martes, 28 de septiembre de 2021

Harold Pinter / The Nobel Prize in Literature 2005

Harold Pinter


Harold Pinter


Biobibliographical Notes

Harold Pinter was born on 10 October 1930 in the London borough of Hackney, son of a Jewish dressmaker. Growing up, Pinter was met with the expressions of anti-Semitism, and has indicated its importance for his becoming a dramatist. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was evacuated from London at the age of nine, returning when twelve. He has said that the experience of wartime bombing has never lost its hold on him. Back in London, he attended Hackney Grammar School where he played Macbeth and Romeo among other characters in productions directed by Joseph Brearley. This prompted him to choose a career in acting. In 1948 he was accepted at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. In 1950, he published his first poems. In 1951 he was accepted at the Central School of Speech and Drama. That same year, he won a place in Anew McMaster's famous Irish repertory company, renowned for its performances of Shakespeare. Pinter toured again between 1954 and 1957, using the stage name of David Baron. Between 1956 and 1980 he was married to actor Vivien Merchant. In 1980 he married the author and historian Lady Antonia Fraser.

Pinter made his playwriting debut in 1957 with The Room, presented in Bristol. Other early plays were The Birthday Party (1957), at first a fiasco of legendary dimensions but later one of his most performed plays, and The Dumb Waiter (1957). His conclusive breakthrough came with The Caretaker (1959), followed by The Homecoming (1964) and other plays.

Harold Pinter is generally seen as the foremost representative of British drama in the second half of the 20th century. That he occupies a position as a modern classic is illustrated by his name entering the language as an adjective used to describe a particular atmosphere and environment in drama: "Pinteresque".

Pinter restored theatre to its basic elements: an enclosed space and unpredictable dialogue, where people are at the mercy of each other and pretence crumbles. With a minimum of plot, drama emerges from the power struggle and hide-and-seek of interlocution. Pinter's drama was first perceived as a variation of absurd theatre, but has later more aptly been characterised as "comedy of menace", a genre where the writer allows us to eavesdrop on the play of domination and submission hidden in the most mundane of conversations. In a typical Pinter play, we meet people defending themselves against intrusion or their own impulses by entrenching themselves in a reduced and controlled existence. Another principal theme is the volatility and elusiveness of the past.

It is said of Harold Pinter that following an initial period of psychological realism he proceeded to a second, more lyrical phase with plays such as Landscape (1967) and Silence (1968) and finally to a third, political phase with One for the Road (1984), Mountain Language (1988), The New World Order (1991) and other plays. But this division into periods seems oversimplified and ignores some of his strongest writing, such as No Man's Land (1974) and Ashes to Ashes(1996). In fact, the continuity in his work is remarkable, and his political themes can be seen as a development of the early Pinter's analysing of threat and injustice.

Since 1973, Pinter has won recognition as a fighter for human rights, alongside his writing. He has often taken stands seen as controversial. Pinter has also written radio plays and screenplays for film and television. Among his best-known screenplays are those for The Servant (1963), The Accident (1967), The Go-Between (1971) and The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981, based on the John Fowles novel). Pinter has also made a pioneering contribution as a director.

This bibliography includes published works only.

Works in English 

1. Plays (year of writing; year of publication; year of first performance) 

The Room (1957). – in The Birthday Party, and Other Plays. – London : Methuen, 1960. – (Bristol, 1957) 
The Birthday Party (1957). – in The Birthday Party, and Other Plays. – London : Methuen, 1960. – (Arts Theatre, Cambridge, 28 April 1958) 
The Dumb Waiter (1957). – in The Birthday Party, and Other Plays. – London : Methuen, 1960. – (Kleines Haus, Frankfurt, February 1959) 
A Slight Ache (1958). – in A Slight Ache and Other Plays. – London : Methuen, 1961. – (Broadcast 1959) 
The Hothouse (1958). – in The Hothouse. – London : Eyre Methuen, 1980. – (Hampstead Theatre, London, 24 April 1980) 
The Caretaker (1959). – in The Caretaker. – London : Methuen, 1960. – (Arts Theatre, London, 27 April 1960) 
A Night Out (1959). – in Slight Ache and Other Plays. – London : Methuen, 1961. – (Broadcast on the BBC Third Programme, 1 March 1960) 
Night School (1960). – in Tea Party and Other Plays. – London : Methuen, 1967. – (Broadcast on Associated Rediffusion Television, 21 July 1960) 
The Dwarfs (1960). – in Slight Ache and Other Plays. – London : Methuen, 1961. – (Broadcast 1960; New Arts Theatre, London, 18 September 1963) 
The Collection (1961). – in The Collection. – London : French, 1963 (1962?) ; in TheCollection, and The Lover. – London : Methuen, 1963. – (Televised 1961) 
The Lover (1962). – in The Collection, and The Lover. – London : Methuen, 1963. – (Televised 1961) 
Tea Party (1964). – in Tea Party and Other Plays. – London : Methuen, 1967. – (Eastside Playhouse, New York, October 1968) 
The Homecoming (1964). – in The Homecoming. – London : Methuen, 1965. – (Aldwych Theatre, London, 3 June 1965) 
The Basement (1966). – in Tea Party and Other Plays. – London : Methuen, 1967. – (Televised 1967) 
Landscape (1967). – in Landscape. – London : Pendragon Press, 1968 ; in Landscape, and Silence. – London : Methuen, 1969. – (Broadcast 1968) 
Silence (1968). – in Landscape, and Silence. – London : Methuen, 1969. – (Aldwych Theatre, London, 2 July 1969) 
Old Times (1970). – in Old Times. – London : Methuen, 1971. – (Aldwych Theatre, London, 1 June 1971) 
Monologue (1972). – in Monologue. – London : Covent Garden Press, 1973. – (Televised on the BBC Television, 13 April 1973) 
No Man's Land (1974). – in No Man's Land. – London : Methuen, 1975. – (Old Vic, London 23 April, 1975) 
Betrayal (1978). – in Betrayal. – London : Eyre Methuen, 1978. – (National Theatre, London, November 1978) 
Family Voices (1980). – in Family Voices. – London : Next Editions, 1981. – (Broadcast on Radio 3, 22 January 1981) 
Other Places (1982). – in Other Places : Three Plays. – London : Methuen, 1982. – (Cottesloe Theatre, London, October 1982) 
A Kind of Alaska (1982). – in A Kind of Alaska. – London : French, 1982 ; in Other Places :Three Plays. – London : Methuen, 1982. – (Cottesloe Theatre, London, October 1982) 
Victoria Station (1982). – in Victoria Station. – London : French, 1982 ; in Other Places : Three Plays. – London : Methuen, 1982. – (Cottesloe Theatre, London, October 1982) 
One for the Road (1984). – in One for the Road. – London : Methuen, 1984. – (Lyric Theatre Studio, Hammersmith, March 1984) 
Mountain Language (1988). – in Mountain Language. – London : French, 1988 ; in MountainLanguage. – London : Faber, 1988. – (National Theatre, London, 20 October 1988) 
The New World Order (1991). – in Granta (no 37), Autumn 1991. – (Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London, 19 July 1991) 
Party Time (1991). – in Party Time. – London : Faber, 1991. – (Almeida Theatre, London, 31 October 1991) 
Moonlight (1993). – in Moonlight. – London : Faber, 1993. – (Almeida Theatre, London, 7 September 1993) 
Ashes to Ashes (1996). – in Ashes to Ashes. – London : Faber, 1996. – (Royal Court at the Ambassadors Theatre, London, 12 September 1996) 
Celebration (1999). – in Celebration. – London : Faber, 2000. – (Almeida Theatre, London, 16 March 2000) 
Remembrance of Things Past (2000). – in Remembrance of Things Past. – London : Faber, 2000. – (Cottesloe Theatre, London, 23 November, 2000) 

2. Additional 

The Proust Screenplay : À la recherche du temps perdu / by Harold Pinter, with the collaboration of Joseph Losey and Barbara Bray. – New York : Grove Press, 1977 
Poems and Prose 1949 –1977. – London : Methuen, 1978 
The Dwarfs : a novel. – London : Faber, 1990 
Various Voices : Poetry, Prose, Politics, 1948–1998. – London : Faber, 1998 
Collected Screenplays. 1. – London : Faber, 2000. – Content : The Servant, The Pumpkin Eater, The Quiller Memorandum, The Accident, The Last Tycoon, Langrishe Go Down 
Collected Screenplays. 2. – London : Faber, 2000. – Content : The Go-Between ; The Proust Screenplay ; Victory ; Turtle Diary ; Reunion 
Collected Screenplays. 3. – London : Faber, 2000. – Content : The French Lieutenant's Woman ; The Heat of the Day ; The Comfort of Strangers ; The Trial ; The Dreaming Child 
The Disappeared and Other Poems. – London : Enitharmon, 2002 
Press Conference. – London : Faber, 2002 
War : [Eight Poems and One Speech]. – London : Faber, 2003 

Works in French 

C'était hier / traduit de l'anglais par Éric Kahane. – Paris: Gallimard, 1971. – Traduction de: Old Times 
No man's land ; suivi de Le monte plat ; Une petite douleur ; Paysage ; et de Dix sketches /adaptation française d'Éric Kahane. – Paris: Gallimard, 1979 
La collection ; suivi de L'amant ; et de Le gardien / trad. de l'anglais par Éric Kahane. – Paris: Gallimard, 1984. – Traduction de: The Collection ; The Lover ; The Caretaker 
L'anniversaire / trad. de l'anglais par Éric Kahane. – Paris: Gallimard, 1985. – Traduction de: The Birthday Party 
Le retour / trad. de l'anglais par Éric Kahane. – Paris: Gallimard, 1985. – Traduction de: The Homecoming 
Trahisons ; suivi de Hothouse ; Un pour la route: et autres pièces / adapt. française d'Éric Kahane. – Paris: Gallimard, 1987 
La lune se couche ; suivi de Ashes to Ashes ; Langue de la montagne ; Une soirée entre amis: et autres textes / trad. de l'anglais par Éric Kahane. – Paris: Gallimard, 1998 
Les nains : roman / trad. de l'anglais par Alain Delahaye. – Paris: Gallimard, 2000. – Traduction de: The Dwarfs 
Autres voix : prose, poésie, politique, 1948–1998 / trad. de l'anglais par Jean Pavans, Isabelle D. Philippe et Natalie Zimmermann. – Montricher: Éd. Noir sur blanc, 2001. – Traduction de: Various Voices 
La guerre / trad. de l'anglais par Jean Pavans. – Paris: Gallimard, 2003. – Traduction de: War 
Célébration ; La chambre / trad. de l'anglais par Jean Pavans. – Paris: Gallimard, 2003 
Le scénario Proust : À la recherche du temps perdu / by Harold Pinter avec la collaboration de Joseph Losey et Barbara Bray ; trad. de l'anglais par Jean Pavans. - Paris : Gallimard, 2003. - Traduction de: The Proust Screenplay : À la recherche du temps perdu 

Works in Swedish 

Apart from anthologies no work by Harold Pinter has yet been published in book form in Swedish. 

Works in German 

Tiefparterre / Neu durchges. Fassung nach d. Übers. von Willy H. Thiem. – Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt, 1967. – Originaltitel : The Basement 
Teegesellschaft / nach d. Übers. von Willy H. Thiem, d. Bühnen gegenüber Ms. – Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt, 1968. – Originaltitel: Tea Party 
Dramen / Neu durchges. Fassung nach d. Übers. von Willy H. Thiem u.a. – Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt, 1970 
Alte Zeiten ; Landschaft ; Schweigen : 3 Theaterstücke / Dt. von Renate u. Martin Esslin. – Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt, 1972 
Betrogen / Dt. von H. M. Ledig-Rowohlt. – Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt, 1978. – Originaltitel : Betrayal 
Das Treibhaus / Dt. von Heinrich Maria Ledig-Rowohlt. – Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt, 1980. – Originaltitel: The Hothouse 
Der stumme Diener : ausgew. Dramen / Übers. aus d. Engl. von Willy H. Thiem ... Ausw. u. Nachw. von Klaus Köhler. – Leipzig : Insel-Verlag, 1981 
Familienstimmen / Dt. von Heinrich Maria Ledig-Rowohlt. – Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt-Theater-Verlag, 1981. – Originaltitel: Family Voices 
Einen für unterwegs / Dt. von Heinrich Maria Ledig-Rowohlt. – Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt-Theater-Verlag, 1984. – Originaltitel: One For the Road 
Genau / Dt. von Heinrich Maria Ledig-Rowohlt. – Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt, Theater-Verlag, 1986. – Originaltitel: Precisely 
An anderen Orten : 5 neue Kurzdramen / Dt. von Heinrich Maria Ledig-Rowohlt. – Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt, 1988 
Die Geburtstagsfeier ; Der Hausmeister ; Die Heimkehr ; Betrogen. – Nach den Übers. von Willy H. Thiem. – Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt, 1990 
Die Zwerge : Roman / Dt. von Johanna Walser und Martin Walser. – Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt, 1994. – Originaltitel : The Dwarfs 
Mondlicht und andere Stücke. – Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt-Taschenbuch-Verl., 2000 
Krieg / Aus dem Engl. von Elisabeth Plessen und Peter Zadek. – Hamburg : Rogner und Bernhard bei Zweitausendeins, 2003. – Originaltitel : War 

Literature (a selection) 

Hayman, Ronald, Harold Pinter. – London : Heinemann, 1968 
Esslin, Martin, The Peopled Wound : the Plays of Harold Pinter – London : Methuen, 1970 
Hollis, James Russell, Harold Pinter : the Poetics of Silence. – Carbondale, Ill. : Southern Ill. U.P., 1970 
Hinchliffe, Arnold P., Harold Pinter. – Boston : Twayne, 1981 
Dukore, Bernard Frank, Harold Pinter. – London : Macmillan, 1982 
Harold Pinter : You Never Heard Such Silence / edited by Alan Bold. – London : Vision, 1985 
Harold Pinter : Critical Approaches / edited by Steven H. Gale. – Rutherford : Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Press, 1986 
Harold Pinter / edited and with an introduction by Harold Bloom. – New York : Chelsea House Publishers, 1987 
The Pinter Review : Annual Essays / edited by Francis Gillen and Steven H. Gale. – Tampa, Fla : University of Tampa, 1987 – 
Merritt, Susan Hollis, Pinter in Play : Critical Strategies and the Plays of Harold Pinter. – Durham : Duke University Press, 1990 
Esslin, Martin, Pinter the Playwright. – London : Methuen, 1992 
Gussow, Mel, Conversations with Pinter. – New York : Limelight Editions, 1994 
Knowles, Ronald, Understanding Harold Pinter. – Columbia, S.C. : University of South Carolina Press, 1995 
Regal, Martin S., Harold Pinter : a Question of Timing. – London : Macmillan, 1995 
Billington, Michael, The Life and Work of Harold Pinter. – London : Faber, 1996 
Jalote, Shri Ranjan, The Plays of Harold Pinter : a Study in Neurotic Anxiety. – New Delhi : Harman, 1996 
Peacock, D. Keith, Harold Pinter and the New British Theatre. – Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1997 
Harold Pinter : a Celebration / introduced by Richard Eyre. – London : Faber, 2000 
Prentice, Penelope, The Pinter Ethic : the Erotic Aesthetic. – New York : Garland, 2000 
Pinter at 70 : a Caseboook / edited by Lois Gordon. – New York : Routledge, 2001 
Gale, Steven H., Sharp Cut : Harold Pinter's Screenplays and the Artistic Process. – Lexington : University Press of Kentucky, cop. 2003 
The Art of Crime : the Plays and Films of Harold Pinter and David Mamet / edited by Leslie Kane. – New York : Routledge, 2004 
Smith, Ian, Pinter in the Theatre. – London : Nick Hern, 2005. – New York : Routledge, 2004 
Baker, William, & Ross, John C., Harold Pinter : a Bibliographical History. – London : The British Library ; New Castle, DE : Oak Knoll Press, 2005 
Batty, Mark, About Pinter : the Playwright and the Work. – London : Faber, 2005 

Harold Pinter
(1930 - 2008)
English playwright who achieved international success as one of the most complex post-World War II dramatists. Harold Pinter's plays are noted for their use of silence to increase tension, understatement, and cryptic small talk. Equally recognizable are the 'Pinteresque' themes - nameless menace, erotic fantasy, obsession and jealousy, family hatred and mental disturbance. In 2005, Pinter was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

"I don't know how music can influence writing, but it has been very important for me, both jazz and classical music. I feel a sense of music continually in writing, which is a different matter from having been influenced by it." 


(Harold Pinter in Playwrights at Work, ed. by George Plimpton, 2000)

"There are some things one remembers even though they may never have happened."
Harold Pinter

Harold Pinter was born in Hackney, a working-class neighborhood in London's East End, the son of a tailor. Both of his parents were Jewish, born in England. As a child Pinter got on well with his mother, but he didn’t get on well with his father, who was a strong disciplinarian. On the outbreak of World War II Pinter was evacuated from the city to Cornwall; to be wrenched from his parents was a traumatic event for Pinter. He lived with 26 other boys in a castle on the coast. At the age of 14, he returned to London. "The condition of being bombed has never left me," Pinter later said.
Pinter was educated at Hackney Downs Grammar School, where he acted in school productions. At school one of Pinter's main intellectual interests was English literature, particularly poetry. He also read works of Franz Kafka and Ernest Hemingway.
After two unhappy years Pinter left his studies at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. In 1949 Pinter was fined by magistrates for having, as a conscientious objector, refused to do his national service. Pinter had two trials. "I could have gone to prison - I took my toothbrush to the trials - but it so happened that the magistrate was slightly sympathetic, so I was fined instead, thirty pounds in all. Perhaps I'll be called up again in the next war, but I won't go." (from Playwrights at Work) Pinter's father paid the fine in the end, a substantial sum of money.
In 1950 Pinter started to publish poems in Poetry (London) under the name Harold Pinta. He worked as a bit-part actor on a BBC Radio program, Focus on Football Pools. He also studied for a short time at the Central School of Speech and Drama and toured Ireland from 1951 to 1952 with a Shakespearean troupe. In 1953 he appeared during Donald Wolfit's 1953 season at the King's Theatre in Hammersmith.
After four more years in provincial repertory theatre under the pseudonym David Baron, Pinter began to write for the stage. THE ROOM (1957), originally written for Bristol University's drama department, was finished in four days. A SLIGHT ACHE, Pinter's first radio piece, was broadcast on the BBC in 1959. His first full-length play, THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, was first performed by Bristol University's drama department in 1957 and produced in 1958 in the West End. The play, which closed with disastrous reviews after one week, dealt in a Kafkaesque manner with an apparently ordinary man who is threatened by strangers for an unknown reason. He tries to run away but is tracked down. Although most reviewers were hostile, Pinter produced in rapid succession the body of work which made him the master of 'the comedy of menace.' "I find critics on the whole a pretty unnecessary bunch of people", Pinter said decades later in an interview. "We don't need critics to tell the audiences what to think."
Pinter's major plays originate often from a single, powerful visual image. They are usually set in a single room, whose occupants are threatened by forces or people whose precise intentions neither the characters nor the audience can define. The struggle for survival or identity dominates the action of his characters. Language is not only used as a means of communication but as a weapon. Beneth the words, there is a silence of fear, rage and domination, fear of intimacy.
"Pinter's dialogue is as tightly - perhaps more tightly - controlled than verse," Martin Esslin writes in The People Wound (1970). "Every syllable, every inflection, the succession of long and short sounds, words and sentences, is calculated to nicety. And precisely the repetitiousness, the discontinuity, the circularity of ordinary vernacular speech are here used as formal elements with which the poet can compose his linguistic ballet." Pinter refuses to provide rational justifications for action, but offers existential glimpses of bizarre or terrible moments in people's lives.
ASTON - You said you wanted me to get you up. 

DAVIES - What for? 

ASTON - You said you were thinking of going to Sidcup. 

DAVIES - Ay, that'd be a good thing, if I got there. 
ASTON - Doesn't look like much of a day. 
DAVIES - Ay, well, that's shot it, en't it? 
(from The Caretaker)
In 1960 Pinter wrote THE DUMB WAITER. With his second full-length play, THE CARETAKER (1960), Pinter made his breakthrough as a major modern talent, although in Düsseldorf the play was booed. The Caretaker was followed by A SLIGHT ACHE (1961), THE COLLECTION (1962), THE DWARFS (1963), THE LOVER (1963).
THE HOMECOMING (1965) is perhaps the most enigmatic of all Pinter's early works. It won a Tony Award, the Whitbread Anglo-American Theater Award, and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award. In the story an estranged son, Teddy, brings his wife Ruth home to London to meet his family, his father Max, a nagging, aggressive ex-butcher, and other tough members of the all-male household. At the end Teddy returns alone to his university job in America. Ruth stays as a mother or whore to his family. Everyone needs her. - Similar motifs - the battle for domination in a sexual context - recur in Landscape and Silence (both 1969), and in Old Times (1971), in which the key line is "Normal, what's normal?" After The Homecoming Pinter said that he "couldn't any longer stay in the room with this bunch of people who opened doors and came in and went out."
Several of Pinter's plays were originally written for British radio or TV. In the 1960s he also directed several of his dramas. After BETRAYAL (1978) Pinter wrote no new full-length plays until MOONLIGHT (1994). Short plays include A KIND OF ALASKA (1982), inspired by the case histories in Oliver Sack's Awakenings (1973).
From the 1970s Pinter has directed a number of stage plays and the American Film Theatre production of Butler (1974). In 1977 he published a screenplay based on Marcel Proust's A la Recherche du Temps Perdu. Closely associated with the director Peter Hall, he became an associate director of the National Theatre after Hall was nominated as the successor of Sir Lawrence Olivier. Pinter has received many awards, including the Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear in 1963, BAFTA awards in 1965 and in 1971, the Hamburg Shakespeare Prize in 1970, the Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or in 1971, and the Commonwealth Award in 1981. He was awarded a CBE in 1966, but he later turned down John Major's offer of a knighthood. In 1996 he was given the Laurence Olivier Award for a lifetime's achievement in the theatre. In 2002 he was made a Companion of Honour for services to literature.
Pinter was married from 1956 to the actress Vivien Merchant. For a time, they lived in Notting Hill Gate in a slum. Eventually Pinter managed to borrow some money and move away. Although Pinter said in an interview in 1966, that he never has written any part for any actor, his wife Vivien frequently appeared in his plays. After his first marriage dissolved in 1980, Pinter married the biographer Lady Antonia Fraser, whose former husband was the ­Conservative MP Hugh Fraser. The divorce separated Pinter from his son Daniel, a writer and musician. Vivien Merchant died in 1982. Antonia Fraser's account of her married life with Pinter,Must You Go? came out in 2010.
Pinter work include a number of screenplays, including The Servant (1963), The Accident (1967), The Go-Between (1971), The Last Tycoon (1974, dir. by Elia Kazan), The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981, novel by John Fowles), Betrayal (1982),Turtle Diary (1985), Reunion (1989), The Handmaid's Tale (1990), The Comfort of Strangers (1990), and The Trial by Franz Kafka (1990). In the 1990s Pinter became more active as a director than as a playwright. He oversaw David Mamet'sOleanna and several works by Simon Gray.
Since the overthrow of Chile's President Allende in 1973, Pinter was active in human rights issues. His opinions were often controversial. During the Kosovo crisis in 1999, Pinter condemned Nato's intervention, and said it will "only aggravate the misery and the horror and devastate the country". In 2001 Pinter joined The International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic, which also included former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. Milosevic was arrested by the U.N. war crimes tribunal. In January 2002 Pinter was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus. In his speech to an anti-war meeting at the House of Commons in November 2002 Pinter joined the world-wide debate over the so-called "preventive war" against Iraq: "Bush has said: "We will not allow the world's worst weapons to remain in the hands of the world's worst leaders." Quite right. Look in the mirror chum. That's you." In February 2005 Pinter announced in an interview that he has decided to abandon his career as a playwright and put all his energy into politics. "I've written 29 plays. Isn't that enough?" Harold Pinted died on December 24, 2008, in London.

For further reading 
Kafka and Pinter by Raymond Armstrong (1999); The Life and Work of Harold Pinter by Michael Billington (1997); Harold Pinter and the New British Theatre by D. Keith Peacock (1997); Harold Pinter: A Question of Timing by Martin S. Regal (1995); The Pinter Ethic by Penelope Prentice (1994); Harold Pinter and the Language of Cultural Power by Marc Silverstein (1993); Harold Pinter by Chittanranjan Misra (1993); Critical Essays on Harold Pinter by Steven H. Gale (1990); Pinter in Play by Susan Hollis Merritt (1990); Harold Pinter by Volker Strunk (1989); Pinter's Female Portraits by Elizabeth Sakellaridou (1988);Harold Pinter, ed. by Stephen H. Gale (1986); Making Pictures by Joanne Klein (1985); Harold Pinter, ed. by Alan Bold (1985); The Dream Structure of Pinter's Plays by Lucina Paquet Gabard (1977); Harold Pinter by R. Hayman (1975); The Dramatic World of Harold Pinter by Jatherine H. Burkman (1971); Harold Pinter by W. Kerr (1968); Harold Pinter by W. Baker and S.E. Tabachnik (1973); Theatre and Anti-Theatre by R. Hayman (1979); The Peopled Wound by Martin Esslin (1970); Anger and After by J.R. Taylor (1969) - see also The Pinter Review, ed. by Francis X. Gillen, Steven H- Gale

Selected works:
  • The Room, 1957 - Huone (suom. Auli Tarkka, 1963) - TV film 1961 (ITV Television Playhouse), dir. Alvin Rakoff; Rommet, TV film 1968, dir. Lars Löfgren
  • The Birthday Party, 1957 - Syntymäpäiväjuhlat (suom. Terttu Savola, 1971) - Die Geburtstagsfeier, TV play 1961, prod. Tribüne Berlin, dir. Wolfgang Spier; Het Verjaardagsfeest, TV drama 1966, prod. Belgische Radio en Televisie (BRT), dir. Ton Lensink; The Birthday Party, prod. American Broadcasting Company (ABC), dir. William Friedkin, starring Robert Shaw, Patrick Magee, Dandy Nichols; TV film 1986, dir. Kenneth Ives
  • The Black and White 
  • Trouble in the Works, 1959
  • One to Another, 1959
  • A Slight Ache, 1959 
  • Pieces of Eight, 1959 (includes Last to Go, Request Stop, Special Offer) 
  • The Applicant, 1959 - Paikanhakija (suom. Terttu Savola, 1963)
  • The Dumb Waiter, 1960 De Dienstlift, TV film 1969, prod. Belgische Radio en Televisie (BRT), dir. Luc Philips; The Dumb Waiter, TV film 1985, prod. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), dir. Kenneth Ives; Bez pogovora, TV film 1999, prod. Radiotelevizija Beograd (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia), dir. Slobodan Z. Jovanovic
  • The Caretaker, 1960 - Talonmies (suom. Kurt Nuotio, 1963) - film adaptations: 1963, dir. by Clive Donner, starring Alan Bates, Robert Shaw, Donald Pleasence (two brothers, Aston and Mick, invite a revolting tramp, Mac, to share their attic.); Viceværten, TV play 1971, prod. Danmarks Radio (DR), dir. Palle Wolfsberg; De Huisbewaarder, TV film 1984, prod. ARCA-N.E.T. Theater aan de Lieve, dir. Vincent Rouffaer, Walter Tillemans; Le Gardien, TV film 1984, dir. Yves-André Hubert, adapation Eric Kahane; Fastighetsskötaren, TV film 2004, prod. SVT Drama, dir. Thommy Berggren
  • A Night Out, 1960 
  • The Dwarfs, 1960 (from his novel)
  • Night School, 1961
  • The Collection, 1961 - Muotinäytös (suom. Seppo Virtanen, 1964; Juha Siltanen, 2004) - film adaptations: Muotinäytös, TV play 1962, prod. Yleisradio (YLE), dir. Seppo Wallin; Kollektionen, TV play 1962, prod. Danmarks Radio (DR), dir. Palle Kjærulff-Schmidt; Kollektionen, TV play 1962, dir. Bengt Lagerkvist; De modeshow, 1969, prod. Belgische Radio en Televisie (BRT), dir. Kris Betz; The Collection, TV film 1976, prod. Granada Television, dir. Michael Apted, starring Laurence Olivier, Alan Bates, Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren
  • One To Another, 1961 (with J. Mortimer, N.F. Simpson)
  • A Slight Ache and Other Plays, 1961
  • The Lover, 1963 - Rakastaja (suom. Juha Siltanen, 1991) - TV play 1963, prod. Associated-Rediffusion Television, dir. Joan Kemp-Welch; Elskeren, TV play 1964, prod. Danmarks Radio (DR), dir. Palle Kjærulff-Schmidt; Älskaren, TV play 1964, dir. Bengt Lagerkvist, cast: Gerd Hagman, Curt Masreliez, Eric Stolpe
  • The Servant, 1963 (screenplay from R. Maugham's novel) - film 1963, prod. Springbok Productions, dir. Joseph Losey, starring Dirk Bogarde, Sarah Miles, James Fox, Wendy Craig
  • The Pumpkin Eater, 1964 (screenplay from P. Mortimer's novel) - film prod. Romulus Films, dir. Jack Clayton, starring Anne Bancroft, Peter Finch, James Mason
  • The Homecoming, 1965 - Kotiinpaluu (suom. Seppo Loponen, 1965) - film 1973, prod. Cinévision Ltée, dir. Peter Hall, screenplay Harold Pinter
  • Tea Party, 1965 - film adaptations: Teekutsut, TV play 1965, prod. Yleisradio (YLE), dir. Seppo Wallin; En kopp te, TV play 1965, dir. Håkan Ersgård; Tea Party, 1965, prod. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), dir. Charles Jarrott
  • The Quiller Memorandum, 1966 (screenplay from Adam Hall's The Berlin Memorandum) - film prod. Ivan Foxwell Productions, dir. Michael Anderson, starring George Segal, Alec Guinness, Max von Sydow, Senta Berger, George Sanders
  • The Party and Other Plays, 1967
  • Accident, 1967 (screenplay from N. Mosley's novel) - film prod. by Royal Avenue Chelsea, dir. Joseph Losey, starring Dirk Bogarde, Stanley Baker, Jacqueline Sassard, Michael York, Vivien Merchant
  • New Poems, 1997 (ed.)
  • A PEN Anthology, 1967 (ed. with J. Fuller, P. Redgrave)
  • Poems, 1968
  • Mac, 1968
  • Landscape, 1968
  • Silence, 1969
  • Night, 1969 - Yö (suom. Lauri Sipari, 1987)
  • The Go-Between, 1970 (screenplay from L.P. Hartley's novel) - film prod. by EMI Films, dir. Joseph Losey, starring Julie Christie, Alan Bates, Michael Redgrave, Dominic Guard, Edward Fox
  • Old Times, 1971 - Silloin ennen (suom. Liisa Ryömä, 1971; Juha Siltanen, 1997) - Gamle dage, TV drama 1974, prod. Danmarks Radio (DR), dir. Søren Melson; TV film 1991, prod. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), dir. Simon Curtis, starring John Malkovich, Kate Nelligan, Miranda Richardson
  • Monologue, 1973
  • The Proust Screenplay, 1977 (with B. Bray, J. Losey)
  • No Man's Land, 1975 - TV film 1978, prod. BBC Four, starring John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Michael Kitchen, Terence Rigby; Niemandsland, TV film 1978, dir. Hans Lietzau, Heribert Wenk
  • The Last Tycoon, 1976 (screenplay, from F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel) - film prod. by Academy Pictures Corporation, dir. Elia Kazan, starring Robert De Niro, Tony Curtis, Jeanne Moreau, Robert Mitchum, Jack Nicholson, Donald Pleasence, Ray Milland, Dana Andrews
  • Betrayal, 1978 - Petos (suom. Lauri Sipari, 1990) - film 1983, prod. Horizon Pictures (II), dir. David Hugh Jones, starring Jeremy Irons, Ben Kingsley, Patricia Hodge, Avril Elgar
  • Poems and Prose 1941-1977, 1978
  • Langrishe, Go Dowm, 1978 (from A. Higgins)
  • I Know thew Place, 1979
  • The Hothouse, 1980 
  • Family Voices, 1981
  • The French Lieutenant's Woman, 1981 (screenplay from J. Fowles's novel) - film prod. Juniper Films, dir. Karel Reisz, starring Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irons, Hilton McRae, Emily Morgan
  • A Kind of Alaska, 1982 
  • The French Lieutenant's Woman and Other Screenplays, 1982
  • Other Places, 1982
  • Victoria Station, 1982 - Victoria Station (suom. Juha Siltanen, 1986) - short film 2003, prod. Swanny Productions, dir. Douglas Hodge
  • The Big One, 1983
  • Players, 1983
  • One for the Road, 1984 
  • Players, 1985
  • Turtle Diary, 1985 (screenplay, from Russell Hoban's novel) - film dir. John Irvin, starring Glenda Jackson, Ben Kingsley, Richard Johnson, Michael Gambon (Harold Pinter does a cameo as a bookstore customer)
  • 100 Poems by 100 Poets, 1986 (ed. with A. Astbury, G. Godbert)
  • Mountain Language, 1988 - Vuoristokieli (suom. Michael Baran, 1993)
  • Heat of the Day, 1989 (screenplay, from E. Bowen's novel) - film dir. by Christopher Motahan, starring Patricia Hodge, Michael Gambon, Michael York
  • Reunion, 1989 (script, from Fred Uhlman's story) - film prod. Arbo, dir. by Jerry Schatzberg, starring Jason Robards, Christien Anholt, Samuel W est
  • The Comfort of Strangers and Other Screenplays, 1990
  • The Comfort of Strangers, 1990 (screenplay, from Ian McEwan's novel) - film prod. Erre Produzioni, dir. Paul Schrader, starring Christopher Walken, Rupert Everett, Natasha Richardson, Helen Mirren
  • Victory, 1990 (from J. Conrad's novel)
  • The Handmaid's Tale, 1990 (screenplay from M. Atwood's novel) - film prod. Bioskop Film, dir. Volker Schlöndorff, starring Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway, Aidan Quinn, Elizabeth McGovern, Robert Duvall, Victoria Tennant, Blanche Baker
  • The Dwarfs, 1990
  • Complete Works, 1990
  • Party Time, 1991
  • Plays, 1991
  • The Trial, 1991 (adaptation, from F. Kafka's novel) - film prod. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), dir. David Hugh Jones, starring Kyle MacLachlan, Anthony Hopkins, Jason Robards, Juliet Stevenson
  • Ten Early Poems, 1992
  • Moonlight, 1993 - Kuun valo (suom. Kristiina Lyytinen, 1994)
  • Pinter At Sixty, 1993 (ed. by K.H. Burkman, J.L. Kundert-Gibbs)
  • 99 Poems in Translation, 1994 (ed. with A. Astbury, G.Godbert)
  • Party Time, 1994
  • Ashes to Ashes, 1996
  • Various Voices: Prose, Poetry, Politics 1948-1998, 1999
  • Celebration, 1999
  • Collected Screenplays 1-2, 2000
  • Celebration & The Room, 2000
  • adaptation: Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust, 2000 (with Di Trevis)
  • War, 2003
  • Death etc., 2005
  • Sleuth, 2007 (screenplay, from Anthony Shaffer's play) - film prod. Sony Pictures Classics, dir. Kenneth Branagh, starring Michael Caine, Jude Law

jueves, 23 de septiembre de 2021

Peter Matthiessen / Call of the wild


Peter Matthiessen

Peter Matthiessen
(1927 - 2014)

Peter Matthiessen, (born May 22, 1927, New York, New York, U.S.—died April 5, 2014, Sagaponack), American novelist, naturalist, and wilderness writer whose work dealt with the destructive effects of encroaching technology on preindustrial cultures and the natural environment. Both his fiction and nonfiction works combined remote settings, lyrical description, and passionate advocacy for the preservation of the natural world.

After serving in the U.S. Navy (1945–47), Matthiessen attended the Sorbonne and Yale University (B.A., 1950). He moved to Paris, where he associated with other expatriate American writers such as William StyronJames Baldwin, and Irwin Shaw. While there he helped found and edit the literary journal The Paris Review with childhood friend George Plimpton in 1953. Matthiessen later admitted that he had formed the magazine at the behest of the Central Intelligence Agency, having been recruited following his college graduation. The agency had felt that he needed more cover for his spying activities, which included reporting on communist developments. He severed his relationship with the agency shortly after the foundation of the magazine.

A dedicated naturalist, Matthiessen embarked on a tour of every wildlife refuge in the United States during the mid-1950s. He wrote more than 15 books of nonfiction, including Wildlife in America (1959), a history of the destruction of wildlife in North America; The Cloud Forest: A Chronicle of the South American Wilderness (1961); and Under the Mountain Wall: A Chronicle of Two Seasons in the Stone Age (1962), about his experiences as a member of a scientific expedition to New GuineaBlue Meridian: The Search for the Great White Shark (1971) sheds light on a predator about which little is known. The Snow Leopard (1978), set in remote regions of Nepal, won both the National Book Award for nonfiction and the American Book Award.

Matthiessen continued to range far and wide, producing African Silences (1991), Indian Country (1992), and Baikal: Sacred Sea of Siberia (1992). His book In the Spirit of Crazy Horse (1983), about the conflict between federal agents and the American Indian Movement at Wounded KneeSouth Dakota, in 1973, was the subject of a prolonged libel suit that blocked all but an initial printing and was not settled until 1990; in 1991 the book was republished. Matthiessen again made impassioned calls for the protection of wildlife in The Birds of Heaven (2001), which details a journey across multiple continents in search of cranes, and Tigers in the Snow (2002), which chronicles the plight of the Siberian tiger. The Peter Matthiessen Reader: Nonfiction 1959–1991 was published in 2000.

Matthiessen’s first novelRace Rock (1954), follows the exploits and moral degeneration of four young New Englanders. The acclaimed At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1965; film 1991) investigates the cataclysmic convergence of the lives of missionaries, mercenaries, and an isolated tribe of Indians modeled on the Yanomami. Far Tortuga (1975) concerns the events leading up to the death of the crew of a turtle-fishing boat in the Caribbean. A trilogy, composed of Killing Mister Watson (1990), Lost Man’s River (1997), and Bone by Bone (1999), fictionalizes the life of a murderous planter in the Florida Everglades at the beginning of the 20th century. Matthiessen later revised and compiled the three volumes into a single novel, Shadow Country (2008), which won the National Book Award for fiction. In Paradise (2014) details the reflections of a Holocaust scholar on a meditative retreat at Auschwitz.


Peter Matthiessen

Peter Matthiessen

Call of the wild

Born into the US establishment, Peter Matthiessen became a passionate defender of native American rights and an environmental activist. He talks to Nicholas Wroe about LSD, Zen - and why he wishes his books on the world's wildernesses didn't overshadow his fiction

Nicholas Wroe
Saturday 17 August 2002

hile still a student at Yale in 1951, Peter Matthiessen had his first short story published in the prestigious Atlantic Monthly magazine. Later that year he moved to Paris where he became a joint founder and co-owner of the Paris Review. There he introduced the long interviews with writers that became the trademark of the seminal journal. Matthiessen published his first novel, Race Rock, in 1954 and has gone on to write seven more. His fiction can be intellectually tough and dauntingly technical as well as passionately engaged with characters and worlds at the margins of the western mindset such as rainforests, oceans and swamps. He is described in the American Dictionary of Literary Biography as "a shaman of literature", while Don DeLillo more straightforwardly claims him as "one of our best writers". Most recently Matthiessen completed, after 20 years, an ambitious and long-anticipated trilogy set in the Florida Everglades.

By any standards this is an impressive literary CV, and one he is proud of. But for all its achievement Matthiessen suspects that this won't be his artistic legacy. "Even though I thought of myself and still think of myself as a fiction writer," he says, "I have been pushed so far into a pigeonhole I now doubt I will ever get out." He is referring to his reputation as a writer about the natural world; a reputation launched with the 1959 publication of his ground-breaking environmental state of the nation book, Wildlife in America, and sealed with his 1978 bestseller and National Book Award winner, The Snow Leopard.

"Being pigeonholed in that way does hurt him," says Paris Review editor George Plimpton, who has known Matthiessen since they were eight-year-old classmates in Connecticut. "He has worked for years on his most recent trilogy, yet he feels that that part of his work has been overshadowed by his non-fiction material. He thinks he can just bash those things off whereas something like his Everglades trilogy has taken so much time and effort."

Whatever Matthiessen's assessment of the value of his non-fiction, it is undeniable that his writing on the natural world has been extraordinarily influential in literary terms as well as in terms of practical impact. It is difficult now to imagine the low level of interest in the environment in late 1950s America. Environmental activity had been in decline since the 1880s when a surge of interest saw the founding of the American national parks and the saving of the bison. Matthiessen's book of natural history as reportage came closely after Rachel Carson's influential investigations into the effects of pesticides on the food chain and led to a renewed national interest in environmentalism and the birth of the modern American conservation movement.

The late palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould called Matthiessen "our greatest modern nature writer in the lyrical tradition". By the time he published The Snow Leopard - his meditation on the wildlife and landscape of the Himalayas as well as on his own life and Buddhism - Matthiessen had written about wildlife in east Africa, stone-age tribesmen of New Guinea, South America, the north American Arctic, Asia and Australia. In all he has written 18 works of non-fiction and the anthropologist Hugh Brody, talking about the attractions of this work, says, "What is remarkable about Peter is the combination of astonishing energy with a very strong engagement with the people he spends time with. He's unusual in that many people who have a huge energy for travel tend to write about the travel and not the people. In that sense he has a real anthropological acuity."

Matthiessen's most recent book, The Birds of Heaven, sees him again travelling the world, this time in search of the 15 remaining species of crane. His journeys through Mongolia, Siberia, Australia and Europe culminate with the extraordinary work undertaken by the American "craniac" community to re-establish migratory routes from Wisconsin to Florida using microlights to lead the birds south.

Matthiessen says he had a dual purpose in writing about cranes. "They are beautiful and heraldic and people are moved by them. But they are also, like tigers, an umbrella species. If you protect them you protect many other creatures as well and the wetlands and clean air and so on." The book ends in cautious optimism. "Whether we are doing enough or doing it fast enough is another matter," he explains, "but the Doctor Doom approach doesn't really work. People get disheartened and think there is nothing that can be done. In fact there is always something that can be done."

Dr George Archibald, a world authority on cranes, calls Matthiessen "a philosophical guru for people who care about the environment. He can put into words what the rest of us are feeling but can't quite express. And he is as concerned with the exploitation of people as with the exploitation of the environment."

Matthiessen, now 75, describes himself as "an activist by nature". In the 1960s he became an ally of the migrant farm workers' leader César Chávez; he has championed the embattled Long Island striped bass fishermen and the rights of native Americans and is today an unrepentant supporter of Ralph Nader, the consumer champion who was a presidential candidate in the 2000 US election. "A lot of my friends are still very pissed off at me for that. They say I helped elect George W Bush but I didn't. I tried to get some kind of Green party going in America. And if Gore couldn't win New York state, where I live, he couldn't win anywhere."

Most notably Matthiessen has been involved in the protracted, and so far unsuccessful, struggle to establish the innocence of Leonard Peltier, a native American activist convicted of the murder of two FBI agents in South Dakota in 1975. In 1983 Matthiessen published a book about the case, and the history of the radical American Indian movement, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse.

The Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, reviewing the book, acknowledged Matthiessen's achievement in making it "impossible for any sensitive reader ever again to enjoy Mount Rushmore guiltlessly or to forget the dark side of the saga of the American west." However, he argued that "Mr Matthiessen is at his worst when he becomes a polemicist for his journalistic clients. He is utterly unconvincing - indeed embarrassingly sophomoric - when he pleads the legal innocence of individual Indian criminals."

Looking at Matthiessen today - an artist, a Buddhist, an environmental activist and a defender of native American rights - it is perhaps surprising to learn that his roots are in the heart of the American establishment. He was born and brought up as part of the east coast aristocracy in south-west Connecticut. His father was a wealthy architect who was later awarded the OBE by the British government for developing a defence system for commercial shipping during the second world war. The family were in the Social Register (the high-society year book) and Matthiessen's sister - he also has one brother who became a marine biologist - was a college room mate of George Bush senior's sister Nancy.

"My family knew their family and Nancy Bush was a very nice woman," Matthiessen explains. "But my father used to turn a photograph of my sister and her husband in the Oval Office with George and Barbara Bush to the wall when my sister wasn't there. He used to say 'there is something profoundly mediocre about that whole Bush clan.' I've never heard it put better. They never had an interesting thought and are cultural ignoramuses."

As an adolescent, Matthiessen began to rebel against the privileged world around him and aged 15 he had his name removed from the Social Register. His brother, with whom he secretly kept a collection of poisonous copperhead snakes in homemade glass cages, later followed suit. "I was so fortunate to grow up before television," Matthiessen says. "My brother and I spent most of our time outside overturning rocks, listening to birds and catching snakes. When our mother found out about the copperheads she told us to kill them but in fact we just let them go."

He says that from the age of 10 he became "obsessed" with birds, and he took ornithology, zoology and marine biology courses at college alongside his work as an English major. Although he argued bitterly with his father as a teenager, in fact Peter and his brother inspired their father to take an interest in nature and in later life he became an executive of the Audubon Society, the conservation organisation named after the 19th-century painter and naturalist John James Audubon. In his 90s he was still leading school parties to observe the wildlife at a bird refuge in Florida.

There was something of a literary tradition in the Matthiessen family - his father's cousin, FO Matthiessen, was a famous critic and authority on Henry James - and Peter began to write when he was about 15. After serving in the navy from 1944-46 he went to Yale and when the Atlantic Monthly published his story, "Sadie", he acquired an agent. By the time he went to study in Paris in 1951 he was already writing his first novel.

At the Sorbonne Matthiessen met Patsy Southgate, a student from Smith College. They married and had two children, Luke who is now 49, and runs a clinic for drug and alcohol addiction, and Sarah, 46, who is now a nurse having worked in television. Matthiessen recalls that he and his friend, the writer Terry Southern, were "broke together" in Paris and entered an Observer writing competition that was won by Muriel Spark. Tired of flogging their work round "awful literary magazines" Matthiessen suggested starting a new one, "that would publish fiction by young writers like ourselves." Working with the writer Harold Humes and the editor they brought in, George Plimpton, they produced the first issue of the Paris Review in the summer of 1953. It featured fiction from Southern and Matthiessen, poems by Robert Bly and George Steiner, a letter from William Styron and a remarkable interview with EM Forster. The magazine went on to publish early fiction by Jack Kerouac, Philip Roth and Samuel Beckett.

Plimpton confesses that as editor he later turned down one of Matthiessen's stories, something he has regretted ever since. "Don DeLillo later picked it up and called it one of the great American short stories and it won an O Henry award," he says. "But in that first edition Peter contributed a story as well as an article about the French novelist and playwright Henry de Montherlant but used the pen-name Pierre Conrad because he didn't want it to look like he'd written the whole thing. His real ambition was to be a novelist and I don't think he wanted very much to be a magazine editor. He was working very hard on Race Rock and he left pretty soon to go back to New York."

Matthiessen returned to New York in 1954 and Race Rock, about a native American, was published the same year. His second novel, Partisans, followed in 1955. Matthiessen and Patsy separated soon after, by which time he was working as a commercial fisherman on Long Island, chartering his boat to tourists in the summer and writing in the winter when the weather made going to sea impossible. He had turned to fishing because, even though his novels had been well received, he couldn't make a living from fiction.

"And as I had picked up a very wide, if not very deep, knowledge of the natural world, when I then failed as a fisherman I realised that I could write about nature." He travelled across America looking for indigenous, and often threatened, natural habitats. The genesis of Wildlife in America came via a commission for three articles on the subject from Sports Illustrated magazine. "So I looked for a book I could loot but I couldn't find it because there wasn't one. In the end I had so much research I thought it might as well be put to use so I wrote the book."

Matthiessen's third novel, Raditzer, about the son of a wealthy family going to sea to find himself, was published in 1960, by which time he had caught the attention of William Shawn, legendary editor of the New Yorker. "Mr Shawn had liked my work and he said I had covered America and so many other people had written about Europe, but I should go to the many other wildernesses in the world." Matthiessen chronicled his journeys down the Amazon in The Cloud Forest (1961) and to New Guinea the following year with Under the Mountain Wall.

His South American travels for the New Yorker in the late 1950s proved important. "I just got hooked on the feeling down there, the sense of menace in the jungle," he says. The Cloud Forest was serialised in the New Yorker but I knew that I would also do a novel." At Play in the Fields of the Lord, set in the Brazilian rainforest among missionaries and tribesmen and hallucinogenic compounds, was published in 1965. Like much of his work it is concerned with traditional peoples and the result of their interaction with modernity. Its publication proved to be the culmination of a period of dramatic personal political and cultural development for Matthiessen.

In 1963 he married Deborah Love, a poet and writer who went on to write an account of their time together on the remote Irish island of Annaghkeen. They had one son, Alex, who is an environmentalist and currently the river keeper for the Hudson river, and an adopted daughter, Rue, who is a writer.

"I had been a WASP kid who knew nothing," he says. "But the late 50s into the 60s really turned me round. My politics went off the scale and I was an early pioneer of LSD. The first guy I worked with was a renegade shrink and he used my wife and I as kind of guinea pigs. He said he could treat 40 people more effectively than he could work with one person in conventional analysis." Does he still think LSD is of value? "I think so, but you need to know what you are getting. I know from my kids and other kids telling me their experiences on acid that whatever they were describing it was not acid. It was some dangerous, combustible mix. As long as it was controlled by the pharmaceutical company in Switzerland who were the only people making it at the time, you knew what you were getting. Virtually anyone who was not seriously disturbed, and even then if under medical supervision, could benefit from LSD. It could clear away neurosis so much better than conventional therapy."

He blames Timothy Leary for ensuring the drug remains illegal. "He almost single-handedly wrecked it. They used to say Timothy Leary was the only LSD patient whose ego was not soluble in LSD. He brought it into disrepute with his whole 'tune-in, drop-out' thing. He wasn't a bad man but he was silly. Although, that said, he also did say that the drug scene in In The Fields was the best he had ever read," Matthiessen adds with a smile.

As the 60s progressed Matthiessen became active in the movement against the Vietnam war and began to work closely with César Chávez after writing a profile of him for the New Yorker . His first campaign was against crop growers' indiscriminate use of insecticide. "These guys would play rough but we got on immediately and I think César is the greatest man I ever met because he was willing to put so much on the line."

His work with Chávez led to an interest in native American life and In the Spirit of Crazy Horse . The paperback edition was halted after an FBI agent and the governor of South Dakota launched libel suits. The cases were eventually dismissed, but Leonard Peltier's most recent bid for parole was turned down only last month and Matthiessen remains bitter about the continuing role played by the FBI. "It is a dreadful organisation. J Edgar Hoover made it like that and it has got worse."

He was also very disappointed that the hoped-for last-minute pardon for Peltier from outgoing President Clinton never came. "A friend sort of smuggled me into the White House and I gave him the book in front of all his staff," he says. "While there is a lot to be said against Clinton, he is a very intelligent guy and a compulsive reader so he did know about the case." In the end the book was published. But, Matthiessen says, "they won because Leonard is still in jail and no one has written a book like this doing that kind of investigative journalism since. That is victory for them."

Denis Moynihan, coordinator of the Leonard Peltier defence committee, says that while "the book was very important, Peter has also been a strong personal contact for Leonard. It's easy to think about Leonard as a symbol of the ongoing genocide against indigenous people here in the US and we can forget that he is a human being who is locked up day in, day out. Peter has been a good friend as well as a supporter."

In parallel to his political awakening Matthiessen embarked on a journey of spiritual discovery. He says his Buddhism evolved "fairly naturally after my drug experiences. What I wanted was that way of seeing but without the chemicals. " He was led by his wife Deborah, "who suffered from very bad drug trips from LSD and finally she was so scared she stopped taking it. In 1969 she told me about Buddhism and I got interested."

Deborah died of cancer in 1972. Eight years later Matthiessen married Maria Eckhart, who had been a model before working as a personal assistant to the chief executive of the American cosmetics company Clinique. He became a monk in 1981 and a Zen teacher in 1990. He is now a Zen master, a Roshi.

"Zen is really just a reminder to stay alive and to be awake," he says. "We tend to daydream all the time, speculating about the future and dwelling on the past. Zen practice is about appreciating your life in this moment. If you are truly aware of five minutes a day then you are doing pretty well. We are beset by both the future and the past and there is no reality apart from the here and now."

He says he was aware that in The Snow Leopard he was pulling together all the strands of his life. "I knew if I couldn't write a good book out of this experience I may as well pack it in. I went into that journey in 1973 on the wings of many years of Zen training and in the wake of the death of my wife. That trip was a memorial to her but I'm still dealing with its success and with the expectations it has placed upon me."

Throughout this time he was still writing fiction. His 1975 novel, the experimental Far Tortuga about Caribbean turtle fishermen, was begun in 1967. "I wanted to get away from symbolism and metaphor and wanted no irony or 'he said' or 'she said'. Some of the critics were very vitriolic, recommending that it should be read backwards and things like that. But I think nine out of 10 writers saw that it was a valid experiment whether it worked or not and it is still my favourite book." Indeed Thomas Pynchon says, "I've enjoyed everything I've ever read by Matthiessen, and this novel is Matthiessen at his best - a masterfully spun yarn, a little otherworldly, a dreamlike momentum."

Matthiessen remains entranced by the possibilities of fiction. "It allows you to go deeper into the truth. You are not constrained by the facts, you can put anything down and you can take chances and try and find ways of articulating what people know to be true but present it in a fresh way." His current project is turning the 1,400 pages of his Everglades trilogy - Killing Mister Watson (1990), Lost Man's River (1998), Bone by Bone (1999) - into a single book. The critic Sven Birketts calls the trilogy "a work of genuine dignity" and says "together these novels make a dense digest of the life of a community over a period of decades."

William Styron, who used Matthiessen's former ivy-clad Montparnasse apartment as a model for locations in his own novels, says Matthiessen's interests in art and in the natural world have been mutually sustaining. "He is extraordinarily rich in culture and the world of nature. You'd say of someone from Peter's background that it would have led him to Wall Street rather than to the extraordinarily varied career he has had. It has been a remarkable journey." Hugh Brody agrees. "I think he finds engagement with political and social issues very painful and he told me that he finds relief in writing about the natural world; about birds and animals. But for all his radicalism, he is distinctively American and he represents that part of America that is so easily forgotten. It is often characterised as this homogenous, imperialistic power but within it there is a strata of very effective, aggressive and imaginative critics who are committed to making America better."

Looking at the United States today, Matthiessen says the task of making it better is a difficult one. "I think we are now in the hands of retrograde people who have enlarged the gap between rich and poor, because literally everything they do is for big business. Bush is just a mouthpiece, but the people behind him are not stupid. Bush came to office having received $200m in campaign contributions from corporations. He owes them, and they will get it back."

Then Matthiessen sits back and smiles. "If I was president for a day I would send for every single religious and other fundamentalist on earth. And anyone who thinks that they alone have the answer, it would be off with their heads. Anyway," he finally laughs, "so speaks a Zen master on the subject."

Peter Matthiessen

Born: May 22 1927, New York.

Education: Hotchkiss School, Connecticut; Yale University.

Family: Married Patricia Southgate 1951, (one son, one daughter), divorced; married Deborah Love 1963, (one son, one adopted daughter), died 1972; married Maria Eckhart 1980.

Fiction: Race Rock 1954; Partisans 1955; Raditzer 1960; At Play in the Fields of the Lord 1965; Far Tortuga 1975; On the River Styx and Other Stories 1989; Killing Mr Watson 1990; Last Man's River 1997; Bone By Bone 1999.

Some non-fiction: Wildlife in America 1959; The Cloud Forest 1961; Under the Mountain Wall 1962; The Shorebirds of North America 1967; Sal Si Puedes: César Chávez and the New American Revolution 1969; Blue Meridian: The Search for the Great White Shark 1971; The Tree Where Man Was Born 1972; The Snow Leopard 1978; In the Spirit of Crazy Horse 1983; Nine-Headed Dragon River 1986; Men's Lives: The Surfman and Baymen of the South Fork 1986; African Silences 1991; Baikal: Sacred Sea of Siberia 1992; Birds of Heaven 2002.




  • Race Rock (1954)
  • Partisans (1955)
  • Raditzer (1961)
  • At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1965)
  • Far Tortuga (1975)
  • On the River Styx and Other Stories (1989)
  • The Watson trilogy
    • Killing Mister Watson (1990)
    • Lost Man's River (1997)
    • Bone by Bone (1999)
  • Shadow Country: a new rendering of the Watson legend (2008)
  • In Paradise (2014)


  • Wildlife in America (1959)
  • The Cloud Forest: A Chronicle of the South American Wilderness (1961)
  • Under the Mountain Wall: A Chronicle of Two Seasons in the Stone Age (1962)
  • "The Atlantic Coast", a chapter in The American Heritage Book of Natural Wonders (1963)
  • The Shorebirds of North America (1967)
  • Oomingmak (1967)
  • Sal Si Puedes: Cesar Chavez and the New American Revolution (1969)
  • Blue Meridian. The Search for the Great White Shark (1971).
  • The Tree Where Man Was Born (1972)
  • The Snow Leopard (1978)
  • Sand Rivers, with photographer Hugo van Lawick. Aurum Press, London 1981
  • In the Spirit of Crazy Horse (1983) 
  • Indian Country (1984).
  • Nine-headed Dragon River: Zen Journals 1969–1982 (1986).
  • Men's Lives: The Surfmen and Baymen of the South Fork (1986).
  • African Silences (1991).
  • Baikal: Sacred Sea of Siberia (1992).
  • East of Lo Monthang: In the Land of Mustang (1995).
  • The Peter Matthiessen Reader: Nonfiction, 1959–1961 (2000).
  • Tigers in the Snow (2000).
  • The Birds of Heaven: Travels With Cranes (2001).
  • End of the Earth: Voyage to Antarctica (2003).