Wednesday, December 07, 2005

'Art, Truth & Politics"

By Harold Pinter
Awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature

Harold Pinter was recently awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature, the highest honour available to any writer in the world. In announcing the award, Horace Engdahl, Chairman of the Swedish Academy, said that Pinter was an artist "who in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms." As a long time student of both poetry and theatre, I have admired Pinter's work enormously -- his messages, as well as his words and images.

On December 7, Pinter delivered his Nobel speech in Stockholm. Excerpts follow:

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. A thing is 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?"

"The 2,000 American dead are an embarrassment. They are transported to their graves in the dark. Funerals are unobtrusive, out of harm's way. The mutilated rot in their beds, some for the rest of their lives. So the dead and the mutilated both rot, in different kinds of graves...."

See the complete video and text of Pinter's speech here: Harold Pinter: Nobel Lecture

Pinter was also awarded the Wilfred Owen prize for poetry opposing Iraq conflict, named after the man acknowledged as the most influential war poet in English.

Michael Grayer, the association's chairman, says the honour is partly in recognition of Pinter's lifelong contribution to literature, “and specifically for his collection of poetry entitled WAR, published in 2003”.

The book consists of a speech, seven poems written immediately before last year's Iraq war, and one poem on the 1991 Gulf war.

“As one might expect, all are hard-hitting and uncompromising, written with lucidity, clarity and economy,” Mr Grayer says. “The speech was widely reported in the press, and played a considerable part in galvanising public opposition to the war.”

The most quoted poem – and most vilified by the American right – on Iraq is God Bless America: “Here they go again/ The Yanks in their armoured parade/ Chanting their ballads of joy/ As they gallop across the big world/ Praising America's God. The gutters are clogged with the dead.”

Beneath its announcement on Pinter, the newsletter quotes from a New York Times article which says: “The Bush administration has been loudly attacking the news media for misreporting the conflict.

“Owen would counter – in vivid, gripping images – that it is the White House which is dangerously distorting reality.”

By John Ezard

Visions of War:

Wilfred Owen on war

In all my dreams, before my
helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering,
choking, drowning ...
If you could hear, at every jolt,
the blood
Come gargling from the froth
-corrupted lungs,
Obsecene as cancer, bitter as
the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on
innocent tongue, -
My friend, you would not tell
with such high zest
To children ardent for some
desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Dulce et Decorum Est on the effects
of mustard gas

Harold Pinter on war

There are no more words to be said
All we have left are the bombs
Which burst out of our head
All that is left are the bombs
Which suck out the last of our blood
All we have left are the bombs
Which polish the skulls of the dead

The Bombs

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