Now reading: Nobel Lectures: from the Literature Laureates, 1986 to 2006

Nobel Literature LecturesNobel Lectures: from the Literature Laureates, 1986 to 2006

For anyone even remotely interested in writing or reading, this book is a gem. The acceptance lectures from 21 of the most esteemed writers of the 20th century are as diverse as the backgrounds and influences of the writers themselves. Orhan Pamuk, Harold Pinter, Günter Grass, José Saramago, and more.

Truly illuminating and inspirational.

Some selected quotes that connected with me in some way from some of the masters are presented below.


… to be a writer is to acknowledge the secret wounds that we carry inside us, the wounds so secret that we ourselves are barely aware of them, and to patiently explore them, know them, illuminate them, to own these pains and wounds, and to make them a conscious part of our spirits and our writing.
– Orhan Pamuk

There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.
– Harold Pinter

I write from solitude and speak from solitude. … the man who seeks solitude has much of the divine and much of the beast in him. … In my solitude I constantly keep in mind the principle expounded by Picasso … that no lasting work of art can be achieved without great solitude.
– Camilo Jose Cela

… a human being is an aesthetic creature before he is an ethical one. … If what distinguishes us from other members of the animal kingdom is speech, then literature – and poetry in particular, being the highest form of locution – is, to put it bluntly, the goal of our species.
– Joseph Brodsky

A novel or a poem is not a monologue, but the conversation of a writer with a reader … And in the moment of this conversation a writer is equal to a reader … This equality is the equality of consciousness.
– Joseph Brodsky

It seems to me that a potential master of our fates should be asked, first of all, not about how he imagines the course of his foreign policy, but about his attitude toward Stendhal, Dickens, Dostoevsky. … As a form of moral insurance, at least, literature is much more dependable than a system of beliefs or a philosophical doctrine.
– Joseph Brodsky

There are, as we know, three modes of cognition: analytical, intuitive and the mode that was known to the Biblical prophets, revelation. What distinguishes poetry from other forms of literature is that it uses all three of them at once (gravitating primarily toward the second and third). For all three of them are given in the language; and there are times when, by means of a single word, a single rhyme, the writer of a poem manages to find himself where no one has ever been before him, further, perhaps, than he himself would have wished for. The one who writes a poem writes it above all because verse writing is an extraordinary accelerator of conscience, of thinking, of comprehending the universe. Having experienced this acceleration once, one is no longer capable of abandoning the chance to repeat this experience; one falls into dependency on this process, the way others fall into dependency on drugs or on alcohol. One who finds himself in this sort of dependency on language is, I guess, what they call a poet.
– Joseph Brodsky


More of what I have read can be found under INFLUENCES.