Harold Pinter

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Aug 28 06:46:12 MDT 2002

The Guardian, Wednesday August 28, 2002

On cancer, war and cricket

In his first interview since undergoing surgery for cancer, Harold Pinter
talks to Ramona Koval about nearly dying and reveals a new poem

Ramona Koval: Your poem, Cancer Cells, was published in the Guardian in
March. It was really a call to arms against your tumour wasn't it?

Harold Pinter: Yes, I wrote the poem when I was having chemotherapy and in
chemotherapy you sit there and a nurse just puts the thing into your arm -
the chemo - and this particular nurse said: "Cancer cells are those which
have fogotten how to die." I was so very struck by this statement that I
went away and wrote that poem.


RK: When people go through the experience that you've had, they often think
about time and urgency and priorities and even with your famed energy have
you found that there is some kind of work that you want to do more than
other kinds of work, politics more than writing or...?

HP: I think the main bearing on my life at the moment is simply to survive,
to remain here. That's been my main concern. And that comes down to very
simple facts, I mean, how you use your energy, as your energy grows very
gradually, how you actually dispose of it, and also one's diet and so on.
My wife keeps a very close eye on that. So really, that's actually my main
concern. I have written one poem, by the way. The words on the page, I
still love doing that as I have for the past 60 years. That excitement
remained when I looked at the page. Suddenly I started to write a very
short piece of work but a short piece of work means as much to me as a long
piece of work. So I don't know how... I hope that next year will be fuller
and better because I am feeling stronger.

RK: Do you think you are changing through this experience? Do you think the
essential Harold Pinter has changed?

HP: I am more conscious of death. Also, for many, many years I have been
very politically engaged and quite passionately so. Now I am no less
passionately engaged. Nevertheless, I think I have come out of this
experience with a more detached point of view. I find I'm seeing the world
more objectively rather than being... well, I am part of it but I'm also
outside it and I can be a witness to various things which still are as
important as ever, but a witness rather than being right in the maelstrom.

RK: You spoke before about the joy you had in writing that latest poem.
Language has been your passion during all your life, and relating the idea
of war and people's words in war, and I know that the abuse of language and
meaning is something that has incensed you over the years - phrases like
"humanitarian intervention" and "civilised world" and "axis of evil" over
the last year and the one that we've all just begun to hear recently, and
that's "regime change".

HP: My favourite of them all is "freedom-loving people". When I hear Bush
say that "on behalf of all freedom-loving people we are going to continue
to fight terrorism" and so on, I wonder what a "freedom-hating people" look
like, I've never met such a people myself or can't even conceive of it. In
other words, he is talking rubbish. That is the kind of rhetoric which you
are referring to, which is commonplace really in what we call the western
world. I think that when you look at a man like our prime minister - who I
gather is a very sincere and serious Christian - he, we understand at the
moment, is considering another bombing of Iraq, which would be an act of
premeditated murder because if you bomb Iraq, you're not just going to kill
Saddam Hussein. In fact, you won't do that anyway; he has his resources.

What you will do, as usual, is kill thousands of totally innocent people.
How Tony Blair can work that one out morally himself is actually beyond me.
I just wish he would decide if he was a Christian or he wasn't a Christian.
If you say, "I'm going to bomb these damn people and I don't give a shit",
then you bomb them, but that's not a Christian attitude as far as I'm


Louis Proyect

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