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The Nobel Prize in Literature 1970
Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

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Banquet Speech

Alexandr Solzhenitsyn's speech at the Nobel Banquet at the City Hall in Stockholm, December 10, 1974

(Translation)

Your Majesty, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Many Nobel Prize laureates have appeared before you in this hall, but the Swedish Academy and the Nobel Foundation have probably never had as much bother with anyone as they have had with me. On at least one occasion I have already been here, although not in the flesh; once the honorable Karl Ragnar Gierow was already on his way to meet me; and now, at last, I have arrived out of turn to occupy an extra seat. Four years had to pass to give me the floor for three minutes, and the secretary of the Academy is being forced now to address the third speech to the same writer.

I must ask your forgiveness, therefore, for having caused all of you so much trouble, and thank you especially for the ceremony in 1970, when your king and all of you welcomed here an empty chair.

But you will agree that it has not been so simple for the prizewinner, either: carrying his three-minute speech around with him for four years. When I was preparing to come to you in 1970 no room in my breast, no amount of paper was sufficient to let me speak my mind on the first free tribune of my life. For a writer from a land without liberty his first tribune and his first speech is a speech about everything in the world, about all the torments of his country, - and it is pardonable if he forgets the object of the ceremony, the persons assembled there and fills the goblets of joy with his bitterness. But since that year when I was unable to come here, I have learned to express openly practically all my thoughts in my own country as well. So that finding myself expatriated to the West, I have acquired all the better this unhindered possibility of saying as much as I want and where I want, which is something not always appreciated here. I needn't, therefore further burden down this short address.

However, I find a special advantage in not responding to the award of the Nobel Prize until four years later. For example, in four years it is possible to experience the role this prize has already played in your life. In my life it has been a very large one. It has prevented me from being crushed in the severe persecutions to which I have been subjected. It has helped my voice to be heard in places where my predecessors have not been heard for decades. It has helped me to express things that would have otherwise been impossible.

In my case, the Swedish Academy have made an exception, and a rather rare one, awarding me the prize when I am middleaged and my open literary activity is a mere child of some eight years. For the Academy there was a great hidden risk in doing so: after all, only a small part of the books I had written had been published.

But perhaps the finest task of any literary or scientific prize lies precisely in helping to clear the road ahead.

And I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the members of the Swedish Academy for the enormous support their choice in 1970 has given my works as a writer. I venture to thank them on behalf of that vast unofficial Russia which is prohibited from expressing itself aloud, which is persecuted both for writing books and even for reading them. The Academy have heard for this decision of theirs many reproaches implying that such a prize has served political interests. But these are the shouts of raucous loudmouths who know of no other interests. We all know that an artist's work cannot be contained within the wretched dimension of politics. For this dimension cannot hold the whole of our life and we must not restrain our social consciousness within in its bounds.

From Les Prix Nobel en 1970, Editor Wilhelm Odelberg, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1971

 

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1974
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