artist, but as a man," he adds.

Born in London's East End on 10 October 1930, Harold Pinter was educated at Hackney Downs Grammar School and went on to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

Elia Kazan
Pinter wrote the screenplay for Elia Kazan's The Last Tycoon (1974)
In the late 1940s Pinter was put on trial as a conscientious objector, and later worked a as an actor for BBC Radio and in repertory theatre.

He began to write for the stage under the pseudonym David Baron and at the age of 27, his first full-length play, The Birthday Party, was produced in London.

But early audiences and critics were confused by Pinter's radical, new and complex style and with less than encouraging reviews, the play was forced to close within the week.

"It was quite a blow" says Pinter of the discouraging reception his first work received. "I thought of giving the whole thing up."

But he persisted and after his second full-length play, The Caretaker, the critics began to praise him as a major modern talent.

Pinter is now understandably lukewarm about the role of critics in the arts.

"I find critics on the whole a pretty uneccesary bunch of people", he says, "We don't need critics to tell the audiences what to think."

But Pinter's highly individual style has been debated, studied and analysed the world over and as one of the century's most influential playwrights, Harold Pinter is just as ready to take some flak himself .

"I have to accept it," he says. "It's a rather odd position to have your work analysed, it's not particularly gratifying. In fact it's rather bewildering in a way."


You can watch the HARDtalk interview in full on Tuesday 1 June on BBC World at 1530 and 1930 GMT (1630 and 2030 BST) and in the UK on BBC News 24 at 2030 and 0330 BST.

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Harold Pinter: Nato action will "devastate the country"
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Harold Pinter: "I thought of giving the whole thing up"
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Harold Pinter: "I find critics a pretty uneccesary bunch of people"
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