David Hare wins PEN/Pinter Prize 2011

Playwright wins prize for political writing.

David Hare has been awarded the PEN/Pinter prize for 2011. The prize was established by English PEN, which supports writers working under censorship and the threat of persecution, to draw attention to writers "of outstanding literary merit who, in the words of Harold Pinter's Nobel speech, casts an 'unflinching, unswerving' gaze upon the world, and shows a 'fierce intellectual determination ... to define the real truth of our lives and our societies'". Previous winners include Hanif Kureshi and Tony Harrison. Half of the prize will be shared with a "writer of courage" who has undergone political persecution for speaking publicly about their ideas; last year this half of the prize went to the Mexican journalist and human rights activist Lydia Cacho.

Once one of the enfant terribles of British theatre, penning a series of incendiary political plays for the Royal Court and National Theatre during the 1970s and 80s, Hare has ended up becoming a pillar of the theatrical establishment. He was given a knighthood in 1998 and his Page Eight, about an MI5 operative (Bill Nighy) chased out of his job for disclosing British complicity in torture, has become the latest in a series of works he has written for the BBC. Hare was one of the group, alongside Alan Clarke, editing Play for Today during its late 70s heyday. In a recent interview with Radio Times he said that he was glad to able to work on film and TV again, with its potentially huge audience. But it would be a mistake to think he has cooled in his politics. During the 2000s he worked on a series of "verbatim plays", using transcripts of material to examine privatisation, the lead-up to the Iraq war and the origins of the financial crisis. "13 years have gone", he has said, "and whether the plays are any good or not, they are certainly no less radical." Lady Antonia Fraser, Harold Pinter's widow and one of the prize judges, said:

In the course of his long, distinguished career, David Hare has never failed to speak out fearlessly on the subject of politics in the broadest sense; this courage, combined with his rich creative talent, makes him a worthy winner of the PEN/Pinter Prize.

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The Polish Christmas advert that trumped John Lewis melts hearts in regretful Brexit Britain

An advert that encourages us to hope for “more” in our relationship with our European neighbours.

John Lewis had a trampolining dog, H&M had Wes Anderson, Sainsbury’s had a singing James Corden. But for all their big-budget sheen and tie-in products, none have mustered as much genuine emotion as this commercial for a Polish auction site, Allegro. Starring an elderly Polish man learning English for the first time, the video has rocked up almost 7 million views since it went online at the end of last month.

We watch Robert labelling all his household possessions (including his dog), reading his vocabulary book and listening to CDs in all manner of locations (his desk, the bus, even the bath) in his attempt to learn English. Why? Well, as the advert reveals in its final moments, it’s all for love: Robert can’t wait to speak English to his granddaughter (and daughter-in-law) when he visits them in the UK this Christmas.

The advert is like a mix of Edeker’s 2015 Christmas advert, and John Lewis’s “Man on the Moon” and “The Long Wait” films – with a dash of Love, Actually (language barriers and doorstep reunions) – so it ticks all the boxes of a Christmas hit. Lonely old person? Check. An agonising wait? Check. Cute pet, adorable tiny child, airport scene? Check, check, check. All topped off with some tear-filled hugs? Checkmate.

It’s funny too: many commenters thought the final twist might be Robert using some of his less child-appropriate vocabulary (“I’m going to fucking kill you!”) when meeting his granddaughter for the first time.

But there’s also a subtly anti-Brexit message here, as love trumps borders. A spokesperson for Allegro told Buzzfeed, “Many Polish people share the same experience” as this “grandfather who overcomes obstacles to reunite with his loved ones living abroad.”

“Nearly one million Poles have decided to leave the country in search for a job, mainly heading for the United Kingdom. Despite the relatively close distance between the countries, family ties tend to weaken. Therefore, Christmas for many is a difficult time in which we yearn for more.”

An advert that encourages us to hope for “more” in our relationship with our European neighbours? Wouldn’t that be the greatest gift of all? Well, much better than a trampoline, anyway. 

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.