Harold Pinter, master of realism, dies aged 78

The Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter has died, his second wife confirmed today.

Pinter, 78, who had been suffering from cancer, died yesterday on Christmas Eve.

Lady Antonia Fraser, said: "He was a great, and it was a privilege to live with him for over 33 years. He will never be forgotten."



Pinter was due to pick up an honorary degree earlier this month from the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.

But the east London-born playwright, director, actor, poet and political activist was forced to withdraw from the event due to illness.

During his lifetime he was widely accepted as one of the world's greatest playwrights.

Pinter shot to fame with works including The Birthday Party and Betrayal.

Pinter was well-known for his left-wing political views and was a vociferous critic of US and UK foreign policy, voicing opposition on a number of issues including the bombing of Afghanistan in 2001.



BBC Creative Director Alan Yentob told BBC News: "He was a unique figure in British theatre. He has dominated the theatre scene since the 1950s."

Also speaking to the BBC, Sunday Telegraph theatre critic Tim Walker said: "This was a man who had plays with long silences, where characters did not always go anywhere - very much like real life.

"He brought a realism to the business."



Michael Billington, Pinter's friend and biographer, said the writer was a great man as well as a great playwright.

He told Sky News he would remember Pinter "above all as a man of generosity".

Billington said: "Harold was a political figure, a polemicist and carried on fierce battles against American foreign policy and often British foreign policy, but in private he was the most incredibly loyal of friends and generous of human beings."

He added: "He was unstinting in his loyalty to the people with whom he got on and whom he communicated.

"He was a great man as well actually as a great playwright."



Pinter was born in Hackney in 1930, the only son of immigrant Jews.

His childhood was interrupted by the outbreak of the war in 1939 when he was evacuated from his Hackney home to rural Cornwall.

He was 14 before he returned to the capital, by which point he had developed a love of the works of Franz Kafka and Ernest Hemingway.

As a young man he appeared in several school productions at Hackney Downs Grammar and later accepted a grant to study at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.

In 1949 he was fined by magistrates for refusing to complete his National Service.

Pinter was a politically conscious man who turned down John Major's offer of a knighthood and hit out at Tony Blair when Nato bombed Serbia.

He labelled the invasion of Iraq as "a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the conception of international law".

In the mid-1950s he began to write for the stage and The Room was published in 1957.

A year later his first full length play, The Birthday Party, was produced in the West End but closed after just one week to disastrous reviews.

It was his second full-length play, The Caretaker (1960) with which Pinter secured his reputation as one of the country's foremost dramatists and playwrights.

He won many awards for his plays, the greatest of which was the Nobel Prize for Literature on October 13, 2005.



Veteran politician Tony Benn said Pinter would be greatly missed.

The former Labour MP said: "Harold Pinter was a great playwright and a great figure on the political scene.

"His death will leave a huge gap that will be felt by the whole political spectrum."

Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before