His terse, rarified style is no doubt the product of early influences, Kafka and Hemmingway read in the wake of the bombing of London, during his childhood in the working class neighborhood of Hackney. Pinter played no part in the war except as a concientious objector, and in 1949 he was fined for refusing national service:
"I could have gone to prison - I took my toothbrush to the trials - but it so happened that the magistrate was slightly sympathetic, so I was fined instead, thirty pounds in all. Perhaps I'll be called up again in the next war, but I won't go." (from Playwrights at Work)
The Independent published some praise from his contemporaries...

"You have no idea how I happy I am that you have won the Nobel Prize for Literature. I think you absolutely deserve it."

Vaclav Havel, playwright and former president of the Czech Republic

"As a writer, Harold has been unswerving for 50 years. With his earliest work he stood alone in British theatre up against the bewilderment and incomprehension of critics, the audience and writers too."

Sir Tom Stoppard, Playwright

...along with his condemnation of the Iraq war:

The great poet Wilfred Owen articulated the tragedy, the horror - and indeed the pity - of war in a way no other poet has. Yet we have learnt nothing. Nearly 100 years after his death the world has become more savage, more brutal, more pitiless.

But the "free world" we are told, as embodied in the United States and Great Britain, is different to the rest of the world since our actions are dictated and sanctioned by a moral authority and a moral passion condoned by someone called God. Some people may find this difficult to comprehend but Osama Bin Laden finds it easy.

What would Wilfred Owen make of the invasion of Iraq? A bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of International Law. An arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public. An act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading - as a last resort (all other justifications having failed to justify themselves) - as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands upon thousands of innocent people.

An independent and totally objective account of the Iraqi civilian dead in the medical magazine The Lancet estimates that the figure approaches 100,000. But neither the US or the UK bother to count the Iraqi dead. As General Tommy Franks of US Central Command memorably said: "We don't do body counts".

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". But, as we all know, we have not been welcomed with the predicted flowers. What we have unleashed is a ferocious and unremitting resistance, mayhem and chaos.

You may say at this point: what about the Iraqi elections? Well, President Bush himself answered this question when he said: "We cannot accept that there can be free democratic elections in a country under foreign military occupation". I had to read that statement twice before I realised that he was talking about Lebanon and Syria.

What do Bush and Blair actually see when they look at themselves in the mirror?

I believe Wilfred Owen would share our contempt, our revulsion, our nausea and our shame at both the language and the actions of the American and British governments.

Adapted by Harold Pinter from a speech he delivered on winning the Wilfred Owen Award earlier this year


David Roknich,
DOGSPOT