[Marxism] WSJ/Christopher Hitchens assault on Harold Pinter

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sun Oct 30 05:28:24 MST 2005

This is a precursor to the assault on Pinter in today's Sunday
Magazine section of the New York Slimes. You can easily see the
wild raging hysteria which guides this former ex-leftist who's
now gone over to the right, hook, line and stinker.

About the politics of Harold Pinter, check his site:

Two responses by John Pilger to other attacks on Harold Pinter:

The Sinister Mediocrity of Harold Pinter
October 17, 2005; Page A18

Harold Pinter's early writing for the stage was correctly described
-- with no objection from him -- as "the theater of the absurd." But
it has been left to the selectors of the Nobel in literature to make
that definition postmodern and thus to drain it of all irony. Their
choice of Mr. Pinter is a selection of absurdity quite detached from
drama: a straight and philistine preference for the grotesque. "I
have no idea why they gave me the award," said the playwright when
the news was brought to him. This justified incredulity showed a
brief flash of his old form.

But in point of fact, any thinking person knows precisely why he was
this year's Laureate at a moment when a person of even average
literacy might have lit upon Rushdie, Roth or Pamuk. Just as with the
selection of Jimmy Carter for the "Peace" Prize, where the judges
chose to emphasize the embarrassment they hoped thereby to visit on
the Bush administration, the ludicrous elevation of a third-rate and
effectively former dramatist is driven by pseudo-intellectual
European hostility to the change of regime in Iraq.

Mr. Pinter's work, according to the clumsily-phrased Nobel citation,
"uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into
oppression's closed rooms." Let us agree that his early plays -- he
has not produced anything worth noticing since the 1960s -- do indeed
show an uneasy relationship between the banal and the evil. But let
me offer you a stave from a poem he wrote in January 2003, titled
"God Bless America": "Here they go again,/ The Yanks in their armored
parade/ Chanting their ballads of joy/ As they gallop across the big
world/ Praising America's God."

This, and other verses like it, were awarded the Wilfred Owen prize
by a group of English judges. When re-reading Owen on "the pity of
war," I invariably find that it is difficult to do so without tears.
When scanning Mr. Pinter on the same subject, I cannot get to the end
without the temptation either to laugh out loud or to throw up. The
sheer puerility of the stuff is precisely a combination of banality
with evil: a preference for dictatorship larded with obscenity and
fatuity. (And scrawled, I might add, by a man who helped found the
International Committee for the Defense of Slobodan Milosevic.) One
has had more enlightenment, and been exposed to more wit, from the
walls of public lavatories, such as those featured so morbidly in
Pinter's early effort "The Caretaker."

The Nobel committee allowed Borges and Nabokov to go to their graves
unrecognized, while choosing writers who it is difficult to remember
without wincing. Last year's selection, of a mediocre Austrian
Stalinist named Elfriede Jellinek, caused a few winces even in
Stockholm. And Dario Fo? What can one possibly say -- except that the
theater of the absurd is apparently always on the road. Jose Saramago
can certainly write -- just as Frau Jellinek can certainly not -- but
one is compelled to suspect that without his staunch post-1989
membership of the unusually degenerated Portuguese Communist Party he
would not have been considered. As with the Peace Prize, the award of
the laureateship for literature has come to approximate the value of
a resolution of the U.N. Special Committee on Human Rights. The
occasional exceptions -- I would want to instance Sir Vidia Naipaul
in spite of his own toxic political views -- only throw the general
sinister mediocrity into sharper relief.

And sinister mediocrity has become Mr. Pinter's stock-in-trade. Is it
really believable that a conclave of righteous Scandinavians should
have honored a man who said, in loud terms, that the mass murder in
New York in September 2001 was a justified "retaliation"? A man who
described the genocidal war-criminal Milosevic as the true leader of
the "Yugoslavia" he had subverted and cleansed and destroyed? A man
who said that George Bush and Tony Blair were "terrorists," while
Saddam Hussein was not?

Even in his increasingly lame and slovenly literary output, Mr.
Pinter always married politicization to illiteracy. His useless play
"Mountain Language," extruded about a dozen years ago, drew attention
to the plight of the Kurdish people but lost interest in them as soon
as the subject crossed the border of the NATO alliance: Turkish Kurds
were fine but Mr. Pinter would fight like a madman against any
attempt to liberate their brothers and sisters in Iraq. Mildly
rebuked by the American ambassador in London for "calling the U.S.
administration a blood-thirsty wild animal" (I quote from Mr.
Pinter's own narrative here) he replied: "All I can say is: Take a
look at Donald Rumsfeld's face and the case is made." All he can say?
Alas, yes. I have my own differences with the secretary of defense
but this rhetoric is pathetic and nasty at the same time.

A luxurious literary/political salon, established by Mr. Pinter and
his noble wife Lady Antonia Fraser to protest the Gulag-like
character of the Thatcher regime, is often said to have dissolved
because of unkind media ridicule. To the contrary: I know many people
who used to attend that "salon," and I can tell you that it dissolved
because of the irrational rages and hysterical harangues of its host,
now garlanded for his services to the high calling of letters.

* * *

Is this depressing? I happen not to think so. The Nobel judges have
again given their approval to a writer of doggerel; a very poor man's
Beckett, a man most celebrated for the long silences that punctuated
his stage "dialogue," who would have no reputation of any kind if it
were not for the slightly unbelievable character of his public
statements. Let us hope, then, that the day when the Nobel Prize is a
local and provincial event has been brought closer. Especially in
their opinions about peace and literature -- two matters that ought
to concern all serious people -- the judges have brought absurdity
upon themselves. Let us withdraw our assent from their fool's-gold
standard, and see what happens. Let us also hope for a long silence
to descend upon the thuggish bigmouth who has strutted and fretted
his hour upon the stage for far too long.

Mr. Hitchens, a columnist for Vanity Fair, is the author of "Thomas
Jefferson: Author of America" (Eminent Lives, 2005).

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