South African Writer and Political Activist, Winner of Nobel Prize in Literature
"What is the purpose of writing? For me personally, it is really to explain the mystery of life, and the mystery of life includes, of course, the personal, the political, the forces that make us what we are while there's another force from inside battling to make us something else."
"Writing is making sense of life. You work your whole life and perhaps you've made sense of one small area."
"It's easier for the former masters to put aside the masks that hid their humanity than for the former slaves to recognise the faces underneath. Or to trust that this is not a new mask these are wearing."
"With an understanding of Shakespeare there comes a release from the gullibility that makes you prey to the great shopkeeper who runs the world, and would sell you cheap to illusion."
"If I dreamt this, while walking, walking in the London streets, the subconscious of each and every other life, past and present, brushing me in passing, what makes it real? Writing it down."
"The solitude of writing is also quite frightening. It's quite close to madness, one just disappears for a day and loses touch."
"Censorship is never over for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever."
"Perhaps the best definition of progress would be the continuing efforts of men and women to narrow the gap between the convenience of the powers that be and the unwritten charter. "
"If people would forget about utopia! When rationalism destroyed heaven and decided to set it up here on earth, that most terrible of all goals entered human ambition. It was clear there'd be no end to what people would be made to suffer for it."
"The gap between the committed and the indifferent is a Sahara whose faint trails, followed by the mind's eye only, fade out in sand. "
"Art is on the side of the oppressed. Think before you shudder at the simplistic dictum and its heretical definition of the freedom of art. For if art is freedom of the spirit, how can it exist within the oppressors? "
"The primacy of the word, basis of the human psyche, that has in our age been used for mind-bending persuasion and brain-washing pulp, disgraced by Gobbles and debased by advertising copy, remains a force for freedom that flies out between all bars. "
"Mumbling obeisance to abhorrence of apartheid is like those lapsed believers who cross themselves when entering a church."
"The very aim and end of our institutions is just this: that we may think what we like and say what we think."
"Writing is an exploration of life. If you happened to live in the milieu of conflict, that obviously is what life means to you, and that is what you will explore."
"Short-story writers see by the light of the flash; theirs is the only thing one can be sure of — the present moment."
"Art defies defeat by its very existence, representing the celebration of life, in spite of all attempts to degrade and destroy it."
"In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, signified God's Word, the word that was Creation. But over the centuries of human culture the word has taken on other meanings, secular as well as religious. To have the word has come to be synonymous with ultimate authority, with prestige, with awesome, sometimes dangerous persuation, to have Prime Time, a TV talk show, to have the gift of the gab as well as that of speaking in tongues. The word flies through space, it is bounced from satellites, now nearer than it has ever been to the heaven from which it was believed to have come."
"The writer in relation to the nature of perceivable reality and what is beyond — imperceivable reality — is the basis for all these studies, no matter what resulting concepts are labelled, and no matter in what categorized microfiles writers are stowed away for the annals of literary historiography. Reality is constructed out of many elements and entities, seen and unseen, expressed, and left unexpressed for breathing-space in the mind."
"There are many proven explanations for natural phenomena now; and there are new questions of being arising out of some of the answers. For this reason, the genre of myth has never been entirely abandoned, although we are inclined to think of it as archaic. If it dwindled to the children's bedtime tale in some societies, in parts of the world protected by forests or deserts from international megaculture it has continued, alive, to offer art as a system of mediation between the individual and being. And it has made a whirling comeback out of Space, an Icarus in the avatar of Batman and his kind, who never fall into the ocean of failure to deal with the gravity forces of life."
"Like the prisoners incarcerated with the jaguar in Borges' story, 'The God's Script', who was trying to read, in a ray of light which fell only once a day, the meaning of being from the marking on the creature's pelt, we spend our lives attempting to interpret through the word the readings we take in the societies, the world of which we are part. It is in this sense, this inextricable, ineffable participation, that writing is always and at once an exploration of self and of the world; of individual and collective being."
"Perhaps it is the positive knowledge that humans now possess the means to destroy their whole planet, the fear that they have in this way themselves become the gods, dreadfully charged with their own continued existence, that has made comic-book and movie myth escapist."
"Any writer of any worth at all hopes to play only a pocket-torch of light — and rarely, through genius, a sudden flambeau — into the bloody yet beautiful labyrinth of human experience, of being."
"Camus dealt with the question best. He said that he liked individuals who take sides more than literatures that do. 'One either serves the whole of man or does not serve him at all. And if man needs bread and justice, and if what has to be done must be done to serve this need, he also needs pure beauty which is the bread of his heart.' So Camus called for 'Courage in and talent in one's work.' And Márquez redefined tender fiction thus: The best way a writer can serve a revolution is to write as well as he can. I believe that these two statements might be the credo for all of us who write. They do not resolve the conflicts that have come, and will continue to come, to contemporary writers. But they state plainly an honest possibility of doing so, they turn the face of the writer squarely to her and his existence, the reason to be, as a writer, and the reason to be, as a responsible human, acting, like any other, within a social context."
"Being here: in a particular time and place. That is the existential position with particular implications for literature."
"There is a paradox. In retaining this integrity, the writer sometimes must risk both the state's indictment of treason, and the liberation forces' complaint of lack of blind commitment."
"The writer is of service to humankind only insofar as the writer uses the word even against his or her own loyalties, trusts the state of being, as it is revealed, to hold somewhere in its complexity filaments of the cord of truth, able to be bound together, here and there, in art: trusts the state of being to yield somewhere fragmentary phrases of truth, which is the final word of words, never changed by our stumbling efforts to spell it out and write it down, never changed by lies, by semantic sophistry, by the dirtying of the word for the purposes of racism, sexism, prejudice, domination, the glorification of destruction, the curses and the praise-songs."
"What we had to do to find the world was to enter our own world fully, first. We had to enter through the tragedy of our own particular place. If the Nobel awards have a special meaning, it is that they carry this concept further. In their global eclecticism they recognize that no single society, no country or continent can presume to create a truly human culture for the world. To be among laureates, past and present, is at least to belong to some sort of one world."
"Writing is indeed, some kind of affliction in its demands as the most solitary and introspective of occupations... We must live fully in order to secrete the substance of our work, but we have to work alone."