- The Nobel prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter has
called for Tony Blair to be tried for war crimes, in his acceptance speech
to the Nobel committee.
- The 5,000-word speech excoriates the US government over
Guantánamo Bay and its attempts to destabilise Nicaragua in the
- But he saves his most savage comments for the UK, described
as "pathetic and supine" and a "bleating little lamb"
tagging along behind the US in its support for the Iraq war.
- "The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of
blatant state terrorism demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept
of international law," he said.
- "The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired
by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore
of the public ... a formidable assertion of military force responsible
for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.
- "We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted
uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death
to the Iraqi people, and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the
- The 75-year-old will not be attending Saturday's award
ceremony at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm because of poor health. He
will be sending his publisher, Stephen Page, in his place to receive the
10m kroner prize.
- But the author of The Caretaker and The Birthday Party
has recorded a video of himself reading the speech, looking frail in a
wheelchair with a red blanket over his legs.
- In recent years he has been treated for cancer, and appeared
with a bandaged head earlier this year when it was announced that he had
been awarded the prize.
- One of the original "angry young men" who revolutionised
British theatre in the 1950s, he has lost none of his fury in the speech.
- "How many people do you have to kill before you
qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred
thousand? More than enough, I would have thought," he said.
- "Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned
before the international criminal court of justice. But Bush has been clever.
He has not ratified the international criminal court of justice ...
- "But Tony Blair has ratified the court and is therefore
available for prosecution. We can let the court have his address if they're
interested: it is Number 10, Downing Street, London."
- He also discusses his early plays, the creative process,
and the ambiguity of language.
- Beginning with a 1958 quote in which he claims that "a
thing is not necessarily either true or false", he says that sometimes
a writer has to escape questions about the uncertainty of truth and stand
up for what they think is right.
- "I believe that these assertions still make sense
and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art
- "So as a writer I stand by them, but as a citizen
I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: what is true, what is false?"
- Playwright Takes A Prize And A Jab At US
- By Sarah Hall
- NY Times
- LONDON - The playwright Harold
Pinter turned his Nobel Prize acceptance speech on Wednesday into a furious
howl of outrage against American foreign policy, saying that the United
States had not only lied to justify waging war against Iraq but had also
"supported and in many cases engendered every right-wing military
dictatorship" in the last 50 years.
- "The crimes of the United States have been systematic,
constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked
about them," Mr. Pinter said. "You have to hand it to America.
It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while
masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty,
highly successful act of hypnosis."
- Sitting in a wheelchair, his lap covered by a blanket,
his voice hoarse but unwavering, Mr. Pinter, 75, delivered his speech via
a video recording that was played on Wednesday at the Swedish Academy in
Stockholm. Doctors told him several years ago that he had cancer of the
esophagus and recently ordered him not to travel to Stockholm for the speech,
his publisher said.
- The playwright, known in recent years as much for his
fiery anti-Americanism as for his spare prose style and haunting, elliptical
plays like "The Caretaker" and "The Homecoming," was
awarded the $1.3 million Nobel literature prize in October. In its citation,
the Swedish Academy made little mention of his political views, saying
only that he is known as a "fighter for human rights" whose stands
are often "seen as controversial." It mostly focused on his work,
saying that Mr. Pinter "uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle
and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms."
- The literature prize has in recent years often gone to
writers with left-wing ideologies. These include the European writers José
Saramago of Portugal, Günter Grass of Germany and Dario Fo of Italy.
- When he won the award, Mr. Pinter said he did not know
if the academy, whose deliberations and reasoning are kept secret, had
taken his politics into account. He clearly welcomed the platform the award
gave him to bring his views, long expressed in Britain, to a larger audience.
- Dressed in black, bristling with controlled fury, Mr.
Pinter began by explaining the almost unconscious process he uses to write
his plays. They start with an image, a word, a phrase, he said; the characters
soon become "people with will and an individual sensibility of their
own, made out of component parts you are unable to change, manipulate or
- "So language in art remains a highly ambiguous transaction,"
he continued, "a quicksand, a trampoline, a frozen pool which might
give way under you, the author, at any time."
- But while drama represents "the search for truth,"
Mr. Pinter said, politics works against truth, surrounding citizens with
"a vast tapestry of lies" spun by politicians eager to cling
- Mr. Pinter attacked American foreign policy since World
War II, saying that while the crimes of the Soviet Union had been well
documented, those of the United States had not. "I put to you that
the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road,"
he said. "Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be, but
it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most
saleable commodity is self-love."
- He returned to the theme of language as an obscurer of
reality, saying that American leaders use it to anesthetize the public.
"It's a scintillating stratagem," Mr. Pinter said. "Language
is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words 'the American people'
provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think.
Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence
and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable."
- Accusing the United States of torturing terrorist suspects
in Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, Mr. Pinter called the invasion
of Iraq - for which he said Britain was also responsible - "a bandit
act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt
for the concept of international law." He called for Prime Minister
Tony Blair to be tried before an international criminal court.
- Mr. Pinter said it was the duty of the writer to hold
an image up to scrutiny, and the duty of citizens "to define the real
truth of our lives and our societies."
- "If such a determination is not embodied in our
political vision, we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to
us - the dignity of man," he said.