Harold Pinter and the current moment
I am a fan of Harold Pinter’s late, political plays; yes, those plays, the ones that a lot of critics think are “unsubtle” for their forthright depiction of political violence, the boot smashing the face, the murder and rape, etc. I also am a fan of his famously unsubtle 2005 Nobel Prize speech “Art, Truth and Politics.” where he calls out damn near the whole world for ignoring political violence. I’m on record with my students as saying that Pinter is the best playwright of the 20th century – yes, better even than Beckett, because he’s Beckett with velocity, directionality; because he really understands power, and that power was the theme of the 20th century; like, someday I’ll get around to existential dread, but mainly my dread would be greatly allievated if you would stop menacing and threatening me; yes, fine, Pinter is the Pozzo and Lucky bits of Godot only, but for me, less is more in that it understands how terrifying that whip hand is. Anyway, I just went to London to see the first two stagings of Pinter at The Pinter, and the first group of plays, Pinter One, was the political stuff: One for the Road, New World Order, Mountain Language, Ashes to Ashes, etc. Absolutely fantastic and brutal–but here’s the thing, as I try to survive this week’s current events, which include this horrifying murder of Jamal Khashoggi after his torture, which included cutting off his fingers with a bone saw before cutting off his head, etc., all I can think of is “how unsubtle.” And how true. What a great writer Harold Pinter was. He tried to tell us, but we’re still not listening.