Saturday, May 03, 2008

His sweet black will

After Lunch

And after noon the well-dressed creatures come
To sniff among the dead
And have their lunch

And all the many well-dressed creatures pluck
The swollen avocados from the dust
And stir the minestrone with stray bones

And after lunch
They loll and lounge about
Decanting claret in convenient skulls

Harold Pinter September 2002

Engage has a post here about Israel's Separation fence. In and of itself it is not interesting in that that it does not offer any new insight on the subject. Same old. What makes this post noteworthy is the comments that follow it, in which a commenter, Harold P. makes an appearance and drops off comments which bear remarkable resemblance in style and tenor to the well-known positions of Noble laureate Harold Pinter. So it is assumed by all that the commenter in question, titillatingly coy in his choice of an alias, is the very same Pinter. For that reason alone this thread stands out as interesting. It's not everyday that you can get to exchange barbs with the great man himself.

I left two comments about HP, working on the assumption that it is indeed Harold Pinter.

One was on Simply Jews, where I'd learned about that thread:

Ha, Pinter. I just read that thread and I would have liked to say to Mr. P what Socrates said to Callicles:

"And I retort your reproach of me, and say, that you will not be able to help yourself when the day of trial and judgment, of which I was speaking, comes upon you; you will go before the judge, the son of Aegina, and, when he has got you in his grip and is carrying you off, you will gape and your head will swim round, just as mine would in the courts of this world, and very likely some one will shamefully box you on the ears, and put upon you any sort of insult. "

And another on Engage:

The attempts to shame Harold P. and his "co-religionists" are not only futile but also counterproductive. Nothing can make a dent on that gleaming armour of moral righteousness they wear. Any additional comment directed at them is gobbled up as a chocolate truffle, not the bitter herbs they are meant to be. I've been immunized to the likes of Harold P. by a professor who taught me Jewish history. HP joins the unfortunate tradition of the accommodating, self-denying, Jew, who converts for convenience and social acceptance and can maintain his special privileged status only by repeatedly proving that he can get under other Jews' skin. Just as Pablo Christiani compelled "Jews everywhere to listen to his speeches and to answer his questions, either in their synagogues or wherever else he pleased", so does Harold come to Engage to speak directly to Jews in the hope of cowing and humiliating them by his superior facility with language.

Palestinian Suffering is just a canvas on which HP and his friends try to draw out their own troubled identities. It's a shame that they cannot understand it. So much talent and intelligence gone to waste on self-gratification.



Speaking of Pinter, we cannot forget that he happens to be David Mamet's friend. This bit of information is surprising, considering that David Mamet is a great Zionist and advocate of a muscular Israel, as we can see from this somewhat disapproving report here:

"Mamet frequently suggests that belief in a Jewish conspiracy is alive and well, that racist hatred of Jews remains widespread. He recently posted in a blog about Mel Gibson (well, who else?): "Most of the Western Press, European and American, pictures Israel as somehow the aggressor, and the Israelis as somehow inhuman, and delighting in blood." But "Israel wants peace", he says. "There is no 'cycle of violence'... That the Western press characterises the Israeli actions consistently as immoral is anti-Semitism. What state does not have the right to defend itself - it is the central tenet of statehood... Europe has always been devoted to the destruction of the Jews. At times, again, it is acute, it is always chronic... Israel's Jews are no more the cause of Arab Fundamentalist rage than they were the cause of European Fascism. We, as always, are the miner's canary... the first victims of national or global unrest."

In this review of Mamet's literary achievement, the writer notes:

Nadel also turns to Mamet's second marriage (where his wife converted to Judaism) in order to show his new freedom and confidence to confront Jewish issues that had hitherto remained unsettled for him. However, Mamet's Jewishness, while a form of virility in its truculence, becomes a virtual paranoia about the non-Jewish world. The crucial question - whether Mamet's Jewish bias has turned him from major dramatist to minor polemicist or jingoist - is left unanswered in this valuable introduction to Mamet's life and career.

What I noticed was how Pinter's own choice to concentrate on his political aversions reflect the same reduction suspected of Mamet, but in radically-inverted position.

Pinter's denial of Jewish political self-determination has resulted in giving birth to a "virtual paranoia" about the Jewish world (consider the dogged persecution of David Hirsh in Harold P's comments. What's that if not some kind of paranoia, however mild?)

"The need to weigh in on matters of global import — particularly at such a fraught time in world affairs — can cause playwrights to lose sight of their strengths, to substitute spluttering polemic for plausible or imaginative drama. (Harold Pinter’s more overtly political work is often his least interesting.)" says Charles Isherwood, here.

Here is a quote from Harold Pinter's own blog

In 1958 Harold Pinter wrote the following:

"There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false."

I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?

I conclude with these questions:

Of these radically-opposed friends, who has a better grasp on the truth? Whose position is inherently false? Are they still friends? Can they be still friends? Is Engage commenter Harold P. really Harold Pinter? If so, why not come out and declare yourself in the first place? Why the need for this flirtatious, semi-transparent veil? What purpose does it serve?


Update (3 hours later): Looks like Mr. P posted on above mentioned Engage thread to deny any connection to Harold Pinter. It's something of a relief, that the well known playwright is after all not so petty as to seek out a vindictive and self-besmirching confrontation on a website dedicated to minimizing hatred in the world. The puzzle still remains, though: why would anyone want to pretend to use the identity of someone rich and famous? It's positively creepy, though not an unthinkable ploy in certain Indecent thinking circles.

I used to moderate a now-defunct, quite popular message board and it was a rather pathetic and useless trick for certain posters to assume a few identities or try to mislead others into thinking they were someone else. Usually they were very easy to ferret out, and keep out. There was a strict rule against impersonation, or multiple identities. One such poster appeared under a French alias and posted Holocaust jokes and obscene poetry. Though his IP address was identical to another poster's IP, said poster kept insisting he had no idea who was posting these flaming posts from his computer. BTW, he didn't consider himself an antisemite.


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