Sunday, December 30, 2007

Doris Lessing's Nobel speech (a few weeks late)

I missed this because I was traveling. It's a must-read. (Even if Lessing briefly disses the internet and blogging, which made our reading of this piece possible. But of course that's not her point.)

........ All the writers travelled a difficult road to literacy, let alone to becoming writers. I would say learning to read from the printed labels on jam jars and discarded encyclopaedias was not uncommon. And we are talking about people hungering for standards of education beyond them, living in huts with many children - an overworked mother, a fight for food and clothing.

Yet despite these difficulties, writers came into being. And we should also remember that this was Zimbabwe, conquered less than 100 years before. The grandparents of these people might have been storytellers working in the oral tradition. In one or two generations, the transition was made from these stories remembered and passed on, to print, to books.

Books were literally wrested from rubbish heaps and the detritus of the white man's world. But a sheaf of paper is one thing, a published book quite another. I have had several accounts sent to me of the publishing scene in Africa. Even in more privileged places like North Africa, to talk of a publishing scene is a dream of possibilities.

Here I am talking about books never written, writers who could not make it because the publishers are not there. Voices unheard. It is not possible to estimate this great waste of talent, of potential. But even before that stage of a book's creation which demands a publisher, an advance, encouragement, there is something else lacking. .....

******* Doris Lessing (age 88)
********"A Hunger for Books"
********Nobel Prize for Literature acceptance speech
********December 7, 2007
And again I say: Read it.


pj said...

My browser just ate my comment. (The curse of Doris Lessing!)

As I was reading her speech, my 6-year-old son was in the next room, reading to his dad. What an embarrassment of riches.

Jane R said...

Damn browser (or curse -- hey, there's a short story title, "The Curse of Doris Lessing"). I really wanted to know what you thought.

Nice to have kids and parents reading to each other. A great gift.

I am reading Dorothee Soelle for something I'm writing. Wonderful little book called Creative Disobedience which you would probably like.

johnieb said...

Duly noted. The irony of sharing the speech at a highly literate and beautifully presented (love the Straits! And the pictures!) blog with my virtual buddies is delicious, isn't it?

I have the Historian's disease of wanting to follow every trail, as in the story of Lot and Bloch at the new city hall in Stockholm. Finding what to read next, (or, along with) is always an issue.

The Soelle is intriguing: good title.

johnieb said...

I think it was Pirenne and Bloch, come to think of it.

klady said...

Thank you so much for this. I missed it, too, but only because I wasn't paying attention to what I should.

It's been years since I read Doris Lessing -- probably in the 1980's not long after The Good Terrorist came out. While I lament much about the internet (or at least my use of it), it's been lovely to google and wiki and whatever around, refresh my memory, and pick up some other articles and interviews at The Guardian.

More later, perhaps. Thanks again.