Harold Pinter

"Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us?"
Lawrence Durrell

Harold Pinter’s plays are questions. What does this mean? Does it mean anything? There is a sense of incompleteness about his plays. And that is why you remember them and continue to ruminate about them. Not long before his death yesterday, he had written to his wife:

(To A)
I shall miss you so much when I’m dead
The loveliest of smiles
The softness of your body in our bed

My everlasting bride
Remember that when I am dead
You are forever alive in my heart and my head

Last year I read a slim volume, Mel Gussow Conversations with Pinter, that reprints a series of lengthy interviews he had with Mel Gussow, drama critic for the New York Times. I made note of a number of passages in which together they talk about his life and work. Their exchanges provide a glimpse of the sources for the ambiguity and questioning that characterizes his plays.

…the mistiness of the past

There are some things one remembers even though they may never have happened.

It would be marvelous to find that I was someone else.

You’re trapped with yourself all your damned life. I just get bored with myself and have enough of myself so often.

What the hell is there to say?

…a man of my age and temperament and disposition is slightly out of kilter with the needs of the time.

The things on television which we took for granted for so many years—the drama, the serious discussions, religious programmes, debates, documentaries—if you come back in ten years’ time, it will be over. It will just be various degrees of rubbish.

The actual facts simply do not correspond to the language used about those facts.

The image of a fellow of his age, middle twenties, just not wanting to get out of bed, I think is something we know quite a lot about.

Whatever I’m writing about, it’s a celebration. What you’re celebrating is the ability to write. There’s an excitement about it that certainly transcends whatever you might have been doing five minutes before. It takes you way out into another country.

…a society in a very surreptitious and appalling way is grinding you into the dust.

The theatre was my world. It was the only world I was happy in.

I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t know how to go anywhere. I couldn’t continue to write plays about people who had been asleep for 29 years, although I’m sure a lot of other people have been asleep for 29 years. I felt obliged to investigate other territory, and I didn’t know how to do it.

How many thousands of premarital counseling groups that meet annually in North America use fiction as part of the process? Few or none, I’d be willing to bet. Yet what could be a more obvious source of case history, of example, and warning than stories of marriage?

Experience shows that fiction and poetry are very effective in permitting disclosure, the sharing of feelings and experiences that are otherwise very difficult to voice in a group.