PEN – the international writers association (Poets, Essayists and Novelists, if you were wondering) – has announced that this year, its prestigious Pinter Prize will be awarded to the revered playwright Tom Stoppard. The award was established by the organisation in 2009 in tribute, of course, to Harold Pinter, who died in 2008.
Inspired by Pinter’s acceptance speech upon winning the Nobel Prize in 2005, the PEN Pinter is shared annually between a British writer who ‘casts an unflinching, unswerving gaze upon the world’ and an international writer deemed to be ‘of courage’. The 2012 prize went to the poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, and Samar Yazbek, the Syrian writer who has been an active campaigner for women and human rights in her native country, which she is no longer allowed to leave due to her participation in 2011 protests against Bashar al-Assad. Previously the award has gone to Tony Harrison, Hanif Kureishi and David Hare in Britain and Maung Thura, Lydia Cacho and Roberto Saviano internationally. The international writer of courage who will share this year’s prize with Stoppard has yet to be revealed.
Prestigious though it is, the PEN Pinter is but one in a long line of awards for Stoppard. A knight and CBE, the playwright has four Tony awards to his name – for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Travesties, The Real Thing and The Coast of Utopia – and one Oscar for his screenplay for John Madden’s Shakespeare in Love. As aficionados of this sort of business will no doubt have realised by now, this puts him a mere TV show and a piddling hit record away from potentially completing the EGOT.
South African novelist Gillian Slovo, chairing this year’s PEN Pinter judging panel, says of Stoppard that her peers ‘agreed unanimously that Tom’s lifetime’s work meets the challenging criteria set by Harold Pinter when he described those characteristics he most admired in a writer… those of courage and truthfulness, a determination to tell things as they are.’ Stoppard then had the good grace to express his own admiration of Pinter, saying he was ‘one of the reasons I wanted to write plays’.
He was chief hack and music editor of webzine Brazen from 2006 to 2010, and hosted Left of the Dial on Subcity Radio from 2008 to 2011.
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