After the Nobel committee has just reaffirmed that it intends not to make political statements through its decisions and wants to stay out of fads and fashions, it has now announced that this year's prize will go to Harold Pinter, no doubt well-known to readers of this blog as an indefatigable freedom fighter (the freedom of Slobodan Milosevic, that is). Go figure.


Anonymous said...

It seems to be somewhat more complex than that:

Anonymous said...

As a Prize miscalculation, this almost beats the time they gave the Peace Prize to Henry Kissinger.

Pinter's political writings are even more absurd(ist) than his plays, and a good deal less entertaining. A sample of Pinterian analysis is this gem, now proudly posted on the website of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU):


"Contrary to the usual accusations, President Milosevic is not an all-powerful tyrant. He managed to stay in power only after losing popular electoral support by making a pact with opposition hardmen such as Seselj. Cleansing Kosovo in the event of a Nato attack was the likely price of the deal with Seselj. Bomb-happy Nato began hurling weapons, and hundreds of Kosovar refugees, televisual victims, spewed through border posts and on to our screens. Less than half of British people polled in surveys had supported bombing when it began. But now Blair and his war party had a war that people would support."

For more on Pinter and his place in political discourse as it relates to the former Yugoslavia, see


talos said...

Teekay, sorry but Pinter is, without a doubt, one of the most important living playwrights. Are you suggesting that he should have been disqualified from the literature awards because of his political views (indeed a narrow subset of his political views as you put it)? Should the same hold for, say, the physics prize?

T K Vogel said...

Talos, that's certainly not what I'm suggesting. People like Pinter, Celine, Handke, or Juenger may have had despicable political views but that doesn't mean they can't be considered great writers and get the Nobel. It just strikes me as rather ironic that after the fairly public squabbling over Pamuk (if indeed it is true, about which I have my doubts) they would step back from someone like him and chose someone like Pinter.

talos said...

Just a note: by no stretch of the imagination would I call Pinter's political views despicable (much less quote them in the same breath as Celine's). I'm pretty much OK with his militant anti-imperialism, indeed I consider his stance on most issues rather principled.

Pamuk is a different story: given the fact that he has been very recently charged by the Turkish authorities for some sort of thoughtcrime, the Nobel committee chickened out of giving him the award, thinking possibly that it might be considered a comment on the recent bruhaha regarding Turkey's accession. The ironic thing about this is that, by not giving the prize to Pamuk after it was revealed that he was seriously considered, the committee has already made a different kind of political statement.

Anderson said...

Isn't Pinter a good deal older than Pamuk? They may think Pamuk has a while yet to win. Assuming of course that Turkey's secret police don't change that.

Anonymous said...

A piece of news that was dropped from the Pamuk discussion in most Western media (sadly including most commentators on this thread):

The obviously scandalous charges brought against Pamuk will be dismissed by the court, according to most observers in the country and even according to the Turkish foreign minister Gül. See:


It is telling that the most sensationalist pieces of news from Turkey almost always make the news; same cannot be said of more complicated processes that are unfolding in that country. As writer Hatice Akyün put it:

In an interview with Katrin Birner and Christoph Mayerl, she tells why the image of Turks in the German media and the fixation on forced marriages and honour killings get on her nerves: "I think such stories are very juicy for the media. I got so pissed off at a newspaper story where 13-year-olds from a school in Berlin's Neukölln district are quoted as saying it was right for Hatün's brothers to kill her. But you can't write something like that in the title. Sure, you should write about it, but you have to avoid giving the impression with such stories that it's a part of Turkish culture. I could go to any secondary school in Bavaria or Hamburg and dig up five boys who'll say Hitler was great."

Now, as for Hitler and previous Nobel Literature Prize winners, check out Knut Hamsun. And read his Hunger. It really is a great book despite Hamsun's later admiration of the Nazis.

T K Vogel said...

Anonymous, I don't think it makes the Pamuk story any better that he may be likely to get an acquittal. The fact is, he still gets dragged in front of a court for saying something that most people around the world, I would guess, accept as a historical fact. But perhaps this highlights the dangers of the government telling people what they can and can't say publicly? There's also a Turkish guy who's been indicted in Switzerland for statements to the opposite effect, and I find that as dubious as Pamuk's case. (No, I'm not into moral relativism.)

And the German coverage about Turkish immigrants was, in the quality papers, for years determined by multicultural Wunschdenken; now you've got a bit of a backlash, and they're overdoing it in the other direction. Journalists...

Anonymous said...

teekay, this is not about making the Pamuk story "any better" for Turks or their image. It is about knowing the difference between sensational and informative. The reporting on Turkey in European most papers in the last several months has unfortunately picked up and polished mostly the sensational stories (Pamuk trial, honor killings, veiling, etc).

All these sensational stories do exist and should be reported on, but in a context that adequately addresses the complexity of topics of politics as well as culture in Turkey.

The matter of political, economic, and legal standards that Turkey must attain to get EU membership is one thing and it is legitimate for the EU to demand all those things for accession. However, to arrogantly demand "a major cultural revolution", as Chirac or Barosso did, is not ok. It implicitly treats Turks and other non-EU peoples and their "culture" as inferior to that of Europe.

This is the actual background to the panic-filled stories about Pamuk and freedom of speech and what that will do to the EU, while most readers ignore political and social ills (complicity of many EU nations in America's war, growing right-wing sentiment, etc) in EU itself.

T K Vogel said...

Anonymous, I think our views are actually pretty close. I *am* disturbed by the whole discussion about Turkey in Europe and the way the politicians are handling it here; I *did* think the term "cultural revolution" was entirely inappropriate and probably designed to provoke; and yes, I *do* think that it would be good for EU media to report on Turkey not just as this Oriental wonderland or as a backward violent scary place (not helped by the bird flu outbreak there, though I was heartened to read the BBC News headline "Bird flu arrives in Europe"). But in the reporting on Pamuk I just haven't seen these prejudices (though I haven't, by any means, done an analysis of teh Pamuk coverage, so this is entirely based on a few articles I've read), and ultimately the Pamuk case should be judged on its own merits, and I don't like it one bit.

Yakima_Gulag said...

TeeKay, something is messed up with your comments deal over at your place. to the whole question of Pamuk, I did get to read his work, 'My Name is Red' in translation and it was a really interesting book, I liked it a lot. Worse writers have ended up with Nobel prizes.
I can't say I even LIKE Pinter as a writer. Still I suppose it's like all those rather bad wines out there that various wine snobs think are so damn great. Or the attrocious clothes that the fashion magazines try to push on us..
I make no secret of the fact I think the E.U. is largely a silly fad but since it is a silly fad anyway, why should the Turks be excluded?

todays Secret Klingon Word is;dhahqet a delicious Klingon adult beverage you should all try sometime.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see that people on this blog have compared one of Britain's greatest playwrights, incidentally the son of Jewish immigrants to a rabidly anti-semitic French writer. Just give up, guys! What a tribute to that banal twosome, Mr E Gordy, the salon leftist and Mr M A Hoare, the Trotskyite turned neo-con. Adios.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see that some contributors to this weblog have compared the greatest living playwright in Britain who, incidentally the son of Jewish immigrants, to a rabid French anti-semitic writer. Just give up, guys.

T K Vogel said...

Anonymous, in case you're referring to me -- I didn't "compare" Pinter to Celine, I simply listed a bunch of random writers who are considered by many to be fine artists with dubious political views. I would, however, stand by the view that being a great artists doesn't provide a license to be a political idiot, which Pinter in my view is. (It also doesn't mean that he should *not* be considered a great writer, and it's fine by me that he got the Nobel.)

Dan Albihari said...

Anonymous, in case you're referring to me -- I didn't "compare" Pinter to Celine, I simply listed a bunch of random writers who are considered by many to be fine artists with dubious political views.

Au contraire.

People like Pinter, Celine, Handke, or Juenger may have had despicable political views but that doesn't mean they can't be considered great writers and get the Nobel.

Yep. Sounds like a comparison to me. And what constitutes "dubious" and "despicable" political opinions? It would not, by any chance, constitute opinions that contradict yours, would it?!

T K Vogel said...

Dan, I didn't "compare" Pinter to Celine in the sense of trying to explain one through the other or in the sense of likening them as writers or holders of specific opinions -- I "compared" them in the sense that they all belong to a group of people that many critics and readers consider to be "great writers" with "despicable political views." (We can have a semantic argument about the meaning of "compare," but I think you get my point -- I wasn't suggesting that Pinter's views are in the same way "despicable" as Celine's etc etc.)

Both of these judgments ("great writer" and "despicable political views") are just that -- judgments. And, yes, incidentally I'm *not* an anti-Semite and I'm *not* someone who believes that all evil in this world comes from the U.S. government, and to the extent that people hold these views I *do* judge them (the views) to be "despicable."

In fact, I generally don't hold views that I consider despicable, and I don't consider views I hold despicable either. But maybe that's another semantic discussion.

András said...

I know this is a bit late in coming, but thought it was worth putting on the record. Below is Harold Pinter's (pre-Nobel) endorsement printed on the cover of "The Defense Speaks--for History and the Future," an English translation of Slobodan Milosevic's opening defense argument before the UN war crimes tribunal, published in book form in June 2005 by Slobo's defense committee.

"The U.S./NATO court trying Slobodan Milosevic was always totally illegitimate. It could never be taken seriously as a court of justice. Milosevic’s defense is powerful, convincing, persuasive and impossible to dismiss."

I have nothing against Pinter's work as a playwright. But I would not take his views on other matters without the requisite (and probably unhealthy) dose of salt.