Yasunari Kawabata

Banquet speech

Yasunari Kawabata’s speech at the Nobel Banquet at the City Hall in Stockholm, December 10, 1968

Your Majesty. Your Royal Highnesses, Your Excellencies the President and the Trustees of the Nobel Foundation, Members of the Royal Swedish Academy, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is the great honor of my life to have been proposed by the Swedish Academy for the Nobel Prize for literature for 1968 and to have received the award at Your Majesty’s own hands.

The reason for the supreme brilliance of the history of this award is that it is also given to foreigners. It has, so to speak, the breadth of a world award. Two Japanese, Drs. Yukawa and Tomonaga, have in recent years become Nobel Laureates in physics. Alfred Nobel wrote poetry and prose in several languages, and in that spirit the prize for literature has gone to writers in numbers of countries. It is now fifty-five years since it last went to an Oriental, Rabindranath Tagore. In view of the complexities presented by differences in language, and in view of the fact that my works, no doubt more than those of others, have had to be perused in translation, I must indicate my deep and undying gratitude and respect for the resolve shown by Your Excellencies of the Academy. This first award to an Oriental in fifty-five years has I believe made a deep impression upon Japan, and perhaps upon the other countries of Asia as well, and upon all countries whose languages are little known internationally. I do not look upon my happiness and good fortune in having received the award as mine alone. My emotions are yet deeper at the thought that it perhaps has a new and broad significance for the literature of the world.

Such are my feelings, indeed, honored with my fellow laureates by Your Excellencies of the Nobel Foundation upon this grand occasion, and granted the further honor of offering a few words of thanks, that I almost think we have here a symbol of understanding and friendship between East and West, of literature moving from today into tomorrow. I thank you.

Prior to the speech, M. Zotterman of the Royal Veterinary College made the following comments: Yasunari Kawabata – We admire the exquisite artistry and sensibility which you have displayed in your deep analysis of the Japanese character. We offer you, the first Japanese writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, our most sincere congratulations. Kawabata-san, Omedeto gozai masu!

From Les Prix Nobel en 1968, Editor Wilhelm Odelberg, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1969

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1968

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