I just heard, on this Christmas morning, that Harold Pinter died in London yesterday. I first encountered his work when, on a trip to London in the early Seventies, my wife and I saw his play "No Man's Land" performed by Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud. Apart from having the great opportunity to watch two of the foremost actors in the world working together on stage, I was hugely taken by the play itself, this extraordinary exploration of time and memory. When we returned to NY, I asked the father of one of my students, who was at that time Pinter's publisher, for a copy of the play. Reading it, and rereading it several times, I found it, and still find it, to be one of the great works for the stage of the last century.
A year later I offered a course on Modern British Dramatists, and among works by other writers, taught "The Caretaker", "The Homecoming" and "No Man's Land". Though my students, of high school age, didn't thoroughly grasp the themes or the subtleties, they were as taken with the humor and the study of power as I was when I first saw and read these works.
I then began to read Pinter's first film adaptations, which, as a screenwriter, I still return to more often than I do some of the more classic film scripts. For me he was the foremost adaptor of literary works, tackling such seemingly-impossible tasks as turning John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman, Robin Maugham's The Servant, Moseley's Accident, L.P. Hartley's superb The Go-Between, and, at his top of his game (as a keen cricketer Printer always appreciated any such praise), Proust's In Search of Lost Time. All of these show a thorough respect for and knowledge of not only the original work, but also a deep appreciation of the poetry of the novel in question. Whenever I consider adapting a work, whether my own or another's, it's Pinter I go to first for seeing how it's properly done.
Though I agreed with his politics for the most part, and though I felt his political poems were not much more than the verbal result of much deserved pent-up anger, I admire his courage in speaking out against any regimes of intolerance, whether American or otherwise.
His work will live on, certainly, and his life as celebrated as his passing will be mourned.
Causes J.P. Smith Supports