Page 54 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 22

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48
J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
Benny, he said, come here. He was dying. I knelt down by
him day and night. Who else was there? Forgive Benny, he
said, and let live . . . Keep an eye open for low-lives, for schnor-
rers and for layabouts. . . Do your duty and keep your observa­
tions . . . Never forget your family, for they are the rock, the
constitution and the core. If you’re ever in any difficulties Uncle
Barney will see you in the clear. I knelt down. I swore by the
good book. And I knew the word I had to remember—Respect.”
Surely this string of cliches refers to Jewish virtues drummed
into immigrant children to enable them to get on in an alien
society, and the maintenance of the Jewish clan spirit. Under
interrogation Stanley finally broke down and is dragged off—
a reluctant capitulation to superior forces.
When I asked Pinter why Goldberg had to be a Jewish charac­
ter, he said he didn’t know. When I referred to Wesker’s remark
that the play came “out of his experience in the Jewish com­
munity,” he denied it. Yet he admitted that his early adulthood
marked a revolt against the hedged-in closeness of family life,
that his marriage to a non-Jewess had created a barrier, only
overcome by success.
Pinter’s greatest success
The Caretaker,
produced in 1960, is
both more mature and more perplexing. Only three characters
appear, two brothers and an old tramp. Pinter’s great comic
gift is tightly interwoven with his talent for enigmatic evoca­
tion. The relationship between the two brothers, one mate­
rialistic, the other a near-mad idealist, may possibly relate to a
Jewish dichotomy. The remarkable film version makes these
themes more explicit. Whereas the play is set in a kind of limbo,
the film is rooted in a more significant no man’s land, a derelict
house actually five minutes from where Pinter was born. This
19th century bourgeois residential area, later taken over by
Jews, has now become a coloured immigrant slum. The relation­
ship of this “doubly alien” setting with the play’s principal
theme of a search for identity, cannot be coincidental; nor the
tortured need for trust, or the anxiety to maintain dignity in
the face of insult and rejection.
Since
The Caretaker
he has produced some one-act plays
which, although less powerful, continue to explore the isolation
of human experience. More recently Pinter has turned to films
in the version of
The Caretaker
and the script for the remarkable
film
The Servant.
No English playwright of his generation has achieved such
international acclaim. One critic finds he “involves the spectator
on a deeper level than that of narrative”; another that he writes
“about silence . . . about the things people do not say.” Yet
another sees them as “about the impossibility of communica­