Orhan Pamuk: My Father’s Suitcase (2006)

Two years before his death, my father gave me a small suitcase filled with his writings, manuscripts and notebooks. Assuming his usual joking, mocking air, he told me he wanted me to read them after he was gone, by which he meant after he died.

‘Just take a look,’ he said, looking slightly embarrassed. ‘See if there’s anything inside that you can use. Maybe after I’m gone you can make a selection and publish it.’

We were in my study, surrounded by books. My father was searching for a place to set down the suitcase, wandering back and forth like a man who wished to rid himself of a painful burden. In the end, he deposited it quietly in an unobtrusive corner. It was a shaming moment that neither of us ever forgot, but once it had passed and we had gone back into our usual roles, taking life lightly, our joking, mocking personas took over and we relaxed. We talked as we always did, about the trivial things of everyday life, and Turkey’s neverending political troubles, and my father’s mostly failed business ventures, without feeling too much sorrow. Читать далее

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Tom Hanks: Fear will get the worst of the best of us (2011)

I know many of you were convinced last night at about six o’clock local time the world was going to come to an end. Just because it hasn’t doesn’t mean that it’s not nearby because my appearing today at Yale University is surely one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Today is your day. Please, do not turn off your electronic devices. Leave your iPhone, your iPad, your Sidekicks, your Droids, your blackberries powered up, recording, photographing, texting out all that emerges from this stage over the next few minutes.

Later on today you can compare your tweets and your Facebook comments with those of others to figure out if anything memorable went down. You know what, tweet that last sentence I just said. Take this speech and set it to music and maybe insert some crazy kooky graphics. Star in that video yourself and post on the web and if it becomes a viral sensation you’ll be equal to any cat playing with a paper bag or any set of twin toddlers talking gibberish to each other, as popular as that cute girl that sings about Fridays.

Just one of the possibilities in our brave new world, the world you now inherit whether you’d like it or not. The jig is up. Читать далее

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Gao Xingjian: The Case for Literature (2000)

I have no way of knowing whether it was fate that has pushed me onto this dais but as various lucky coincidences have created this opportunity I may as well call it fate. Putting aside discussion of the existence or non-existence of God, I would like to say that despite my being an atheist I have always shown reverence for the unknowable.

A person cannot be God, certainly not replace God, and rule the world as a Superman; he will only succeed in creating more chaos and make a greater mess of the world. In the century after Nietzsche man-made disasters left the blackest records in the history of humankind. Supermen of all types called leader of the people, head of the nation and commander of the race did not baulk at resorting to various violent means in perpetrating crimes that in no way resemble the ravings of a very egotistic philosopher. However, I do not wish to waste this talk on literature by saying too much about politics and history, what I want to do is to use this opportunity to speak as one writer in the voice of an individual. Читать далее

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Гао Синцзянь: У человечества есть не одна только история, ему также дарована литература (2000)

Не знаю, судьба ли меня занесла на эту трибуну, но я не нахожу другого слова, чтобы сказать о счастливых обстоятельствах, которые этому способствовали. Вопрос о существовании Бога я оставляю в стороне. Когда бы мне ни задали этот вопрос, ответ на который мне неизвестен, каждый раз меня переполняет чувство глубокого уважения, несмотря на то, что я всегда считал себя атеистом.

Человек не может превратиться в божественное существо, не говоря уже о том, что он никогда не сможет заменить самого Господа Бога. Мир, управляемый сверхчеловеком, неизбежно превращается в хаос, в нем происходят все более тяжелые несчастья. В течение столетия, в первом году которого умер Ницше, катастрофы, вызванные людьми, отмечали все более темные страницы в истории человечества. Однако безумные высказывания философа, законченного нарциссиста, никак нельзя сравнить с жестокими поступками, которые сверхлюди разного рода, прославляемые как вожди народа, главы государств, первейшие руководители наций, совершали, нисколько не задумываясь. Я не хочу злоупотреблять вниманием этого литературного форума, понапрасну рассуждая о политике и истории. Мне просто хочется использовать эту возможность, чтобы выразить мнение отдельного писателя и личности. Читать далее

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Neil Gaiman University of the Arts Commencement Speech

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Atul Gawande: Anything is possible in people’s lives (2011)

Thank you, graduates and Ohio University, for this opportunity. I am a 1983 graduate of Athens High School. Which means, yes, you invited a townie to give your graduation address. I grew up here watching you, the students, come and go. Perhaps that should make you wonder whether it was foolish to have asked a townie to speak. I’m not sure, after all, how much you want me telling your parents about what I saw as a teenager on Court Street on Halloween nights.

What I want to talk about, though, is the huge impression you, the students, and this university made upon me. My sister and I were born in New York City. Our family moved to Athens when the two of us still had our baby teeth. And among the enduring beliefs I absorbed growing up here is a core American idea: Anything is possible in people’s lives. No one should be counted out.

It might seem strange to have learned this in a small Appalachian town. Thirty-five percent of Athens County’s population lives in poverty, the worst in the state. Almost half of my classmates never made it to college. Yet everywhere around me was also evidence that ordinary people could have extraordinary strength and contain possibilities no one imagined—even themselves.

Much of the evidence was right in my home. My parents were immigrants from India and they had somehow found it in themselves to swim against the tides of rural deprivation (in the case of my father) and of restrictions and low expectations for girls (in the case of my mother) to become doctors, to find their way to New York, to meet one another there and marry against caste restrictions, and to ultimately become regarded as local leaders here. But our town and Ohio University provided the rest of the evidence. Читать далее

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Thomas Stearns Eliot: Poetry gives us a reason for trying to overcome the barrier (1948)

When I began to think of what I should say to you this evening, I wished only to express very simply my appreciation of the high honour which the Swedish Academy has thought fit to confer upon me. But to do this adequately proved no simple task: my business is with words, yet the words were beyond my command. Merely to indicate that I was aware of having received the highest international honour that can be bestowed upon a man of letters, would be only to say what everyone knows already. To profess my own unworthiness would be to cast doubt upon the wisdom of the Academy; to praise the Academy might suggest that I, as a literary critic, approved the recognition given to myself as a poet. May I therefore ask that it be taken for granted, that I experienced, on learning of this award to myself, all the normal emotions of exaltation and vanity that any human being might be expected to feel at such a moment, with enjoyment of the flattery, and exasperation at the inconvenience, of being turned overnight into a public figure? Were the Nobel Award similar in kind to any other award, and merely higher in degree, I might still try to find words of appreciation: but since it is different in kind from any other, the expression of one’s feelings calls for resources which language cannot supply.

I must therefore try to express myself in an indirect way, by putting before you my own interpretation of the significance of the Nobel Prize in Literature. If this were simply the recognition of merit, or of the fact that an author’s reputation has passed the boundaries of his own country and his own language, we could say that hardly any one of us at any time is, more than others, worthy of being so distinguished. But I find in the Nobel Award something more and something different from such recognition. It seems to me more the election of an individual, chosen from time to time from one nation or another, and selected by something like an act of grace, to fill a peculiar role and to become a peculiar symbol. Читать далее

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Doris Lessing: On not winning the Nobel Prize (2007)

I am standing in a doorway looking through clouds of blowing dust to where I am told there is still uncut forest. Yesterday I drove through miles of stumps, and charred remains of fires where, in ’56, there was the most wonderful forest I have ever seen, all now destroyed. People have to eat. They have to get fuel for fires.

This is north-west Zimbabwe in the early eighties, and I am visiting a friend who was a teacher in a school in London. He is here «to help Africa,» as we put it. He is a gently idealistic soul and what he found in this school shocked him into a depression, from which it was hard to recover. This school is like every other built after Independence. It consists of four large brick rooms side by side, put straight into the dust, one two three four, with a half room at one end, which is the library. In these classrooms are blackboards, but my friend keeps the chalks in his pocket, as otherwise they would be stolen. There is no atlas or globe in the school, no textbooks, no exercise books, or biros. In the library there are no books of the kind the pupils would like to read, but only tomes from American universities, hard even to lift, rejects from white libraries, or novels with titles like Weekend in Paris and Felicity Finds Love.

There is a goat trying to find sustenance in some aged grass. The headmaster has embezzled the school funds and is suspended, arousing the question familiar to all of us but usually in more august contexts: How is it these people behave like this when they must know everyone is watching them? Читать далее

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Ivan Bunin: For us writers, especially, freedom is a dogma and an axiom (1933)

On November ninth, very far from here in a poor country house in an old Provencal town, I received the telephone call that informed me of the choice of the Swedish Academy. I would not be honest if I told you, as one does in such cases, that it was the profoundest emotional moment of my life. A great philosopher has said that even the most vehement feelings of joy hardly count in comparison with those which provoke sorrow. I do not wish to strike a note of sadness at this dinner, which I shall forever remember, but let me say nonetheless that in the course of the past fifteen years my sorrows have far exceeded my joys. And not all of those sorrows have been personal — far from it. But I can certainly say that in my entire literary life no other event has given me so much legitimate satisfaction as that little technical miracle, the telephone call from Stockholm to Grasse. The prize established by your great countryman, Alfred Nobel, is still the highest reward that can crown the work of a writer. Ambitious like most men and all writers, I was extremely proud to receive that reward at the hands of the most competent and impartial of juries, and be assured, gentlemen of the Academy, I was also extremely grateful. Читать далее

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Курт Воннегут: Если не это здорово, то что же? (1998)


Всем вам, получающим свои первые университетские дипломы, я хочу сказать, что ваше поколение мне очень симпатично, что я жду от вас много хорошего и желаю всего наилучшего.

Сегодняшняя церемония является долгожданным завершением процесса вашего взросления. Наконец-то вас можно официально называть взрослыми людьми, пусть с биологической точки зрения вы ими стали годам к пятнадцати. Мне жаль, насколько только возможно, что для получения аттестата зрелости потребовалось потратить так много денег и времени.

Я не подсчитывал, сколько денег и времени у вас ушло, чтобы получить дипломы. Какими бы не были эти цифры, они, безусловно, заслуживают только такой реакции: Ничего себе! Ух-ты! Вот это да!

Спасибо вам, и пусть Господь благословит тех, кто сделал возможным ваше обучение в этом престижном американском университете. Получая образование, становясь эрудированными и умелыми людьми, вы сделали этот мир лучше, чем он был до того, как вы сюда поступили. Читать далее

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