‘I’ve always wondered what it’s like having a man like Harold Pinter about the house, what with all those pauses and enigmatic statements?’
To this question from a Washington Post journalist, Antonia promptly answered: ‘Keep wondering.’
‘Antonia’ is Lady Antonia Fraser, Harold Pinter’s second wife. They met in 1975 on occasion of the opening night of ‘The Birthday Party’, directed by her brother-in-law Kevin Billington.
Author of successful biographical histories like that of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, and Marie Antoiniette (the main inspiration behind Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film of the same name), Lady Fraser published ‘Must You Go? My Life with Harold Pinter’ in 1980. Alternating historical events with personal anecdote, this intimate account was about her life together with the Noble Prize winner.
In these pages she reveals how living with the writer was ‘a gratifying experience because he behaved in exactly the same way artists behaved in books, but rarely in real life.’
Lady Fraser describes how Pinter’s works came about. He only wrote ‘when inspiration suddenly took hold, an image … that image could come about in any place at any time – in a taxi, a bar or whilst sitting at his desk late at night and looking out of the window at the road dotted with street lamps.’ And while the actual setting down of a poem or a piece may have been an immediate enough affair, the editing could be endless. Fraser tells of how he ‘would take a whole year to round off a single poem!’
It was Lady Fraser herself who announced her husband’s death in The Guardian: “He was a great man. It was a privilege to have lived with him for over 35 years. He’ll never be forgotten.”