Arthur Miller: Literary legend and man of conscience

Issue 

BY ELSY FORS

HAVANA — Broadway may have dimmed its bright lights in respectful farewell to one of its greatest playwrights, but Arthur Miller, dead at 89, is praised and recognised the world over, including in Cuba, where his visit in the year 2000 is still remembered.

The February 12 Granma daily published an obituary note, the last paragraph of which recalls Miller's visit to Havana, together with other eight US cultural figures and the defence he made of the Cuba's right to self-determination.

Lisandro Otero, vice-president of the Cuban Writers and Artists Union and award-winning novelist, said Miller will remain as the writer who with great audacity attacked the intolerance that spread in the US during the Cold War.

In an article under his signature for on-line review Cuba Literaria, Otero said Miller dared say rigid fanaticism was not only a feature of the Cold War years but had also shown itself in other times, like Salem, New England, in 1692 [the setting for Miller's 1953 play The Crucible].

Miller's work shook the conscience of intellectuals in the US at a time when a trial of the so-called Hollywood Ten was a display of ideological repression, said Lisandro Otero, who recalled having met the US playwright in October 1986 at the Kremlin when Kirgizian novelist Chinguiz Aitmatov led a group of intellectuals at the invitation of Mikhail Gorbachev. Attending from the US were Arthur Miller, the black novelist James Baldwin, Nobel Prize winner Claude Simon, Russian-born British playwright Peter Ustinov and futurologist Alvin Toffler.

In contrast to Truman Capote and Norman Mailer, Miller succeeded in judging and condemning the two most conspicuous monsters of his time — intolerance and the cruelty of daily life in a hostile environment, asserts Otero.

US newspapers like the Chicago Tribune compared Miller to Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams. Another consulted playwright even said Miller's work is as significant as Anton Chekhov's.

Whatever rank he may be given in theatre and literature history, Arthur Miller will be an undisputed man of conscience.

[Abridged from Prensa Latina.]

From Green Left Weekly, February 23, 2005.

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