Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Nobel laureate’ Category

Elie Wiesel (born 1928) was born in Sighet, Romania
and is the author of more than 57 books.
He is a Holocaust survivor and was a prisoner
in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration
camps in 1944 and 1945. He won the Nobel
Peace Prize in 1986.

Below is an excerpt from Wiesel’s novel The Time of the Uprooted, published in 2005.

I’m four years old, or maybe five. It’s a Sabbath afternoon. Mother is lying down in the next room. I’d asked her to read to me from the book she had by her side, but she has one of her frequent headaches. So I ask my father to tell me a story, but just then there’s a knock at the door. “Go see who it is,” says my father, reluctantly glancing up from the journal he’s keeping. A stranger is at the door.
“May I come in,” he asks. A big bearded man, broad across the shoulders, with sad eyes — there’s something disturbing about him. His gaze seems heavy with secrets, and glows with a pale and holy fire.
“Who’s there?” my father asks, and I reply, “I don’t know.”
“Call me a wanderer,” the stranger says, “a wandering man who’s worn-out and hungry.”
“Who do you want to see?” I ask, and he says to me, “You.”

Wiesel at age 15, just before deportation.

Who is it, a beggar?” my father asks. “Tell him to come in.” No matter what the hour, my father would never deny his home to a stranger seeking a meal or a night’s shelter, and certainly not on the Sabbath.
The stranger comes in at a slow but unhesitating pace. Father stands to greet him and leads him to the kitchen. He shows the stranger where to wash his hands before reciting the usual prayer, offers him a seat, and sets before him a plate of cholent and hallah [stew and bread]. But the stranger doesn’t touch it. “You’re not hungry?” my father says.
“Oh yes, I’m hungry, and I’m thirsty, but not for food.”
“Then what is it you want?”
“I want words and I want faces,” says the stranger. “I travel the world and look for people’s stories.” I’m enchanted by a stranger’s voice. It is the storyteller: It envelops my soul. He continues: “I came here today to put you to the test, to measure your hospitality. And I can tell you that what I’ve seen pleases me.” With that, he gets to his feet and strides to the door.
“Don’t tell me you are the prophet Elijah,” says my father.
“No, I’m not a prophet.” The stranger smiles down at me. “I told you, I’m just a wanderer. A crazy wanderer.”

Photo taken at Buchenwald liberation. Wiesel is in the
second row of bunks, seventh from the
left, next to the vertical beam.

Ever since that encounter, I’ve loved vagabonds with their sacks full of tales of princes who became what they are for love of freedom and solitude. I delight in madmen. I love to see their crazed, melancholy faces and to hear their bewitching voices, which arouse in me forbidden images and desires. Or rather, it’s not the madness itself I love, but those it possesses, those whose souls it claims, as if to show them the limits of their possibilities — and then makes them determined to go further, to push themselves beyond those limits. It’s second nature with me. Some collect paintings; other love horses. Me, I’m attracted to madmen. Some fear them, and so put them away where no one can hear them cry out. I find some madmen entertaining, but others do indeed frighten me, as if they know that a man is just the restless and mysterious shadow of a dream, and that dream may be God’s. I have to confess that I enjoy their company, I want to see through their eyes the world die each night, only to be reborn with dawn, to pursue their thoughts as if they were wild horses, to hear them laugh and make others laugh, to intoxicate myself without wine, and to dream with my eyes open.

Read Full Post »

Elie Wiesel (born 1928) was born in Sighet, Romania
and is the author of more than 57 books.
He is a Holocaust survivor and was a prisoner
in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration
camps in 1944 and 1945. He won the Nobel
Peace Prize in 1986.

When I asked my students the other night how many faces were in the classroom, they hesitated to answer. One man said, “Do you mean we wear one face for the world but carry many other faces inside us?” I said that was a good answer but not what I was looking for. Then an Oh of understanding came from the back of the room, and a student pointed to the posters on the wall.

Here’s an excerpt from Wiesel’s novel The Time of the Uprooted, published in 2005.

I’m four years old, or maybe five. It’s a Sabbath afternoon. Mother is lying down in the next room. I’d asked her to read to me from the book she had by her side, but she has one of her frequent headaches. So I ask my father to tell me a story, but just then there’s a knock at the door. “Go see who it is,” says my father, reluctantly glancing up from the journal he’s keeping. A stranger is at the door.
“May I come in,” he asks. A big bearded man, broad across the shoulders, with sad eyes — there’s something disturbing about him. His gaze seems heavy with secrets, and glows with a pale and holy fire.
“Who’s there?” my father asks, and I reply, “I don’t know.”
“Call me a wanderer,” the stranger says, “a wandering man who’s worn-out and hungry.”
“Who do you want to see?” I ask, and he says to me, “You.”

Wiesel at age 15, just before deportation.

Who is it, a beggar?” my father asks. “Tell him to come in.” No matter what the hour, my father would never deny his home to a stranger seeking a meal or a night’s shelter, and certainly not on the Sabbath.
The stranger comes in at a slow but unhesitating pace. Father stands to greet him and leads him to the kitchen. He shows the stranger where to wash his hands before reciting the usual prayer, offers him a seat, and sets before him a plate of cholent and hallah [stew and bread]. But the stranger doesn’t touch it. “You’re not hungry?” my father says.
“Oh yes, I’m hungry, and I’m thirsty, but not for food.”
“Then what is it you want?”
“I want words and I want faces,” says the stranger. “I travel the world and look for people’s stories.” I’m enchanted by a stranger’s voice. It is the storyteller: It envelops my soul. He continues: “I came here today to put you to the test, to measure your hospitality. And I can tell you that what I’ve seen pleases me.” With that, he gets to his feet and strides to the door.
“Don’t tell me you are the prophet Elijah,” says my father.
“No, I’m not a prophet.” The stranger smiles down at me. “I told you, I’m just a wanderer. A crazy wanderer.”

Photo taken at Buchenwald liberation. Wiesel is in the
second row of bunks, seventh from the
left, next to the vertical beam.

Ever since that encounter, I’ve loved vagabonds with their sacks full of tales of princes who became what they are for love of freedom and solitude. I delight in madmen. I love to see their crazed, melancholy faces and to hear their bewitching voices, which arouse in me forbidden images and desires. Or rather, it’s not the madness itself I love, but those it possesses, those whose souls it claims, as if to show them the limits of their possibilities — and then makes them determined to go further, to push themselves beyond those limits. It’s second nature with me. Some collect paintings; other love horses. Me, I’m attracted to madmen. Some fear them, and so put them away where no one can hear them cry out. I find some madmen entertaining, but others do indeed frighten me, as if they know that a man is just the restless and mysterious shadow of a dream, and that dream may be God’s. I have to confess that I enjoy their company, I want to see through their eyes the world die each night, only to be reborn with dawn, to pursue their thoughts as if they were wild horses, to hear them laugh and make others laugh, to intoxicate myself without wine, and to dream with my eyes open.

Read Full Post »

Toni Morrison (born 1931) was the first African
American woman to win the Nobel Prize.
She won the Nobel Prize in 1993 and
the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988.
Her birth name is Chloe Wofford. 

Toni Morrison is best known for her novels The Bluest Eye, published in 1970; Song of Solomon, published in 1977; and Beloved published in 1987. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction of her novel Song of Solomon:

I have long despised artists’ chatter about muses — “voices” that speak to them and enable a vision, the source of which they could not otherwise name. I thought of muses as inventions to protect one’s insight, to avoid questions like “Where do your ideas come from?” Or to escape inquiry into the fuzzy area between autobiography and fiction. I regarded the “mystery” of creativity as a shield erected by artists to avoid articulating, analyzing, or even knowing the details of their creative process — for fear it would fade away.

Writing Song of Solomon destroyed all that. I had no access to what I planned to write about until my father died. In the unmanageable sadness that followed, there was none of the sibling wrangling, guilt or missed opportunities, or fights for this or that memento. Each of his four children was convinced that he loved her or him best. He had sacrificed greatly for one, risking his house and his job; he took another to baseball games over whole summers where they lay in the grass listening to a portable radio, talking, evaluating the players on the field. In the company of one, his firstborn, he always beamed and preferred her cooking over everyone else’s, including his wife’s. He carried a letter from me in his coat pocket for years and years, and drove through blinding snow-storms to help me. Most important, he talked to each of us in language cut to our different understandings. He had a flattering view of me as someone interesting, capable, witty, smart, high-spirited. I did not share that view of myself, and wondered why he held it. But it was the death of that girl — the one who lived in his head — that I mourned when he died. Even more than I mourned him, I suffered the loss of the person he thought I was. I think it was because I felt closer to him than to myself that, after his death, I deliberately sought his advice for writing the novel that continued to elude me. “What are the men you have known really like?”

He answered.

What it is called — muse, insight, inspiration, “the dark finger that guides,” “bright angel” — it exists and, in many forms, I have trusted it ever since.

The challenge of Song of Solomon was to manage what was for me a radical shift in imagination from a female locus to a male one. To get out of the house, to de-domesticate the landscape that had so far been the sit of my work. To travel. To fly. In such an overtly, stereotypically male narrative, I thought that straightforward chronology would be more suitable than the kind of play with sequence and time I had employed in my previous novels. A journey, then, with the accomplishment of flight, the triumphant end of a trip through earth, to its surface, on into water, and finally into air. All very saga-like. Old-school heroic, but with other meanings. Opening with the suicidal leap of the insurance agent, ending it with the protagonist’s confrontational soar into danger, was meant to enclose the mystical but problematic one taking by the Solomon of the title.

Read Full Post »

Toni Morrison (born 1931) was the first African
American woman to win the Nobel Prize.
She won the Nobel Prize in 1993 and
the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988.
Her birth name is Chloe Wofford. 

In my English Comp class tonight, I will ask my students how many faces are in the classroom. The class size ranges from 15 to 20, but I am referring to the faces of the poet and fiction writers on the classroom posters. As the semester winds down, I will introduce my students to the faces on the wall.

Toni Morrison is best known for her novels The Bluest Eye, published in 1970; Song of Solomon, published in 1977; and Beloved published in 1987. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction of her novel Song of Solomon:

I have long despised artists’ chatter about muses — “voices” that speak to them and enable a vision, the source of which they could not otherwise name. I thought of muses as inventions to protect one’s insight, to avoid questions like “Where do your ideas come from?” Or to escape inquiry into the fuzzy area between autobiography and fiction. I regarded the “mystery” of creativity as a shield erected by artists to avoid articulating, analyzing, or even knowing the details of their creative process — for fear it would fade away.

Writing Song of Solomon destroyed all that. I had no access to what I planned to write about until my father died. In the unmanageable sadness that followed, there was none of the sibling wrangling, guilt or missed opportunities, or fights for this or that memento. Each of his four children was convinced that he loved her or him best. He had sacrificed greatly for one, risking his house and his job; he took another to baseball games over whole summers where they lay in the grass listening to a portable radio, talking, evaluating the players on the field. In the company of one, his firstborn, he always beamed and preferred her cooking over everyone else’s, including his wife’s. He carried a letter from me in his coat pocket for years and years, and drove through blinding snow-storms to help me. Most important, he talked to each of us in language cut to our different understandings. He had a flattering view of me as someone interesting, capable, witty, smart, high-spirited. I did not share that view of myself, and wondered why he held it. But it was the death of that girl — the one who lived in his head — that I mourned when he died. Even more than I mourned him, I suffered the loss of the person he thought I was. I think it was because I felt closer to him than to myself that, after his death, I deliberately sought his advice for writing the novel that continued to elude me. “What are the men you have known really like?”

He answered.

What it is called — muse, insight, inspiration, “the dark finger that guides,” “bright angel” — it exists and, in many forms, I have trusted it ever since.

The challenge of Song of Solomon was to manage what was for me a radical shift in imagination from a female locus to a male one. To get out of the house, to de-domesticate the landscape that had so far been the sit of my work. To travel. To fly. In such an overtly, stereotypically male narrative, I thought that straightforward chronology would be more suitable than the kind of play with sequence and time I had employed in my previous novels. A journey, then, with the accomplishment of flight, the triumphant end of a trip through earth, to its surface, on into water, and finally into air. All very saga-like. Old-school heroic, but with other meanings. Opening with the suicidal leap of the insurance agent, ending it with the protagonist’s confrontational soar into danger, was meant to enclose the mystical but problematic one taking by the Solomon of the title.

Read Full Post »

Pablo Neruda (Chile, 1904-1973)

The People

Just as I’ve always thought of myself as a carpenter-poet. I think of Rafita as the poet of carpentry. He brings his tools wrapped in a newspaper, under his arm, and unwraps what looks to me like a chapter and picks up the worn handles of his hammers and rasps, losing himself in the wood. His work is perfect.

A little boy and a dog accompany him and watch his hands as they move in careful circles. His eyes are like those of Saint John of the Cross, and his hands raise the colossal tree trunks with delicacy as well as skill.

On the rauli wood beams, I wrote with chalk the names of dead friends, and he went along carving my calligraphy into the wood as swiftly as if he had flown behind me and written the names again with the tip of a wing.

Some Words for a Book of Stone

This stony book, born in the desolate coastlands and mountain ranges of my country, was abandoned in my thoughts for twenty years. It wasn’t possible to write it then for wandering reasons and the tasks of every year and day.

It is the poet who must sing with his countrymen and give to men all that is man: dream and love, light and night, reason and madness. But let’s not forget the stones! We should never forget the silent castles, advance to kill or die, adorn our existence without compromise, preserving the mysteries of their ultraterrestrial matter, independent and eternal.

My compatriot, Gabriela Mistral, said once that in Chile it is the skeleton that one sees first, the profusion of rocks in the mountains and sand. As nearly always, there is much truth in what she said.

I came to live in Isla Negra in 1939 and the coast was strewn with these extraordinary presences of stone and they spoke to me in a hoarse and drenching language, a jumble of marine cries and primal warnings.

Because of this, the book, adorned with portraits of creatures of stone, is a conversation that I open to all the poets of the earth, so that is may be continued by all in order to encounter the secret of stone and of life.

The Sea

The Pacific Ocean was overflowing with borders of the map.
There was no place to put it. It was so large, wild and blue that it didn’t fit anywhere. That’s why it was left in front of my window.
The humanists worried about the little men it devoured over the years.
They do not count.
Not even that galleon, laden with cinnamon and pepper that perfumed it as it went down.
No.
Not even the explorers’ ship — fragile as a cradle dashed to pieces in the abyss — which keeled over with its starving men.
No.
In the ocean, a man dissolves like a bar of salt. And the water doesn’t know it.
………………………………………………
From Neruda’s book Isla Negra, published in 2001 and translated by Dennis Maloney and Clark Zlotchew.

Read Full Post »

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (Russia, 1918-2008)

It is difficult to know what to post about a man whose life and work have reached such mythic proportions as Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn. In literature, he is best known for his novels Gulag Archipelago, written between 1958 and 1968 and published in 1973, and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, published in 1963.

The two novels are based on his years of imprisonment in a Soviet labor prison camp from 1945 to 1953. He was arrested and imprisoned for anti-Soviet propaganda and remarks made against Stalin discovered in correspondence to a school friend. After his eight-year imprisonment ended in 1953, he was sent into exile in Kazakhastan, on the fringes of Siberia. In 1956, he was freed from exile and exonerated. In trying to publish his work over the next 18 years, he was persecuted by the KGB, arrested again in 1974 and deported to West Germany. He then moved to Zurich, Switzerland, and later to Cavendish, Vermont. In 1990, his Soviet citizen was restored, and he returned to Russia in 1994.

Solzhenitsyn after his release in 1953. He smuggled out his padded jacket and number patches and had his photo taken.

In Solzhenitsyn’s book Voice from the Gulag, he said,Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened. Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

And in his Nobel lecture, “During all the years until 1961, not only was I convinced that I should never see a single line of mine in print in my lifetime, but, also, I scarcely dared allow any of my close acquaintances to read anything I had written because I feared that this would become known. Finally, at the age of 42, this secret authorship began to wear me down. The most difficult thing of all to bear was that I could not get my works judged by people with literary training. In 1961, after the 22nd Congress of the U.S.S.R. Communist Party and Tvardovsky’s speech at this, I decided to emerge and to offer One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

Such an emergence seemed, then, to me, and not without reason, to be very risky because it might lead to the loss of my manuscripts, and to my own destruction. But, on that occasion, things turned out successfully, and after protracted efforts, A.T. Tvardovsky was able to print my novel one year later. The printing of my work was, however, stopped almost immediately and the authorities stopped both my plays and (in 1964) the novel, The First Circle, which, in 1965, was seized together with my papers from the past years. During these months it seemed to me that I had committed an unpardonable mistake by revealing my work prematurely and that because of this I should not be able to carry it to a conclusion.

It is almost always impossible to evaluate at the time events which you have already experienced, and to understand their meaning with the guidance of their effects. All the more unpredictable and surprising to us will be the course of future events.”

The following excerpt is from Solzhenitsyn’s novel An Incident at Krechetovka Station in his book We Never Make Mistakes, published in 1971 and translated by Paul W. Blackstock:

“Only the people who worked at the station were not driven away by the rain. Through a window a watchman could be seen on the platform near the rain-drenched cargo. Covered with a heavy tarpaulin, he stood there all wet and soaked from the rain without even trying to shake it off. On the third track, the switch engine was slowly moving a tank car, while the switchman, covered entirely with a hooded poncho, waved to him with his flagstick. The dark, dwarfish form of the wagon master could also be seen walking along the train formation on track two, looking and searching under each car.

And so — everything was rain-drenched! In the cold, persistent wind, the rain beat on the roofs and walls of freight cars and the engines. It cut along the fire-red, bent-iron ribs of two, ten-car skeletons (some for the boxes were still burning from the bombing raids, but the useful parts of those remaining had been brought to the rear). It drenched the four Artillery pieces standing on flatcars; it blended with the approaching twilight; it began to tighten and close in on the green, small circle of the semaphore, and on the livid, purple-red sparks which were flying out of the chimneys of the ‘heated’ cars. [These were boxcars adapted for troop transport which in cold weather were fitted with makeshift stoves, with long thin pipes for chimneys that extended through the roof.] All the asphalt on the first platform was covered with crystal-clear water blisters, which had not had time to drain. Even in the dusk the rails glistened and sparkled with bubbles, and all the gray storm covers shimmered with pools of water.

There was little sound besides the trembling of the earth, and the weak sound of the switchman’s horn. (Whistling by the engines had been forbidden since the first day of the war.) Only the rain trumpeted through the broken pipes.

Behind the other window of the Commander’s room, in the path along the warehouse enclosure, grew a small oak. Its drenched and trembling branches had held a few dark green leaves, but today even the last few had blown away.”

Read Full Post »

Samuel Beckett (Ireland, 1906-1989)

Waiting for Godot is a tragic comedy in two acts that opened in Paris in 1953. The story revolves around two men, Vladamir and Estragon, waiting for someone named Godot. They wait near a tree on a barren stretch of road, and the drama circles around their conversation with each other. Godot never arrives, and his absence results in conversation and wordplay on poetic, religious and philosophical matters. It has been theorized the exchange of hats between the two is a symbolic desire in the two men for each others’ thoughts.

Beckett regretted calling the absent character Godot because of the theories involving God, which the name suggests. “I also told [Ralph] Richardson that if by Godot I had meant God I would [have] said God, and not Godot. This seemed to disappoint him greatly,” Beckett said. Then later, “It would be fatuous of me to pretend that I am not aware of the meanings attached to the word ‘Godot,’ and the opinion of many that it means ‘God.’ But you must remember – I wrote the play in French, and if I did have that meaning in my mind, it was somewhere in my unconscious and I was not overtly aware of it.”

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »