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Harold Pinter, shown here in 2003, died in December. He won a Nobel Prize for literature in 2005.

A new literary prize has been launched in honour of the late playwright and essayist Harold Pinter.

Pinter, known as an ardent critic of political and artistic oppression and the war in Iraq, died last December at age 78.

The British branch of PEN, which advocates for the rights of writers all over the world, says it will award a writer who shows a "fierce intellectual determination … to define the real truth of our lives and our societies" with its new prize.

The winner will receive £1,000 ($1,800 Cdn) with another £1,000 to be awarded to an imprisoned writer of conscience of their choice.

Pinter was once vice-president of the English PEN.

Pinter's widow, Antonia Fraser, told The Guardian newspaper she is "delighted" to support the prize, which would recognize "the courage of writers, both in this country and overseas, who, like him, have made a principled stand for writers' freedoms."

Pinter, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 2005, wrote 32 plays; one novel, The Dwarfs, in 1990 and scripted 22 screenplays, including The Quiller Memorandum (1965) and The French Lieutenant's Woman (1980).

His plays — including The Birthday Party, The Homecoming and One For The Road  — are his best-known works, exploring darker parts of the human psyche with characters who were baffled by their own fears, unfulfilled desires and sometimes the threat of violence.

In his Nobel acceptance speech, he emphasized the importance of tackling the truth in writing.

"I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory. If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us — the dignity of man."