As Inkwell readers know, your faithful bloggers here tend to shriek every time another Nobel Prize for Anti-Americanism is awarded. Playwright Harold Pinter’s shiny, new Nobel sent me into apoplexy.
Maybe I was wrong. Writing in the Spectator, Rod Liddle suggests that Pinter deserved the Nobel — but probably not for the anti-American blather that in all probability won the laurel. Liddle argues that Pinter, in fact, should have won the Nobel earlier:
“Between 1957 and 1960, he churned out a total of nine quite magnificent plays, including The Birthday Party, The Dumb Waiter and The Caretaker. What an achievement! But back then, the Cold War was getting interesting and therefore the Nobel Prize committee bestowed the 1958 award on Boris Pasternak because they thought it would get up the noses of the Russkies, which indeed it did. Has there ever been a less deserving winner?”
But now it’s not the Russkies the august committee wants to offend — it’s us. Pinter is merely a pawn in this game:
“Pinter has written well since 1960,” Liddle continues, “but never so well. Arguably, his last important play was No Man’s Land, in 1974 — 30 years ago — but they gave him the award now. Is it stretching credulity to suggest that the Nobel people were more impressed by Pinter’s recent, implacable and vociferous denunciations of American foreign policy, as exemplified in that four-line doggerel above? [Sorry, we can’t quote it on a family blog — you’ll have to click on the link.]”
“[Pinter’s] worldwide fame now rests upon his bellowed assaults upon Bush and Blair (with which I am in agreement, most of the time): is this what clinched it for Pinter?”
As you can imagine, I am not in agreement with Pinter’s bellowing. But, really, it doesn’t matter. A Nobel Prize in literature, as Liddle explains, hardly confers a mantle of literary immortality:
“As we’ve seen, the Nobel Prize for Literature is an intensely political business, as a cursory glance down the list of winners will attest. We could pass over those nominations which, by today’s lights, seem a strange lapse in taste and judgment — Galsworthy, for example and maybe Elias Canetti: that’s down to hindsight. But the purely politically inspired awards are less forgivable. By no stretch of the imagination did Sir Winston Churchill deserve the prize in 1953. He deserved our undying gratitude, undoubtedly — but not an award for writing. Fun though History of the English-Speaking Peoples is — 2,000 years of history reduced to battle after battle after battle — its merit lies in its love of the subject and Winnie’s undoubted enthusiasm rather than any analysis. Neruda, Böll and Pasternak were plainly politically inspired decisions, to which we might add the name of Alexander Solzhenitsyn who would never have been given the honour if the committee members had known just how horribly right- wing he really was, underneath that magnificent beard.”