Harold Pinter's Nobel lecture

It is one thing to win the Nobel Prize for Literature and quite another to give a Nobel Lecture, having received it, that is itself deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize, but such was Harold Pointer’s brilliant Stockholm speech, which was broadcast Wednesday night.

That the BBC failed to mention it in their news broadcasts makes me wonder how many TV stations round the world did actually mention it, for this was something you would never see broadcast on prime time TV in the USA in a hundred years – it was just too close to the bone for your average repuke.

Pinter commenced his lecture with an analysis of his own artistic genre, about how important it is to ask what is true and what is false in art, and he even cited examples of how his plays come into being. He writes:

“I have often been asked how my plays come about. I cannot say. Nor can I ever sum up my plays, except to say that this is what happened. That is what they said. That is what they did.

“Most of the plays are engendered by a line, a word or an image. The given word is often shortly followed by the image. I shall give two examples of two lines which came right out of the blue into my head, followed by an image, followed by me.

“The plays are The Homecoming and Old Times. The first line of The Homecoming is 'What have you done with the scissors?' The first line of Old Times is 'Dark.' In each case I had no further information.”

His own art covered, Pinter coolly and calmly, with irony, rhetoric and humour tore into US foreign policy. He 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.”


“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 is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, 'the American people', as in the sentence, 'I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.'“It's a scintillating stratagem. 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. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.”

Your appetite whetted? Then go read it on The Guardian’s website!

One of these days, just one of these days, someone is gonna give a Nobel lecture and demand the abolition of the wages system and the establishment of world of free acess to the benefits of civilisation.

No comments: