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Nobel-winning playwright Harold Pinter dies, Sarkozy salutes "a great dramatist"

Article published on the 2008-12-26 Latest update 2008-12-29 10:48 TU

Harold Pinter in 2007(Photo: AFP)

Harold Pinter in 2007
(Photo: AFP)

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy has paid tribute to British playwright Harold Pinter, who died on Thursday at the age of 78. Sarkozy said that Pinter, who was a vocal opponent of the Iraq war, had fought "all kinds of barbarity". Pinter's widow Lady Antonia Fraser said that "it was a privilege to live with him".

Sarkozy called Pinter "a great dramatist and perceptive humanist who was uncompromising and intransigent", adding that the the Nobel literature prize that was awarded to Pinter in 2005 was "an overdue recognition of his immense work" and a tribute to "his courage and his commitment to fighting all kinds of barbarity".

Former Czech President Vaclav Havel, who is also a playwright, called Pinter an "outstanding dramatist whom I have admired since my youth".

"The solidarity that he displayed towards both myself and my friends during the time of the resistance was of great importance", said Havel, who was jailed in the 1970s for his opposition to the Communist government of what was then Czechoslovakia.

Pinter, who was born in London's working-class East End, became a dominant figure in British and world theatre with plays such as The Birthday Party, The Room and The Caretaker.

He also won an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary, which describes the world "Pinteresque" as "marked especially by halting dialogue, uncertainty of identity, and air of menace".

Pinter also won tributes for his acting and screenplays, but devoted his last four years to writing poetry.

In his Nobel acceptance speech, Pinter slammed US and British foreign policy, especially over the Iraq war.

"The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them," he said.

"You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis."