He describes him in short, clipped sentences.
‘He came into the hotel, very quickly indeed. Sharp strides, quick handshake. It was extremely friendly.’
And then he tells you about himself, a slight pride, ‘I’d known his work for many years, of course.’
Of course, as if there would have been any question to otherwise. Then the non sequitur, ‘But it hadn’t led me to believe that he would be such a very fast driver. He drove his little Citreon, from bar-to-bar, throughout the evening. Very quickly, indeed.’
And of course, there are (pauses).
It’s Harold Pinter on Samuel Beckett, recalling an evening spent in his company. A pub crawl in France.
‘We were together for hours, and finally ended up in… (Pause) ...a place in Les Halles, eating onion soup, at about 4 o’clock in the morning. (Longer Pause) And… (Pause) ...I was, by this time, overcome, through, I think, alcohol and tobacco and excitement (Pause) with indigestion and heartburn. So. I lay down on the table, to still see the place. (A Beat) When I looked up he was gone. (Pause) A I say, it was about 4 o’clock in the morning.’
It could be lines from a Pinter play, My Night Out With Samuel, or a comedy, When Harry Met Sammy, but it all progresses beautifully, and menacingly, towards a punchline.
‘I had no idea where he had gone, and he remained away and I thought perhaps this had all been a dream. (Long Pause) I think I went to sleep on the table and…. (Pause) ...About forty-five minutes later, the table jolted and I looked up and there he was, a package in his hand. A bag.
‘And he said, eh, “I’ve been over the whole of damned Paris to find this. I finally found it.” And he opened the bag and he gave me a tin of bicarbonate of soda. Which indeed worked wonders.’
Pinter then goes on to read from a letter he wrote to a friend in 1954, when he was 24, about Beckett - ‘The farther it goes, the more good it does me’ - before performing an extract from Beckett’s The Unnameable. In total, this short program is seven minutes of sheer brilliance.