Unearthed…Harold Pinter’s sarcastic letter to school pupils

July 26, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

A sarcastic letter penned by Harold Pinter to O-Level students seeking hidden meanings behind his plays has fetched £360 at auction.

Pinter’s ‘cantankerous’ reply was sent to a class of 16-year-olds in 1966 in response to queries about his play The Caretaker.

Asked weather the shed and Buddha featured in the The Caretaker held any special significance, Pinter replied by telling them: ”The Buddha is a Buddha. The shed is a shed.”

And to a question about why the central character, Davies, has an assumed name, Pinter quipped: ”His name is assumed because he assumed it.”

He dismissed answers to a further ten questions from the pupils, ending his letter: ”I assure you that these answers to your questions are not intended to be funny.”

The letter, addressed to a boy identified only as Master Seaman, was written on November 4 1966 but has only now surfaced after it fell out of the leaves of a book sent for auction.

Both the letter and a first edition play fetched £360 at Dominic Winter auctioneers, in South Cerney.

Auctioneer Chris Albury said the ”crabby” tone of the letter provided a fascinating insight to the ”cantankerous” nature of the writer, who died in 2008.

He said: ”It’s wonderfully evocative of the character of Pinter we all like to think we know.

”I can’t imagine Shakespeare ever spoke in iambic pentameters or spoke anything like as beautifully as he made his characters speak.

”Here, I don’t think there could be any doubt that the author of this letter was any other than Pinter himself.

”The word ‘Pinteresque’ has entered our language and that is the perfect word for this revealing letter. Except you would have to insert your own pauses.”

The Caretaker, Pinter’s first commercial success when it opened in 1960, tells the story of Davies, a tramp who is brought home by the mentally deficient Aston, causing tension with Aston’s younger brother Mick.

Davies initially calls himself Bernard Jenkins, but later reveals his real name, and becomes anxious to retrieve personal papers he has left in Sidcup.

The pupils of class 5A at an unnamed school wrote to Pinter after suspecting Sidcup might have been chosen for a reason.

They were also keen to know whether electrical plugs which Aston constantly fiddles with are a metaphor for something else.

But were told: ”Davies’ papers are in Sidcup because that’s where they are – Aston fiddles with his plugs because he likes doing it.”

The letter, sent from Pinter’s home overlooking Regents Park, does not give the name of the school, and the auctioneers said it was being sold by a dealer who did not know the identity of the original owner.

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