Born the son of a Jewish tailor in the rough-and-tumble Hackney district of east London in 1930, Harold Pinter is the most influential British playwright of his generation, a writer whose sparse signature style spawned its own adjective: Pinteresque.
He's also a man of firm political views, an unrelenting critic of the United States and its war in Iraq, and of the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair.
"I think the world is going down the drain if we're not very careful," a frail but defiant Pinter, who has been treated for cancer in recent years, said Thursday.
"Iraq is just a symbol of the attitude of western democracies to the rest of the world."
Leaning on a cane and sporting a bandaged head after a fall, Pinter told reporters outside his London home that he felt "quite overwhelmed" by the award.
"I have no idea why they gave me the award," Pinter said. "I respect their judgment. I am very grateful."