In 1985, Arthur Miller and Harold Pinter came to Istanbul to highlight the plight of Turkish writers and artists who were being brutally oppressed in the wake of the 1980 coup. For those who may have missed it when it was broadcast earlier this year on BBC Radio 4, the audio player below contains a programme about their visit by Maureen Freely (author and translator of Orhan Pamuk). Below the audio, you’ll find an excerpt from Pinter’s recollections of the trip, penned for Miller on his 80th birthday.
Arthur Miller and I landed at Istanbul airport on March 17, 1985. We were visiting Turkey on behalf of International PEN, to investigate allegations of the torture and persecution of Turkish writers. The trip got off to a bad start. I had two suitcases. One hadn’t made it. Apart from other things, this left me with no socks. So Arthur lent me his. Bloody good ones they were too. Made to last.
We met dozens of writers. Those who had been tortured in prison were still trembling but they insisted on giving us a drink, pouring the shaking bottle into our glasses. One of the writer’s wives was mute. She had fainted and lost her power of speech when she had seen her husband in prison. He was now out. His face was like a permanent tear. (I don’t mean tear as in tears but tear as in being torn.)
Turkey at this time was a military dictatorship, fully endorsed by the United States. The US Ambassador, hearing of our presence and thinking he was playing a clever card, gave a dinner party at the US embassy in Ankara in honour of Arthur. As I was Arthur’s running mate they had to invite me too. …
After dinner I thought I’d keep out of trouble for a while and went to look at the paintings. Suddenly I saw the Ambassador and his aides bearing down on me. Why they weren’t bearing down on Arthur I don’t know. Perhaps he was too tall. The Ambassador said to me: “Mr. Pinter, you don’t seem to understand the realities of the situation here. Don’t forget, the Russians are just over the border. You have to bear in mind the political reality, the diplomatic reality, the military reality.”
“The reality I’ve been referring to”, I said, “is that of electric current on your genitals.” The Ambassador drew himself, as they say, up to his full height and glared at me. Continue reading Pinter on his trip to Turkey