'Cantankerous' Pinter letter up for auction

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The Independent Online

A letter from playwright Harold Pinter to school pupils which exposes his "cantankerous" nature along with a first edition play are expected to fetch up to £300 at auction today.

Pinter answers 10 questions posed by pupils in form 5A about his play The Caretaker in the signed letter dated November 4, 1966.

His sarcastic responses include: "His name is assumed because he assumed it... The two brothers see little of each other because they rarely meet... When he goes out to walk, he walks... The monk swears at Davies because he doesn't like him... The shed is a shed.".

Signing off to their teacher, Master Seaman, Pinter wrote: "I assure you that these answers to your questions are not intended to be funny. My best wishes to you all."

Dominic Winter auctioneers said the "crabby" tone of the letter gives a rare insight into the playwright's "cantankerous nature".

It will go under the hammer in South Cerney, near Cirencester in Gloucestershire, alongside a first edition copy of The Caretaker with an estimate of £300.

The play was first performed on stage at the Arts Theatre, London, on April 27, 1960. It was his sixth play and his first significant commercial success.

Chris Albury, an ephemera specialist at the auctioneers, said: "It's wonderfully evocative of the character of Pinter we all like to think we know.

"I can't imagine Shakespeare ever spoke in iambic pentameters or spoke anything like as beautifully as he made his characters speak.

"Here, I don't think there could be any doubt that the author of this letter was any other than Pinter himself.

"The word 'Pinteresque' has entered our language and that is the perfect word for this revealing letter. Except you would have to insert your own pauses."