3 Nobel winners define writing at Nobel Banquet

By Gaurav Bhattarai
Three aspiring novelists sat together for a coffee table chit-chat after they were bequeathed of some formal honors for their felt contributions in the realm of writing. They shared all they had learned, heard and underwent so far about writing.

Their topic of discussion kicked off from why we write to for whom one write; revolved around the sense of audience , inspirations, the inevitability of tradition; and each of them floated certain suggestions and recommendations on writing. They excitedly entered the topic and crawled back to the surface with an informed head.

Many sit in that style and argue on that manner at various corners of the world, who relishes the world of words; who shuts himself up in a room; sits down at a table; and retires to a corner with pen, paper and ink to express the meaning of literature.

But a day comes in a year when a Nobel Prize winner in literature speaks about writing, which is called Banquet speech. That day is cherished as a memorable not by him alone. His readers are always therein to discover inspiration from their every statements and expressions: whether it is through words in fiction or by means of speech at a banquet. Defining about writing actually means philosophizing on the art of expression through words. The way William Faulkner philosophized in fifties, is still different from what Clezio did in 2008 and Pamuk in the 2006.

Answers to the question why we write? are numerous and large. Still the place where all dispersed foots, I guess, would tread together and raise hands in agreement is --wherein one says writing is a way of finding out how one feel about anything and everything. Usually in the private. The latter part of the argument may draw only partial agreement, for a writer is not necessarily a hermit, or a shy and bashful.

Do we write only to give to others, what our predecessor endowed on us after reading them! Or we write just to be published! Still to be studied in schools and colleges!

Banquet speech of William Faulkner, Gustav Le Clezio, and Orhan Pamuk is, to be precise the trio's explanation on Why we write? Some of their ideas are marked by correspondence or resemblance but still differ in various lines.

Faulkner's speech at the Nobel Banquet at the City Hall in Stockholm, December 10, 1950 put stress on "the problem of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing they don't just talk as magicians don't ". Likewise, Orhan Pamuk in his Nobel Lecture of December 7, 2006 said, a writer writes when he/she has an instinctive need to write .For Pamuk "he writes, because he has "an innate need to write". However, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Cl├ęzio's Nobel Lecture of December 7, 2008 agrees that writer s write to bear witness. For Clezio's "writer is nothing more than a simple voyeur. For Clezio, a good writing is the result of one's reflection on society. On the other hand, for Faulkner, a good writing should portrays a human spirit "which is capable of compassion, sacrifice and endurance". Pamuk takes a different stance. At the same time, a writer, says Pamuk, talks of things that everyone know but does not know they know.

I have chosen them for just talk about magic under the influence of applause, award and honor for their astonishing contributions and incredible achievements. All three had explained what writing means to them at the same occasion when they were bestowed with honor and reward, but at different periods of time. Faulkner made it shorter and philosophical; Pamuk and Clezio made it longer, meditative and dramatic.
They all have argued on why anyone should sit alone and write wherein they could be doing anything else. It reminds me of Jean Paul Sartre debating in what is writing: each has his reasons: for one, art is a flight; for another a means of conquering. But one can flee into a hermitage, into madness, into death. One can conquer by arms. Why does it have to be writing, why does one have to manage one’s escapes and conquests by writing?

Who do we write? has always been the question of a debate among writers, readers, critics, journalists and others. One's motives to write always depend on the time and space. There are still those groups who believe that writing is something that only luxurious people pursue and it would be a troublesome business to a poor illiterate boy that writing is undertaken by the educated and well-cultivated scholars. It is not an easy question for a writer to answer why he actually write. He may have one reason at one place and may come up with the more advanced and progressive answer at the next attempt.

All three--American Faulkner, Turkish Pamuk, and French Clezio, have averred through their Banquet speech, how they fell in love with words.

True and great literature emerged for Pamuk from his father's suitcase .When he speaks of writing what comes to his mind is not a novel, a poem, or literary tradition, it is a person who shuts himself up in a room, who sits alone and who turns inward. "To write means to turn inward gazes into words... with patience, obstinacy and joy," uttered Pamuk at the Banquet speech.

Children's books, grandmother's dictionaries, biographies came as a marvelous gateway to reading and writing for Clezio. Writing for Clezio commences with a time for reflection, where writers "examine every detail, explore every path, name every tree". It is precisely that realm from which the artist must not attempt to escape. Hence, writers write for they would like to bear witness like James Joyce created Irish ballad in Finnegans Wake.

What Faulkner said at the Banquet speech 48 years ago is closer to what Pamuk deemed writing as .For Faulkner, writing is a life's work "in the agony and sweat of the human spirit". Faulkner thinks that it is writer's duty to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before.

The answer to the question Why we write? is tied up to the another disputable subject matter , For whom one write? All three writers have underlined the importance of identifying targeted audiences in any work of art. For Faulkner, the sense of audience is universal and to address the universal audience, writer must teach himself the old universal truths of the human heart, lacking which any story is short-lived and doomed.

Faulkner even suggests young writers not to abandon the old verities and truths of heart .The writer should write of love and honor, of pity and pride, of compassion and sacrifice as it would be felt by all people of the world, said Faulkner .He wants promising writers to write of love, hope, pity and compassion, which are the universal subjects. Write not of lust but of love, write not of glands but of heart, said Faulkner, who declined to accept the end of man. For Faulkner, it's writer's duty to speak of the inexhaustible voice burning in agony and still talking. Faulkner does not agree that man is immortal because he will endure but because he has a soul-- a spirit capable of compassion, and sacrifice and endurance, and it is the writer's duty to write about these things.

Still for Pamuk, shutting oneself away from crowds is literature's eternal rule to be a good writer. To be a writer, patience and toil are not enough, said Pamuk, who thinks the starting point of true literature is the man who shuts himself up in his room with his books.

He said, once we shut ourselves away, we soon discover that we are not as alone as we thought. We are in the company of the words other people's stories, the other people's words.

Poetic mood of Pamuk was unveiled at the 2006 Banquet when he eloquently stated his private reasons for writing anything. He said, he writes because of an innate need to write; because he cannot do normal work as other people; because he want to read books like the ones he writes. He writes because he want others, the whole world, to know what sort of life he is living.

Like Faulker, Pamuk has also suggested the blossoming generation of writers, not to abandon the venture where one builds a new world with words and urges to spend years seeking the second being inside him with patience, obstinacy and joy. "Build the artworks like someone build a bridge or a dome, stone by stone, but the stones we writers use are words," urged Pamuk to the budding generation of writers.

Pamuk's father resembles Clezio's maternal grandmother, whom he calls 'an extraordinary storyteller'. For Clezio, writer is a daydreamer who is fascinated with the reality at the same time. This realm of writing, for Clezio, is a place from which the artist must not attempt to escape "rather he/she must camp out there in order to examine every detail, explore every path, name ever tree".

At the Swedish Academy , Clezio even suggested the future generation of writers to write, imagine, and dream in such a way that his words and inventions and dreams will have an impact upon reality, will change people's minds and hearts, will prepare the way for a better world. Going through Clezio's speech, it seems true that one writes for individual transformation, which in process of time also brings about the social transformation ( when the text is able to arouse readers, haunt them with meanings and suggestions, and inspire them like of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Gorky,).

If writing demands an act of shutting up oneself in room for Pamuk, it is an act in solitude for Clezio. Solitude is affectionate to writers, and it is in the company of solitude that they find the essence of happiness. It is a contradictory happiness, a mixture of pain and delight, an illusionary triumph, a muted, omnipresent torment, not unlike a haunting little tune.

These three Banquet speeches in particular endues a source of instruct and delight to those who always carry a book with them, in their pocket or in their bag, usually in times of grief and sorrow.

These speeches also come as an inspiration to those who love to be in possession of another world: a fictional world which showers on you happiness even amid an event resulting in great loss and misfortune.
They also answer the general questions on what motivates writers to write and for whom they write.


 NOTE -- The author is bloger in Nepal, and the article was authentically published on The Himalayan Times


Stay tuned to TIBET TELEGRAPH for more news and views on Tibet and Tibetan life, and on areas of interest to the Tibetan readers.

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