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A Kind of Alaska is a one-act play written in 1982 by Harold Pinter (1930–2008), the 2005 Nobel Laureate in Literature.


A middle-aged woman named Deborah, who has been in a comatose state for thirty years as a result of contracting sleeping sickness, awakes with a mind still that of a sixteen-year-old teenager. She must confront a body which seems to have aged without her prior knowledge or consent. Her sister Pauline and Pauline's husband, Hornby, who has been Deborah's devoted doctor over these 3 decades and who may have fallen in love with her, attempt gently to ease her back to her current reality, while withholding some of the more jarring information. Deborah reawakens to a changed world, attempting to take what appear to her to be rather shocking revelations in graceful stride, but ends the play with the ironic observation about her sister and brother-in-law that can only go so far towards accepting the realities that they have allowed her to know. Speaking of Pauline, Deborah states, bluntly: "She is a widow. She doesn't go to her ballet classes any more. Mummy and Daddy and Estelle [who are actually dead] are on a world cruise. They've stopped off in Bangkokmarker. It'll be my birthday soon. I think I have the matter in proportion" (40).

Production history

According to his note in the published text, Pinter's idea for the play was inspired by his reading of Awakenings, by the renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks (3).

A Kind of Alaska was first performed in the Cottesloe Theatremarker, in Londonmarker, on 14 October 1982, as part of a trilogy of Pinter's plays entitled Other Places. The original cast included Judi Dench as Deborah, Paul Rogers as Hornby, and Anna Massey as Pauline.

Works cited

Pinter, Harold. Other Places: Four Plays. New York: Dramatists Play Service, 1984. ISBN 0822208660 (10). ISBN 9780822208662. Print. [Also includes One for the Road, along with A Kind of Alaska, Victoria Station, and Family Voices.]

–––. Other Places: Three Plays (A Kind of Alaska, Victoria Station, and Family Voices). New York: Grove Press (An Evergreen Book), 1983. Hardback ed.: ISBN 0394624491 (10). Paperback ed.: ISBN 0802151892 (10). ISBN 9780802151896 (13). Print. (Page references to the paperback edition appear within parentheses above.) [A Kind of Alaska appears on 1–40.]

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