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Last Word
Listen to the latest editionFriday   16:00-16:30
Sunday 20:30-21:00 (rpt)

Radio 4's weekly obituaries programme
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This week
Friday 2 January 2009
(Rpt) Sunday 4 January 2009
Matthew Bannister
Matthew Bannister tells the life stories of people who have died recently: Helen Suzman, Harold Pinter, Samuel Huntington and Sir Michael Levey.
Helen Suzman
South African politician and anti-apartheid campaigner who has died aged 91

Helen Suzman was born near Johannesburg to Lithuanian Jewish parents. She became an MP in 1953 and held her seat for the next 36 years.

She was the sole representative of the Progressive Party for 13 years, an MP who fought the racist policies of Nationalist party from within the system. She campaigned on behalf of political prisoners, visited Nelson Mandela in jail on Robben island and became a close friend of the future President.
But in recognition of her tireless campaigning she was made an honorary dame by the Queen in 1989 and was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

John Wilson talks to author and friend Nadine Gordimer, niece Janet Suzman and daughter Frances Jowell.

Helen Suzman was born 7 November 1917 and died 1 January 2009.

Harold Pinter
Playwright who has died aged 78

Asked about the sense of the menace and latent violence in his plays, Harold Pinter would point to his upbringing on the streets of Hackney. In the post war years when anti-Semitism was still common, it helped for a Jewish teenager to be quick witted or tough. Pinter was both. By the early 1960s his name had spawned a new adjective and ‘Pinteresque’ drama changed British theatre forever. The Caretaker, Betrayal, No Man’s Land and many other works are now regarded as modern classics.

John Wilson talks to Harold Pinter’s friend from schooldays, Henry Woolf.

Harold Pinter was born 10 October 1930 and died 24 December 2008.
Sir Michael Levey
Art historian and former Director of The National Gallery who has died aged 81

Sir Michael Levey was director of The National Gallery in London for 13 years, from 1973 to 1986. Despite tight constraints on the public purse at the time, he managed to bolster the national collection with several important purchases. In particular he oversaw the diplomatic negotiation that allowed an important David portrait to be exported from France. In his later years at the gallery he was instrumental in securing a £50m donation from the billionaire John Paul Getty II.

John Wilson talks to Neil MacGregor and Dr Nicholas Penny.

Sir Michael Levey was born on 8 June 1927 and died 28 December 2008.
Samuel Huntington
Political scientist who has died aged 81

Samuel Huntington was a Harvard big thinker well versed in controversy, having since the late 1950s written several books which bucked prevailing political opinions of the day, including Clash of Civilisations. In the late 1970s, Huntington served on the National Security Council under President Carter, having previously advised Lyndon Johnson.

John Wilson talks to Dr Francis Fukuyama and Henry Kissinger.

Samuel Huntington was born April 18 1927 and died 24 December 2008.
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