London: Nobel Prize-winning British playwright Harold Pinter, one of theatre’s biggest names for nearly half a century, has died aged 78, his wife Lady Antonia Fraser and agent said on Thursday.
Pinter, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, had been suffering from cancer.
Pinter’s plays included “The Birthday Party”, “The Dumb Waiter” and “The Homecoming”. His first play, “The Room,” appeared in 1957 and his breakthrough came with “The Caretaker” in 1960.
They often featured the slang language of his native east London as well as his trademark menacing pauses. The adjective “Pinteresque”, referring to such characteristics, is included in the Oxford English Dictionary.
Pinter stopped writing plays in 2005 and focused on poetry, alongside forays into acting and screenwriting.
Following treatment for cancer of the oesophagus diagnosed in 2002, he returned to the stage, winning rave reviews for his performance of Beckett’s monologue, “Krapp’s Last Tape”, in London in 2006.
In his final years, he was also a vocal critic of the Iraq war, calling the 2003 US-led invasion a “bandit act” which showed “absolute contempt for the concept of international law”.
Leading figures from the arts world in Britain, as well as admirers from around the globe, rushed to pay tribute to Pinter.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy paid homage to Pinter, hailing him as “a great dramatist and perceptive humanist who was uncompromising and intransigent.”
He said that the Nobel literature prize that was awarded to Pinter in 2005 was “an overdue recognition of his immense work” but also served as a tribute to “his courage and his commitment to fighting all kinds of barbarity”.
In its citation for the Nobel Prize, the academy said Pinter was “generally seen as the foremost representative of British drama in the second half of the 20th century”.
It added that he was an author “who in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression’s closed rooms”.
In Pinter’s Nobel acceptance speech, he launched a lengthy and strong attack on US foreign policy, particularly over the Iraq war.