Monday, 5 March 2012

Banquet Speech by William Faulkner

Remember my last post where I said that William Faulkner's 1949 Nobel Prize, his acceptance speech was greeted with only polite applause because it was virtually unintelligible to the audience. Well, I wanted to hear it. And really, it's not too bad. Take a listen... (the words are written below) It's an amazing speech.


Ladies and gentlemen,

I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work - a life's work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand here where I am standing.

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed - love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he relearns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.

I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969 

Picture source: http://boatagainstthecurrent.blogspot.com/2010_06_01_archive.html 

Also, I read a wonderful book this weekend. It's Dark is the Sky by Jessica Chambers. Pick it up today on amazon.com.

My review: I just loved the characters in this book--they are family and as such, provide a great deal of excitement, each so different, with their own set of problems and quirks.

This book will appeal not only to the mystery lover--with lots of suspects all stuck together in one house, carrying their secrets and motives--but will also appeal to the reader in search of drama and a bit of a love story as well.

Reminds me of a VC Andrews novel.

29 comments:

  1. Fantastic speech. If I could write half as eloquently as he could speak, I'd be set.

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  2. An inspiring speech that sounds like it came from his heart. Dark in the Sky sounds intriguing. I'll have to check on. Thanks for the review.

    Mason
    Thoughts in Progress

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  3. Thank you for publishing this speech. Faulkner was speaking to us today, you and me, to future writers, which, today, is us.

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  4. I don't think that speech was so bad either. It helps to think of the time period too, coming out of WWII and the nuclear age beginning.

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  5. Dark in the sky sounds interesting and I like the cover.

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  6. Faulkner certainly believes that the human spirit is indomitable.

    I read Jessica's book while she was posting at TNBW and enjoyed it very much. Makes me wonder how it has changed since then.

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  7. What a shame so few people understood it at the time it was spoken. Glad someone got a translation.

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  8. Hi Clarissa .. I had a look last time to see if I could spot the speech - so I'm pleased you've found it for us to read ... and I hope he is right that humans have "a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance".

    Thanks so much for posting the words and the audio player .. Cheers Hilary

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  9. That was wonderful. Thank you!

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  10. well, I can sort of see why this would be thought of as rambling. Plus, consider the source... :D But I love his thoughts the struggle within the human heart. It's kind of what I'm slipping into with JACKSON, and I'm hoping it works. Eep! We'll see.

    Thanks for sharing, C! <3

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  11. Thank you for posting this speech, how humbling and beautiful, and inspiring, he must have been a very interesting man to know. Thank you.

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  12. What a speech!! I've not listened to the audio (at work! boooo!) but the reading the words - well - wow!! Stirring heartfelt stuff calling for the eradication of human ignorance and self-defeat - brilliant!

    Take care
    x

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  13. Very profound speech. Lots of wisdom in there.
    I like mystery novels so that one is on my list! Great post, too.

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  14. We are immortal because we have souls. Beautiful words.

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  15. It's actually kind of sad that this speech didn't get a resounding applause. However, I see why, given his word choice was probably a bit on the "high side", as if language should have any sides, but it does.

    Anywho, thank you for posting it. I rather enjoyed it.

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  16. I liked the speech, but I've never liked him as writer. To weird. And I never liked the 20th century writers, Joyce, Wolf, Hemingway...

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  17. Thanks for sharing his speech, Clarissa! :)

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  18. Well, this was a time of war, so naturally he would touch on the morbid side of things. I can't imagine rattling off a speech of this depth and magnatude, eloquent is exactly the right word for it.

    Jessica's book sounds appealing.

    .......dhole

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  19. I was rather taken with Faulkner's eloquence delivered with Southern charm.

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  20. Thanks for posting his speech!

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  21. Clarissa - Thanks for sharing this speech. Such a very eloquent talk!! I'm going to have to listen to it and read it again...

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  22. It's an amazing speech, isn't it? I loved listening to it. Thanks for sharing.

    Dark is the Sky has a simply wonderful cover. I'm off to check it out. Thanks!

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  23. You're right about Faulkner's speech. Thanks for finding it and sharing it here.

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  24. Love the speech. I'm surprised many people of the time didn't understand it.

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  25. I haven't read Faulkner in years. I should download some of his short stories just for old times sake.

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  26. Wow! It may not have been inspirational then, but it sure is now, at this moment.
    Thanks for posting this Clarissa...

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