- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 13, 2005

STOCKHOLM — British playwright Harold Pinter, who juxtaposed the brutal and the banal in works such as “The Caretaker” and “The Birthday Party” and made an art form out of sparse language and unbearable silence, won the 2005 Nobel Prize in literature yesterday.

Mr. Pinter “in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression’s closed rooms,” the Swedish Academy said. The chilling, understated style of his work even inspired an adjective all his own: Pinteresque.

“I feel quite overwhelmed,” Mr. Pinter, 75, said outside his London home. “I had absolutely no idea.”

He said he was “speechless” when told he had won, but added: “I have to stop being speechless when I get to Stockholm.”

Starting with his breakthrough play, “The Caretaker,” Mr. Pinter codified a style in the 1950s and ‘60s of verbal evasion and violence, menace both spoken and not. His influence has been felt throughout British literature, and across the ocean in the work of American playwrights Sam Shepard and David Mamet.

“Pinter restored theater to its basic elements: an enclosed space and unpredictable dialogue where people are at the mercy of each other and pretense crumbles,” the academy said.

His other works include “The Room” and “The Dumb Waiter.” One of the most influential British playwrights of his generation, Mr. Pinter in recent years has turned his acerbic eye on the United States and the war in Iraq.

He has been an outspoken critic of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and vehemently opposed Britain’s involvement in the war.

He told the British Broadcasting Corp. in February that he would continue writing poems but was taking a break from plays.

“I have written 29 plays, and I think that’s really enough. I think the world has had enough of my plays,” he said yesterday.

In 2003, Mr. Pinter published a volume of anti-war poetry about the Iraq conflict, and last year he joined a group of celebrity campaigners calling for Mr. Blair to be impeached.

Mr. Pinter also has written screenplays, including “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” in 1981 from the John Fowles novel, as well as “The Accident,” “The Servant” and “The Go-Between.” The last Briton to win the literature award was V.S. Naipaul in 2001.

The son of a Jewish dressmaker, Mr. Pinter was born in London on Oct. 10, 1930. Mr. Pinter has said his encounters with anti-Semitism in his youth influenced him in becoming a dramatist. The wartime bombing of London also affected him deeply, the academy said.

The academy’s announcement came on Yom Kippur, Judaism’s most important holiday.

The academy, founded in 1786 by King Gustav III to advance the Swedish language and its literature, has handed out the literature prize since 1901. To date, 102 men and women have received the prize, including France’s Jean-Paul Sartre, who declined the 1964 prize

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