Strategies for building awareness for the potential of peace education in Cameroon Ben Oru Mforndip
Special Report
Has Democracy Enhanced Development in Africa? Conrad John Masabo
Permanent Emergency Powers in France: The ‘Law to Strengthen Internal Security and the Fight Against Terrorism’ and the Protection of Human Rights Lena Muhs
Women’s Political Representation in Sri Lanka: Leading towards Prosperity or Peril Pujika Rathnayake
Lack of empathy as a threat to peace Victoria Scheyer
Comment II
The death of democracy in Honduras Daniel Bagheri S.
Berta Vive Daniel Bagheri Sarvestani
The Persons Who Changed the Lives of Terrorists and Criminals Surya Nath Prasad

Teaching Peace from Tales of the City: Peace Education through the Memoryscapes of Nagasaki Patporn Phoothong
Special Report
Reflections of Refugees in Africa Wyclife Ong'eta Mose
Challenges and prospects of AU to implement the Ezulwini Consensus: The case of collective security and the use of force Tunamsifu Shirambere Philippe
The Right to Food Shant Melkonian
Freedom of Expression Under Threat in Zambia Mariateresa Garrido
Douglas Janoff on LGBTQIA Human Rights Luciana Téllez
Common Things: Communication, Community, Communal Peacebuilding Lina Patricia Forero Martínez
The political Crisis of the 2017 Honduran Election Daniel Bagheri S.
Research Summary
Water Security in the Sixaola River Basin Adrián Martinez Blanco and Diana Ubico Durán
Reborn Arunima Chouguley
An Open Letter to the American People: Political Responsibility in the Nuclear Age Richard Falk, David Krieger, and Robert Laney


Last Updated: 10/20/2005
Why the World Needs Playwrights
Simon Stander

The jury for The Nobel Prize in Literature has had a tendency from time to time to favour the avant-garde and the outspoken, though there have been such strange exceptions as Winston Churchill who along with Kipling, Galsworthy, Bertrand Russell and William Golding have kept the English flag flying (though out of the last twenty prize-winners, nine have been writers in the English language). Harold Pinter is the first English playwright to receive the prize, and, indeed, playwrights do not figure as large as might be thought in the hundred years of prize giving. Apart from recent hybrids (playwright-poet-novelists) of Jelinek and Gao Xingjian, the list reads only Dario Fo, Samuel Becket, Wole Soyinka, Eugene O’Neill, Luigi Pirandello, George Bernard Shaw, Jacinta Benavente, Hauptmann, Maeterlinck, Jose Echegaray and Eizaguirre.

To the extent that Pinter might be regarded as belonging to the theatre of the absurd he is in good company with Fo, Pirandello and Becket. (See this article ). Some might query whether he is the greatest living playwright, however, in England. Other contenders would be Sir David Hare or Sir Tom Stoppard. In the case of David Hare he has in the context of his writing been every bit as contentious and politically outspoken as Pinter (though Hare accepted his knighthood and Pinter did not): “A Map of the World”, “Via Dolorosa”, “The Permanent Way”, “Plenty”, and “Stuff Happens” being a few examples. In this small selection of a prolific output, he has taken on the Israel-Palestinian crisis, world poverty, Donald Rumsfeld and privatisation under the Labour government.

Stoppard also has been equally contentious though more from the right than the left. "Jumpers and Travesties," among his early work, attack leftist thinkers and he returned to the pre-communist revolutionary circles of Herzen in his latest mammoth trilogy. His TV play "Professional Foul" explored problems of human rights but in the context of being anti-communist in the Cold war of the 1970s. More recently he has been in the forefront of promoting YALCO, a Greek multinational dishware manufacturer. The company, founded in a town called Drama in northern Greece, is sponsoring the theatre in the UK given the shortfalls from Blair’s government for subsidised theatre.

However, Pinter does deserve recognition as an outstanding and original playwright. Standing against state power, which has been a feature of Pinter’s public activity in recent years, has always served writers well when under consideration for the Nobel, as Newsday noted on the day of the announcement:

The Nobel committee has a penchant for rewarding writers who stand against power, notably in rewarding the literature prize to Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn in 1970. There was a similar gesture last year in honouring Elfriede Jelinek. She has castigated her native Austria, as the Nobel citation said, "depicting it as a realm of death in her phantasmagorical novel, 'Die Kinder der Toten.'" Guenter Grass, the 1999 winner, annoyed German authorities with his critiques of "barbaric" capitalism and by describing German immigration policy as racist. The 1991 laureate, Nadine Gordimer, was a relentless critic of South African apartheid. Wole Soyinka, the 1986 laureate, was a caustic critic of Nigeria's military regime. Naguib Mahfouz, honored in 1988, had his first novel, "The Children of Gebelawi," banned as blasphemous in his native Egypt.

The same article went on to quote Guenther Grass: "What is undertaken out of love for one's country can be taken as soiling one's nest." When he spoke out in recent years, Pinter was not soiling the nest he loved. He was a conscientious objector, an old-fashioned Labourite who mistakenly once voted for Thatcher, a great patriot who loved the English countryside and cricket and he married into the Establishment. Language, Pinter once said, is used to cover our nakedness. His language was sparse because too much is normally hidden from view. More should be exposed and opened up for critical assessment. Revealing the world is the job of the playwright and the Nobel jury deserves our thanks in recognising that.

Simon Stander is the editor-in-chief of the Peace & Conflict Monitor