Immediately below John notes the award of this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature to Harold Pinter. I first came across Pinter in an anthology devoted to the theater of the absurd 40 years ago. Even then, I got the “absurd” part of Pinter’s work; it was the “theater” part I had a hard time with.
In a column for the Daily Standard this afternoon, Stephen Schwartz notes that Pinter has produced no significant work for the stage in 40 years. He has, however, turned his talents, such as they are, to anti-American agitprop. In January 2003 he delivered one of the works that must especially have commended him to the attention of the Nobel committee. It’s titled with a light touch of irony “God Bless America!”
Here they go again,
The Yanks in their armoured parade
Chanting their ballads of joy
As they gallop across the big world
Praising America’s God.
The gutters are clogged with the dead
The ones who couldn’t join in
The others refusing to sing
The ones who are losing their voice
The ones who’ve forgotten the tune.
The riders have whips which cut.
Your head rolls onto the sand
Your head is a pool in the dirt
Your head is a stain in the dust
Your eyes have gone out and your nose
Sniffs only the pong of the dead
And all the dead air is alive
With the smell of America’s God.
J. Bottum performed an autopsy on the poem for the Standard here. “Sniffs only the pong of the dead” is not the kind of line that will add luster to the Nobel Prize any time soon, but the Nobel committee obviously has bigger fish to fry.
This year’s literature award in fact seems the perfect analogue to this year’s peace prize award to the IAEA and its director general Mohammed ElBaredei. Pinter is to literature what ElBaredei is to nuclear non-proliferation. Paul aptly titled his post on that award “Keep not doing what you’re not doing.”
UPDATE: Rick Moran writes to dissent:
I must respectfully disagree.
Yes Pinter hasn’t written anything worthwhile in decades and yes is is a raving moonbat. But his contributions to the English language theater have been monumental. And your opposition begs the question in this case; does the politics of a particular artist mean that his work is any less brilliant?
Over at Rightwing Nuthouse Rick makes the case for Pinter: “In defense of Harold Pinter’s work.” In his post, Rick refers in passing to John Updike as a loony lefty whose politics nevertheless should not preclude him from receiving the award. But Updike is a writer who in my view is so far superior to Pinter as to make this award a joke on that ground alone. In the eyes of the Nobel committee, it is obviously Pinter’s disgusting politics that qualified him for the award. Updike is simply too dedicated to his craft to serve the Nobel committee’s purposes.
JOHN responds: I think it should be obvious that our point wasn’t that Pinter and others should be denied the Nobel Prize on account of their poltics. Rather, our point was that the prize committee awards prizes to authors precisely because of their politics: last year, to a virtual nonentity, and this year, to a writer who has produced nothing notbale, other than laughably bad political writing, for decades. The common thread is far-out left-wing political activity.