When Mountain Language opened at the National Theatre in London on October 20, 1988, the audience was shocked by the play’s stark look at the machinations and effects of totalitarianism. Employing the characteristic structure and style of his previous plays, Harold Pinter focused on new subject matter. Drawing his inspiration from the long history of oppression the Kurds suffered under Turkish rule, Pinter centered his play in a prison controlled by unnamed guards in an unnamed country. As the Turkish did to the Kurds, the guards ban the prisoners’ native language as they incarcerate them for unnamed crimes against the State. This enigmatic play employs the innovative techniques found in Pinter’s earlier plays, blending absurdism and realism in illustration of the harsh reality of modern society and the individual’s isolated and powerless state within that society.
Commenting on Pinter’s distinctive style in his plays, Tish Dace writes in her article in Reference Guide to English Literature that his plays are ‘‘so rich’’ with ‘‘inscrutable motivations and ambiguous import that an international industry has arisen to explicate his art, and his name has entered the critical lexicon to deal with those derivative dramas now termed ‘Pinteresque.’’’ While Mountain Language can definitely be labeled ‘‘Pinteresque,’’ it also has been recognized for its author’s compelling political subject matter.