Speaking Out: Harold Pinter and the Freedom of Expression

Mary E Luckhurst

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” (Article 19, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights) / “Dear President Bush, I'm sure you'll be having a nice little tea party with your fellow war criminal, Tony Blair. Please wash the cucumber sandwiches down with a glass of blood.” (Harold Pinter, the Guardian, 18 November 2003) / Two years after composing the above letter Harold Pinter was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Many had thought that his outspoken views might preclude any chance of such an honour, but in the last decade the Nobel Prize judges have increasingly linked the award with a politics of human rights, and a championing of freedom of expression. In their citation the judges praised Pinter as a dramatist 'who uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms'. Pinter's insistence on speaking out, like other recent Nobel prize-winners, exemplifies the spirit of article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. His blunt rage against the American/British invasion of Iraq had been made public in his poetry, in letters, and in speeches long before public opinion in the West turned anti-war; and his castigation of American imperialism has not ceased since the 1980s. In his controversial Nobel acceptance speech Pinter contended that 'the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought' in communist Eastern Europe since 1945 have been fully acknowledged and documented, but that US crimes in the same era have scarcely been admitted, 'let alone recognised as crimes'.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCambridge Companion to Harold Pinter
EditorsPeter Raby
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Theatre, Harold Pinter, Plays


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