LONDON — British Nobel laureate Harold Pinter — who produced some of his generation's most influential dramas and later became a staunch critic of the U.S.-led war in Iraq — has died, his widow said Thursday. He was 78.
Mr. Pinter died Wednesday after a long battle with cancer, according to his second wife, Antonia Fraser.
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In recent years he had seized the platform offered by his 2005 Nobel Literature prize to denounce President George W. Bush, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the war in Iraq.
But he was best known for exposing the complexities of the emotional battlefield.
His writing featured cool, menacing pauses in dialogue that reflected his characters' deep emotional struggles and spawned a new adjective found in several dictionaries: "Pinteresque."
"Pinter restored theater to its basic elements: an enclosed space and unpredictable dialogue, where people are at the mercy of each other and pretense crumbles," the Nobel Academy said. "With a minimum of plot, drama emerges from the power struggle and hide-and-seek of interlocution."
His characters' internal fears and longings, their guilt and difficult sexual drives are set against the neat lives they constructed in order to try to survive. Usually enclosed in one room, the acts mostly illustrate the characters' lives as a sort of grim game with actions that often contradicted words. Gradually, the layers are peeled back.
"How can you write a happy play?" he once said. "Drama is about conflict and degrees of perturbation, disarray. I've never been able to write a happy play, but I've been able to enjoy a happy life."
He wrote 32 plays, one novel (1990's The Dwarfs) and 22 screenplays.
"With his earliest work, he stood alone in British theater up against the bewilderment and incomprehension of critics, the audience and writers, too," British playwright Tom Stoppard said when the Nobel Prize was announced.