Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Mountain Language

by Harold Pinter

“[Mountain Language] effortlessly encapsulates the world. . . . If to want, to have, to use or abuse power over others is the essence of politics, then Pinter has been writing political plays since day one. No one but he could have written this one. . . . This is a harsh, cruel, magisterial play, painful but compassionate.” —John Peter, The Sunday Times (London)

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date April 01, 1989
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3168-3
  • US List Price $7.95

About The Book

When Mountain Language premiered in 1988, Irving Wardle of the Times of London wrote: “In Mountain Language, there are no cunning verbal mechanisms to stand between the spectator and the brute spectacle of state-enforced oppression.

“Set in an unnamed country, it consists of four brief prison scenes. In the first, a group of women visitors wait outside all day to see their imprisoned menfolk, savaged by guard dogs and insulted by the military. We then move inside for more intimate glimpses of the inhuman regime: the prohibition of the prisoners’ native language; a young wife catching sight of her battered husband; streams of bludgeoning insults like blows to the face; the final sight of an old woman who, finally permitted to speak the forbidden language, has nothing to say.

“[Mountain Language] is a scream of outrage, designed simply to point out yet again, and probably in vain, that such scenes are being enacted in prisons all over the world; that it is horrifyingly easy for human beings to start treating each other as an alien species; and that all this can take place in secrecy to an accompaniment of bland official disclaimers.”

Praise

“[Mountain Language] effortlessly encapsulates the world. . . . If to want, to have, to use or abuse power over others is the essence of politics, then Pinter has been writing political plays since day one. No one but he could have written this one. . . . This is a harsh, cruel, magisterial play, painful but compassionate.” —John Peter, The Sunday Times (London)

“What is astonishing is how much Pinter packs into a short space. He deals with the use of language as a repressive instrument, the arbitrary cruelty of military states which make up new rules as they go along, the brutish incompetence of totalitarian societies which shunt the wrong prisoners into the wrong place. . . . Pinter also makes his points—like late Beckett—through a series of resonant images. . . . [He] distills the daily barbarism of military societies with painterly precision. A masterly portrait of compressed suffering.” —Michael Billington, The Guardian

“A play of few words which adds up to an eloquent indictment of the banning of any human utterance. . . . Milan Kundera has written that the final barbarity of a totalitarian regime is that, by making its victims the butts of grim practical jokes, it even tries to deprive them of the tragic dignity which their suffering merits. In a succession of short, jabbing scenes, Pinter introduces us to such a world.” —Paul Taylor, The Independent

Awards

Winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Literature