William Golding’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, December 10, 1983
Your Majesties, your Royal Highnesses, your Excellencies, Fellow Laureates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I came to Sweden characterized as a pessimist, though I am an optimist. Now something – perhaps the wonderful warmth of your hospitality – has changed me into a comic. That is a hard position to sustain. It reminds me of days long ago when as a poor teacher I would take turn about during the night with my wife, getting our infant daughter to sleep. I remember once, how at three o’clock in the morning when I began to creep away from the cradle with its sleeping child, she opened her eyes and remarked: “Daddy, say something funny”.
However, the moment has come for me to put off the jester’s cap and bells.
I do thank Sweden for its wonderfully warm hospitality and I do thank the Nobel Foundation and the Swedish Academy for the welcome and unexpected way in which they have, so to speak, struck me with lightning. I only wish all borders were as easy to cross and all international exchanges as friendly.
I have been in many countries and I have found there people examining their own love of life, sense of peril, their own common sense. The one thing they cannot understand is why that same love of life, sense of peril and above all common sense, is not invariably shared among their leaders and rulers.
Then let me use what I suppose is my last minute of worldwide attention to speak not as one of a nation but as one of mankind. I use it to reach all men and women of power. Go back. Step back now. Agreement between you does not need cleverness, elaboration, manoeuvres. It needs common sense, and above all, a daring generosity. Give, give, give!
It would succeed because it would meet with worldwide relief, acclaim and rejoicing: and unborn generations will bless your name.
Their work and discoveries range from the Earth’s climate and our sense of touch to efforts to safeguard freedom of expression.
See them all presented here.