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Harold Pinter? Who the Hell Is That?

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HAROLD PINTER? WHO THE HELL IS THAT?

Harold Pinter is one of the greatest British dramatists of our time. Pinter has

written a number of absurd masterpieces including The Birthday Party, The Caretaker,

The Homecoming, Betrayal, Old Times, and Ashes to Ashes. He has also composed a

number of radio plays and several volumes of poetry. His screenplays include The French

Lieutenant's Woman, The Last Tycoon, and The Handmaid's Tale. He has received

numerous awards including the Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear, BAFTA awards, the

Hamburg Shakespeare Prize, the Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or and the

Commonwealth Award.

Harold Pinter was born on October 10, 1930 in Hackney, East London. He was

the sole child of Jack Pinter and Frances Franklin. His father was a ladies' tailor whose

family was among Jewish immigrants that reached the East End of London. Both sides

of Harold's family were Jewish, but they had different personalities and characteristics.

His paternal side was Orthodox Jewish and they had an artistic background, whereas his

maternal side was more secular and skeptical about strict rules of religion and were

known for their entrepreneurial background. Although the Pinter's were relaxed and

music-loving, they got along well at family gatherings with the noisy and clamorous

Franklins.

Since Harold was an only child, he would imagine a life with brothers and sisters

and would create imaginary friends and play out adventures and scenes in the backyard

of his home. This isolated world created a place where Harold felt warmth and security.

However, this childhood was interrupted by the outbreak of war in 1939. Harold had to

leave his home in Hackney as part of a nationwide evacuation, and along with twenty

four other children, Harold was sent to John Nash, a fabricated castle, from the

elementary school. This was a traumatic and disturbing experience for all of the boys

who were isolated from their homes and families, especially for nine-year old Harold.

Some boys took advantage of this experience and were happy to be exposed to rural life.

"For Harold, the disturbing experience blended with a magical eye opening encounter of

rural life and his tendency to introspect blossomed" (Top Biography). At the same time,

his awareness to sounds and images developed, and these permeated his later life and

work.

This encounter left a mark in Harold's life; a mark of loss and separation,

astonishment, and loneliness, which are all reflected in his works. It was extremely

difficult to watch other boys receive news about the death of their parents, and only

wonder where his parents were. Harold had a brief reunion with his parents, but it was

recklessly painful to say goodbye again and watch them leave. Along with the agonies

and confusions, the evacuation had some positive affect on Harold. Harold grew stronger

and more independent because of this experience, developed a sense of self-realization,

and sped up his transition from boyhood to manhood. He returned to London in 1944 at

the age of 14, and enrolled at Hackney Downs Grammar School where he became

interested in acting and drama and acted in many school productions.

After grammar school, he studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art

and the Central School of Speech and Drama, but soon left to undertake an acting career

under the stage name David Baron. He spent several years traveling around Ireland in a

Shakespearean company before deciding to turn his attention to playwriting.

Pinter started writing plays in 1957. His first play was originated as an idea

which he gave to a friend of his. His friend liked it so much that he wanted Harold to

send the play to him at Bristol University, and told him if the university was to perform

the play, they would need the script within a week. Harold sat down with his friend and

wrote the play in four days. It was a one-act play entitled The Room. Later this same

year, Pinter would develop his style still further in another one-act, The Dumb Waiter.

Harold Pinter has created "comedies of menace" in which he uses hackneyed

characters and settings, and surrounds them with an atmosphere of fear, horror, and

mystery. These early works were starting points and contained many of the elements that

would characterize Pinter's later works: a commonplace situation gradually invested with

menace and mystery through the deliberate omission of an explanation or motivation for

the action of its characters. Pinter has been known to create his characters' tensions

based on the disorientation of language and communication. "Pinter's particular

achievement has been to sustain linguistically the sort of tensions which seem to drive his

characters

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