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Authors: Harold Pinter

The Dwarfs

BOOK: The Dwarfs
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The Dwarfs

By the same author


Ashes to Ashes


The Birthday Party

The Caretaker

Celebration and The Room

The Collection and The Lover

The Hothouse

Landscape and Silence


Mountain Language

No Man’s Land

Old Times

One for the Road

Other Places

(A Kind of Alaska, Victoria Station, Family Voices)

Party Times

The Room and The Dumb Waiter

A Slight Ache and Other Plays

Tea Party and Other Plays


(The Birthday Party, The Room, The Dumb Waiter, A Slight Ache, The Hothouse, A Night Out, The Black and White, The Examination)


(The Caretaker, The Dwarfs, The Collection, The Lover, Night School, Trouble in the Works, The Black and White, Request Stop, Last to Go, Special Offer)


(The Homecoming, Tea Party, The Basement, Landscape, Silence, Night, That’s Your Trouble, That’s All, Applicant, Interview, Dialogue for Three, Old Times, No Man’s Land)


(Betrayal, Monologue, One for the Road, Family Voices, A Kind of Alaska, Victoria Station, Mountain Language, Precisely, The New World Order, Party Time, Moonlight, Ashes to Ashes)


The Comfort of Strangers and Other Screenplays (Reunion, Victory, Turtle Diary)

The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Other Screenplays (The Last Tycoon, Langrishe, Go Down)

The Heat of the Day

The Proust Screenplay

The Servant and Other Screenplays (The Pumpkin Eater, The Quiller Memorandum, Accident, The Go-Between)

The Trial


Collected Poems and Prose

The Dwarfs (A Novel)

100 Poems by 100 Poets
(an anthology selected by Harold Pinter, Geoffrey Godbert, and Anthony Astbury)

99 Poems in Translation
(an anthology selected by Harold Pinter, Geoffrey Godbert, and Anthony Astbury)

Various Voices: Prose, Poetry, Politics

Death etc.

The Dwarfs

A Novel


Copyright © 1990 by Harold Pinter

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, or the facilitation thereof, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review Any members of educational institutions wishing to photocopy part or all of the work for classroom use, or publishers who would like to obtain permission to include the work in an anthology, should send their inquiries to Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003.

First published in Great Britain in 1990 by

Faber and Faber Limited, London

Published simultaneously in Canada

Printed in the United States of America

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Cover design by Charles Rue Woods

Pinter, Harold, 1930-

The dwarfs : a novel / Harold Pinter.

p.    cm.

ISBN-10: 0-8021-3266-9

ISBN-13: 978-0-8021-3266-6

eISBN: 978-0-8021-9172-4

I. Title.

PR6066.I53D8   1990

823’914—dc20        90-44459

Grove Press

an imprint of Grove/Atlantic, Inc.

841 Broadway

New York, NY 10003

Distributed by Publishers Group West

06  07  08  09  10    10  9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1

To Judy Daish


I wrote
The Dwarfs
in the early fifties, before I began writing plays. I didn't offer it for publication at the time.

In 1960 I extracted some elements from the book and wrote a short play under the same title. The play is quite abstract, mainly, I believe, because I omitted the essential character of Virginia from it.

In 1989 I read the book for the first time in many years and decided it would benefit from further work. This work consisted mainly of cuts. I cut five chapters which seemed to me redundant and reorganized or condensed a number of other passages. Despite this reshaping, the text is fundamentally that written over the period 1952–1956.



Just before midnight they went to the flat. It was dark and the blinds were down. Len unlocked the front door and pushed it open. A pile of letters lay on the mat. He picked them up and put them on the hall table. They walked down the stairs. Pete opened the living-room window and took a packet of tea from his pocket. He went into the kitchen and filled the kettle.

Len adjusted his glasses and followed. From his inside pocket he drew out a recorder. He blew into it, held it up to the light and put it to his mouth. Bending, he shook it violently and polished it on his trousers, rose, seized a stiff dishcloth from the towelrack and wiped his fingers. He then wiped the recorder, twiddled it between his fingers, put it to his mouth, set his fingers on the holes and blew. There was no sound.

- Don’t overdo it.

Len tapped the recorder on his head.

- What’s the matter with it? he said.

The rain fell on the kitchen roof. Pete waited for the kettle to boil, poured water into the teapot and took it into the living room, where he set two cups on the table. By the fireplace stood two armchairs, facing. He sat down in one of them and lit a cigarette.

- There’s something wrong with this recorder, Len said.

- Let’s have some tea.

- I can’t do a thing with it.

Len poured the tea and slapped his pockets.

- Where’s the milk? he asked.

- You were going to bring it.

- That’s right.

- Well, where is it?

- I forgot it. Why didn’t you remind me?

- Give me the cup.

- What do we do now?

- Give me the tea.

- Without milk?

- Come on.

- Without any milk?

- There isn’t any milk.

- What about sugar? Len asked, passing the cup.

- You were going to bring it.

- Why didn’t you remind me?

Pete looked about the room.

- Well, he said, everything looks in good order.

- Hasn’t he got any?

- Any what?

- Sugar.

- I couldn’t find any.

- It’s like the workhouse here.

From a hook by the fireplace Pete lifted a toasting fork with a monkey’s head and examined it.

- This is interesting.

- That? Len said. Haven’t you ever seen that before? It’s Portuguese. Everything in this house is Portuguese.

- Why’s that?

- That’s where he comes from.

- So he does.

- Or at least, his grandfather on his mother’s side.

Pete slipped the fork back on the hook.

- Well, well.

- Or his grandmother on his father’s side.

The hall clock chimed. They listened.

- What time is he coming?

- About half-past one.

- Well, what about a shot of air?

- Air? Len said.

- What’ s the matter with that thing?

- There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s the best on the market.

But it must be broken. It’s a year since I played it.

Pete stood up, yawned, and strolled to the bookshelf. The books, closely stacked, were covered in dust. On the bottom shelf he found a Bible. He looked at the inscription.

- I gave him this, years ago, he said.

- What?

- This Bible.

- What for?

Pete pushed the book back and brushed his fingers.

- This tea’s murder on the liver, Len said.

- Well, what about it?

- What about what?

- A shot of air.

- Not me.

- Why not?

- It’s raining.

- Listen, Pete said.

- I can’t hear a thing.

- The rain’s stopped.

- How do you know?

- Can you hear it?

- No.

- You can’t hear it because if’s stopped.

- Anyway, Len said, the rain’s got nothing to do with it.

- Have mercy.

- No, I know where you’ll drag me.

- Where?

- Over the Lea.

- Well?

- You don’t know what it’s like there at night.

- Don’t I?

- All right, you do know. You may know. But you’re prepared to go over there again at night. I’m not.

- Do you know, Pete said, I think if’s about time you bucked your ideas up. You’re at death’s door.

He sat down. Len took out a handkerchief and wiped his
glasses, smiling. He then placed his glasses on the table, stood up, sneezed twice and shook his head.

- I’ve got the most shocking blasted cold I’ve ever had in all my life.

He blew his nose.

- Still, it’s not much of a nuisance, really.

Pete sat looking at the sooted newspaper in the fireplace, tapping his foot on the hearth.

- Here, Len said, shall I go and get my fiddle and play you a few titbits while you’re in the mood? I’ve got a piece of Alban Berg up my sleeve would make you see stars.

- Has he ever written to you in red ink? Pete asked.

- Eh?

- Red ink. There’s a bottle on the bookshelf.

- Of course he has. What about it? Has he ever written to you in red ink?

- No.

Len sneezed and blew his nose. The rain began to fall again, beating on the window. Leaning across the table, he pressed his nose to the pane.

- It’s dark.

- Take some friar’s balsam, Pete said.

- Why? Have you ever written to him in red ink?

Pete took his cup into the kitchen and rinsed it out. He returned to the living room to find Len, eyes screwed, holding his glasses at arm’s length before him.

- It’s still there.

- What now?

- You don’t know what you’re missing by not wearing glasses.

- What am I missing? Pete asked, pouring tea into his cup.

- I’ll tell you. You see, there’s always a point of light in the centre of the lens, in the centre of your sight. You can’t go wrong. You can’t miss your step. There’s always, even in the darkest night, a pinch, a fragment of light, poised in front of you. Look here, there are some people, you know
as well as I do, who go around with a continual crease in their forehead. When, at times, they manage to eliminate that crease, the world’s right, they’d invest in anything. Well, all right, I’m not saying I have the same outlook, just because there are times I realize this square of light exists. Nowhere near the same outlook. But all I’ll say is this. What this point of light does, it indicates the angle of your orbit. There’s no need to look at me like that. You don’t understand. It gives you a sense of direction, even if you never move from the one spot.

- Do I have to go down on my bended knees?

- I’m giving you a hot tip.

- Just answer one question, Pete said. Don’t you go around yourself with a continual crease in your forehead?

- Exactly. Precisely. That’s why I know what I’m talking about.

The hall clock struck one. Len slipped on his glasses and sat still.

- Ten to one he’ll be hungry.

- Why?

- I’ll lay odds.

Pete closed his eyes and lay back.

- He can eat like a bullock, that bloke, Len said.

He turned the recorder in his hands.

- I’ve seen him finish off a loaf of bread before I’d got my jacket off.

He put the recorder to his left eye and looked into it.

- He’d never leave a breadcrumb on a plate in the old days.

Pete opened his eyes, lit a match and watched it burn.

- Of course he may have changed, Len said, standing up and moving about the room. Things do change. But I’m the same. Do you know I had five solid square meals one day last week. At eleven o’clock, two o’clock, six o’clock, ten o’clock and one o’clock. Not bad going. Work makes me hungry. I was working that day.

He leaned against the cupboard and yawned.

- I’m always starving when I get up. Daylight has a funny effect on me. As for the night, that goes without saying. As far as I’m concerned the only thing you can do in the night is eat. It keeps me fit, especially if I’m at home. I have to run downstairs to put the kettle on, run upstairs to finish what I’m doing, run downstairs to cut a sandwich or arrange a salad, run upstairs to finish what I’m doing, run back downstairs to see to the sausages, if I’m having sausages, run back upstairs to finish what I’m doing, run back downstairs to lay the table, run back upstairs to finish what I’m doing, run back-

- Yes!

- Where did you get those shoes?

- What?

- Those shoes. How long have you had them?

- Why, what’s the matter with them?

- I’m losing my grip. Have you been wearing them all night?

- No, Pete said. I walked from Bethnal Green in my naked feet.

- I must be losing my grip.

He sat at the table and shook his head.

- When did you last sleep? Pete asked.

- Sleep? Don’t make me laugh. All I do is sleep.

- What about work? How’s work?

- Euston? An oven. It’s an oven. Still, bad air is better than no air, I suppose. It’s best on nightshift. The trains come in, I give a bloke half a dollar, he does my job, I curl up in a corner and read the timetables. The canteen’s always open. If I was there tonight they’d give me a cup of tea with as much milk and sugar as I wanted, I can tell you that.

Pete stood up and stretched, pressing his hand against the wall.

- You could do with a bit more weight, Len said. You’re made of bone.

- He’ll be here in a minute.

- Have you looked at your cheekbones lately? They’re coming through your skin.

- What about it? Pete said, peering out of the window. Len took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes.

- I think I’m undergoing a change, he said.

- Are you?

- I feel it. I feel I’m undergoing a change.

Pete collected the teapot and cups and took them into the kitchen, where he put the kettle on the gas.

- What’s going on? asked Len, in the doorway.

- He’ll want a beverage.

- Black tea? You’re mad. You can’t welcome a man back to his own home with a cup of black tea.

- Collect your thoughts, Pete said. What did you tell me he wrote to you in his letter?

- He said go to the flat and put the kettle on.

- For tea?

- For tea.

- That’s exactly what I’m doing, Pete said. In fact, I’m interpreting his words in their strictest sense. He’s going to get tea. Black tea. Pure tea. At one and nine a quarter.

The bell rang.

- That’s the man, Pete said. Open the door.

BOOK: The Dwarfs
11.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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