The Nobel goes to Harold Pinter

October 13, 2005 | 3 books mentioned 2 min read

It’s been a busy week on the awards circuit. What seemed like a relatively calm Booker season grew divisive after the winner was announced: “The worst, certainly the most perverse, and perhaps the most indefensible choice in the 36-year history of the contest,” said former Booker judge Boyd Tonkin of this year’s choice, John Banville’s The Sea, and then the Irish press called the British press “bitchy” (reg. req.) in response. The National Book Awards, meanwhile, will likely involve less controversy than last year thanks to a more diverse mix of finalists. And the less said about the Quills, the better.

But it has been the Nobel Prize for Literature, usually a civilized affair, that has been grabbing headlines this year. First, it came to light that the award was being delayed a week as the judges fought over the politics of a potential Laureate, the Turkish author Orhan Pamuk. Then, a day before the announcement, former judge Knut Ahnlund denounced last year’s Nobel winner Elfriede Jelinek, whose writing he called “whingeing, unenjoyable, violent pornography.” But now we have a new Laureate, and he seems less likely to incite controversy, the British playwright, Harold Pinter, whose name, as the LA Times puts it, “has become a synonym for a unique space in the universe of drama.” Pinter is the first British Laureate since V.S. Naipaul in 2001, and he is, as far as I can tell, the first playwright to win the Nobel since Eugene O’Neill in 1936. For those wanting to get their hands on Pinter’s body of work, try his Complete Works: One and Two

Update: So, from Richard and Jenny in the comments, it seems as though Dario Fo and Wole Soyinka are more recently lauded playwrights than O’Neill, and possibly there are others depending on how you classify them.

created The Millions and is its publisher. He and his family live in New Jersey.

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