Harold Pinter, playwright and political activist, died yesterday. Despite the cruelty of his plays, the man who emerged in his interviews wasn’t quite the curmudgeon one would have expected.
“Q: Did anything happen to you early on that changed your life?
Pinter: I don’t know. I don’t know really. How the hell can I say what changed my life or affected my life?
Perhaps all I can tell you is that at the age of thirteen I fell madly in love. I was quite precocious, and I fell in love with a girl who lived on my street. And it wasn’t her fault, but I became very unhappy. I mean, we had a certain kind of relationship, very young. But I think the fact that she was inevitably going to go on to others and wasn’t going to be mine forever . . .
I was writing a lot of poetry to do with precisely that. My father was a tailor, you know. He used to get up very, very early in the morning to go to work. And one day, he came down and found me. This was about six-thirty in the morning, or something like that. And there I was, sitting at the kitchen table, writing, I think I was almost in tears. And he said, “What are you doing?” quite gruff. And I said, “I don’t know, Dad. I don’t know what I’m doing.” He took what I was writing and looked at it. Then he gave it back to me and just patted me on the head and went to work. He never referred to it again. He didn’t say, “Oh, put that rubbish away,” or anything like that. He just knew that I was going through the anguish of love. And I always loved him for that.”
(from an interview with The Progressive)
I’m not very familiar with Mr. Pinter’s work but I love the passage you’ve quoted. It nicely balances the impression I’ve been getting all day from the news reports. To the portrait of him as a brilliant & unsentimental playwright and courageous political activist is added a very human and appealing sweetness.