Eugenio Montale

Banquet speech


Eugenio Montale’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, December 10, 1975


Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,

During a fairly long period of my life, for more than 20 years, freedom of press was somewhat reduced in Italy. But poets were not considered dangerous and they were advised to exercise selfcensorship. At most, poets were requested not to write at all. I took advantage of this negative liberty. Those twenty years permitted me to make a true randonnĂ©e through the territory of European poetry of all epochs. The result was that there was born in me another poet, not very productive but who aroused correspondence in many “twin souls”. I have written about five hundred poems in half a century in addition to thousands of pages of prose, because carmina non dant panem or rather they do so only with the Nobel Prize in an age when there is no longer so much need of bread. I am perhaps a late follower of Zoroaster and I believe that the foundation of life is built upon the struggle between the two opposing forces of Good and Evil. I believe that all true poets have always fought in favor of Good, even when they seemed to exalt “les fleurs du mal”. The greatest poet of all time, Dante, has indicated this path since the Fourteenth Century. After him it might well seem almost useless to write poetry and yet in spite of this, although with incomparative forces, many others have followed. I am among them, last and least.

I have always knocked at the door of that wonderful and terrible enigma which is life. I have been judged to be a pessimist but what abyss of ignorance and low egoism is not hidden in one who thinks that Man is the god of himself and that his future can only be triumphant?

I wish to pay homage to Your Majesties, to the Nobel Foundation, and to the Royal Swedish Academy which has crowned a work which is in good faith, and my thoughts go to those Italians who have found work, peace and liberty in Sweden. To all those who are present at this ceremony, I extend my grateful greetings.

From Les Prix Nobel en 1975, Editor Wilhelm Odelberg, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1976

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1975

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