Monday, January 11, 2010

In love with Pinter

‘A very enjoyable dinner party at Rachel and Kevin’s house. I was slightly disappointed not to sit next to the playwright, who looked full of energy, with black curly hair and pointed ears like a satyr. Gradually the guests filtered away and some neighbours offered me a lift. ‘Wait a minute,’ I said. ‘I must just say goodbye to Harold Pinter and tell him I enjoyed the play; I haven't said hello all evening.’ I went over to where Harold was sitting. ‘Wonderful play, marvellous acting, now I'm off.’ He looked at me with those amazing, extremely bright black eyes. ‘Must you go?’ he said.’

Thanks to The Daily Mail for the above diary extract (dated 8 January 1975), taken from Must You Go? My Life with Harold Pinter by Antonia Fraser published today by Weidenfeld and Nicolson, part of Orion Books. Classified as a memoir, Orion says the book is ‘a marvellously insightful testimony to modern literature’s most celebrated marriage, between the greatest playwright of the age and a beautiful and famous prize-winning biographer’. Some might argue about calling Pinter the ‘greatest playwright of the age’ but for biographical information on Pinter and Fraser see their Wikipedia entries.

Orion’s promotional blurb explains the connection between the memoir and Fraser’s diaries: ‘Must You Go? is based partly on Antonia Fraser’s own diaries, which she has kept since October 1968 when she suffered from withdrawal symptoms after finishing her first historical biography, Mary Queen of Scots. Antonia Fraser has also used her own recollections, both immediate reactions (she always writes her Diary the next morning, unless otherwise noted) and memories. She has quoted Pinter where he told her things about his past, once again noting the source, and has occasionally quoted his friends talking to her on the same subject. Intriguingly her Diaries always pay special attention to any green shoots where Pinter’s writing is concerned, perhaps a consequence of a biographer living with a creative artist and observing the process first hand.’

Although both Pinter and Fraser were married when they met, their love affair did not take long to blossom - The Daily Mail article has a sequence of diary extracts from the book illustrating this - and it lasted until Pinter’s death over thirty years later in December 2008. To coincide with the book’s publication, Fraser is reading from it for BBC Radio’s Four’s Book of the Week. Here, though, are a couple more extracts taken from The Daily Mail.

26 January 1975
‘Thought of Harold. I suppose I’m in love with him, but there are many other things in my life. . .

9 February 1975
‘Joyous, dangerous and unavoidable - Harold’s three words to Kevin Billington about us, quoted by Harold to me on the telephone. Not bad Pinteresque words.’

11 March 1975
‘Everything is now all right. A knock. He was there. He clutched me and we clutched each other. At first it was almost desperate, he had suffered so much. Finally, he said: ‘I feel like a new man.’ ’

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