“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)





07 October 2011


As wandering Australians won both an Ig Nobel AND a fair dinkum Nobel Prize this week, both strangely related to the booze, perhaps it's worth revisiting what DRINKSTER believes to be one of the greatest speeches ever made. For precision and poise, for dreamtime and the brutal math of grammar, it matches the Gettysburg. It's poet Joseph Brodksy (above), who won the gong for his poetry, which this writer knows - from 55 years of writing - rarely occurs beautifully without a bloody good drink of something. And a smoke.

Acceptance Speech
Nobel Prize For Literature

Josph Brodsky

Members of the Swedish Academy, Your Majesties, ladies and gentlemen. I was born and grew up on the other shore of the Baltic, practically on its opposite gray, rustling page. Sometimes on clear day, especially in autumn, standing on a beach somewhere in Kellomäki, a friend would point his finger northwest across the sheet of water and say: See that blue strip of land? It’s Sweden.

He would be joking, of course: because the angle was wrong, because according to the law of optics, a human eye can travel only for something like twenty miles in open space. The space, however, wasn’t open.

Nonetheless, it pleases me to think, ladies and gentlemen, that we used to inhale the same air, eat the same fish, get soaked by the same – at times – radioactive rain, swim in the same sea, get bored by the same kind of conifers. Depending on the wind, the clouds I saw in my window were already seen by you, or vice versa. It pleases me to think that we have had something in common before we ended up in this room.

And as far as this room is concerned, I think it was empty just a few hours ago, and it will be empty again a couple of hours hence. Our presence in it, mine especially, is quite incidental from its walls’ point of view. On the whole, from space’s point of view, anyone’s presence is incidental in it, unless one possesses a permanent – and usually inanimate – characteristic of landscape: a moraine, say, a hilltop, a river bend. And it is the appearance of something or somebody unpredictable within a space well used to its contents that creates that sense of occasion.

So being grateful to you for your decision to award me the Nobel Prize for literature, I am especially grateful for your imparting to my work an aspect of permanence, like that of a glacier’s debris, let’s say, in the vast landscape of literature.

I am fully aware of the danger hidden in this simile: of coldness, uselessness, eventual or fast erosion. Yet if that debris contains a single vein of animated ore – as I, in my vanity, believe it does - then this simile is perhaps prudent.

And as long as I am on the subject of prudence, I should like to add that through recorded history the audience for poetry seldom amounted to more than 1 per cent of the entire population. That’s why poets of antiquity or the Renaissance gravitated to courts, the seats of power; that’s why nowadays they flock to universities, the seats of knowledge. Your academy seems to be a cross between the two; and if in the future – in that time free of ourselves – that 1 per cent ratio is sustained, it will be, not to a small degree, due to your efforts. In case this strikes you as a dim vision of the future, I hope that the thought of population explosion may lift your spirits somewhat. Even a quarter of that 1 per cent would make a lot of readers, even today.

So my gratitude to you, ladies and gentlemen, is not entirely egotistical. I am grateful to you for those whom your decisions make and will make read poetry, today and tomorrow. I am not so sure that man will prevail, as the great man and my fellow American once said, standing, I believe, in this very room: but I am quite positive that a man who reads poetry is harder to prevail upon than one who doesn’t.

Of course, it’s one hell of a way to get from St. Petersburg to Stockholm; but then, for a man of my occupation, the notion of a straight line being the shortest distance between two points lost its attraction a long time ago. So it pleases me to find out that geography in its own turn is also capable of poetic justice.




1 comment:

russell said...

Like the Henry Lawson piece, this too is about appellations and borderlines. Love the way you think brother.