Nobel Laureate Pinter Lashes Out at U.S. Policy

Harold Pinter delivers his Nobel lecture, Dec. 7, 2005.

Harold Pinter delivers his Nobel lecture, Dec. 7, 2005. © Copyright Illuminations 2005 hide caption

itoggle caption © Copyright Illuminations 2005

In his Nobel Prize speech Wednesday, British playwright Harold Pinter delivered a scathing critique of U.S. and British foreign policy. Some reviews of his speech praised it for its dramatic force, while others derided it as childish and uninformed. We hear two excerpts from that speech.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Tomorrow in Stockholm, British playwright Harold Pinter will be formally awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Pinter will not be there to pick up his award in person. Doctors have advised the 75-year-old not to travel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Still, physical infirmity didn't stop Pinter from creating a stir this week. The occasion was the lecture a prize winner gives to the Swedish academy. Pinter delivered his remarks by videotape. Sitting in a wheelchair, his lap covered by a blanket, he began...

Mr. HAROLD PINTER (Nobel Laureate): In 1958, I wrote the following: There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. I think it's not necessarily either true or false. It can be both true and false. 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.

SIEGEL: Citizen Pinter has long been a critic of the Iraq War in particular and American foreign policy in general, so it is perhaps not surprising that he devoted most of his speech to a ringing denunciation of both.

NORRIS: In the most headline-grabbing moment, Pinter argued that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair should be tried as war criminals, and he compared the policies of the US government to a kind of theatrical performance.

Mr. PINTER: You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite critical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis. I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road: brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be; but it's also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own, and its most salable commodity is self-love. It's a winner.

NORRIS: Playwright Harold Pinter, author of plays including "The Homecoming" and "The Birthday Party." He'll receive his award tomorrow.

SIEGEL: Incidentally, reviews of his speech were mixed. London's Guardian newspaper said it was `full of black humor, solid acting and appropriately Pinteresque pauses.' Other reviews were less kind; one was headlined simply Pinter: Good Playwright, Bad Politician.

NORRIS: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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