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Fiche de lecture : «Celebration», Harold Pinter

Par Juliette Dorotte : Elève stagiaire - ENS de Lyon
Publié par Clifford Armion le 07/05/2008

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In a posh restaurant, two couples of friends, Matt and Prue, and Lambert and Julie, are having lunch. They are together to celebrate Lambert and Julie's wedding anniversary, but the mood is not proper to celebration. At an adjacent table, another couple is having a talk. Revelations are fusing on both sides: the man had an affair, and the woman reveals the dark side of her past. Before the six characters meet and make the general atmosphere even tenser, three characters come and go between the tables: the owner of the restaurant, a waitress, and a mythomaniac waiter.

Lambert - But as I was about to say, you won't believe this, I fell in love once and this girl I fell in love with loved me back. I know she did.
Julie - Wasn't that me, darling?
Lambert - Who?
Matt - Her.
Lambert - Her? No, not her. A girl. I used to take her for walks along the river.

(in Harol Pinter: Plays. Tome 4. pp. 470-471)

Celebration is considered Harold Pinter's most -if not the only- comical play. Nothing actually happens in the play and the major strength of this work lies in the literary, ironical treatment of day-to-day dialogues the reader could overhear in a restaurant.

If not action, the spring of the play is definitely language. We are presented with six individuals who are more and more precisely defined throughout the play, not through others' descriptions, but through what they say and what they will not say. We learn more about the couples by certain sentences than by physical signs of affection or of anger.

The structure of the play itself is worth noticing. As we first focus on one table, and then on a second, with occasional interruptions of the restaurant's staff, the reader naturally draws parallels between the two scenes occurring at the same time. The first two couples are strongly divided, since the two men talk together most of the time, as do the two women, who happen to be sisters. The third couple is ambiguous, both barraging one another with sweet words and compliments, yet acting as strangers once they join the first table. The presentation of the three couples enables us to compare them because this play is constructed as a net.

Harold Pinter said once he did not care about universalism, since he already had enough to deal with in the reality surrounding him. This play reflects perfectly this idea, with the shift from a vague setting, anonymous people - their first names do not reveal anything special about them - to individualized characters who are all related to one another in this precise restaurant, whether because they know one another (the woman from the second table, Suki, used to be Lambert's lover), because their jobs differ completely and oppose them (Lambert and Matt are strategy consultants, their wives "do charities"), because they are broken beings.

By doing so, Pinter engages us to reflect on human relationships, our incurable loneliness, the artificiality of our contacts, and certainly the weight of conventions on relationships. These themes are common to all his plays, but if this one is different, it is because it is clearer and accessible to a larger audience than Party Time, for example. The reader does not need to construct links by himself: they are already present in the text, and are gradually revealed.

This play is worth reading, and certainly more in regard to his other works. If the themes do not differ completely from one play to another, this use of irony to express them suits well the 21st century society, with hollow marriages and the disintegration of faithfulness. The subtlety of the writing outstrips many contemporary works dealing with human relationships and human beings in general.

Juliette Dorotte

Harold Pinter, Celebration. Faber & Faber, 2000


Pour citer cette ressource :

Juliette Dorotte, "Fiche de lecture : «Celebration», Harold Pinter", La Clé des Langues [en ligne], Lyon, ENS de LYON/DGESCO (ISSN 2107-7029), mai 2008. Consulté le 20/04/2024. URL: https://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/litterature/litterature-britannique/fiche-de-lecture-celebration-harold-pinter