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Gao: Banquet Speech

Gao: Banquet Speech

Gao’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, 10 December 2000:

Vos Majestés, Vos Altesses royales, Mesdames, Messieurs,

L’homme qui est devant vous se souvient encore qu’à l’âge de huit ans, sa mère lui avait demandé de tenir un journal. II s’est ainsi consacré à l’écriture jusqu’à l’âge adulte.

II se souvient encore qu’à son entrée au lycée, un vieux professeur de rédaction avait accroché au tableau une peinture sans en révéler le titre et avait demandé aux élèves de faire une rédaction à son sujet. L’homme qui est devant vous n’aimait pas cette peinture, et il avait écrit des critiques contre elle. Non seulement le vieux maître ne s’était pas mis en colère, mais il lui avait donné une bonne note assortie du commentaire: “Plume vigoureuse.” Et c’est ainsi que cet homme n’a plus cessé d’écrire, d’abord des contes pour enfants, puis des romans, de la poésie et du théâtre, et ce jusqu’à ce que la révolution renverse la culture. Là, pris de peur, il a tout brûlé.

Ensuite, il est parti cultiver les rizières pendant de nombreuses annèes. Mais il écrivait encore en secret et cachait ses manuscrits dans des pots de terre quite qu’il enterrait.

Ce qu’il a écrit ensuite a été interdit.

Plus tard encore, arrivé en Occident, il a continué à écrire, mais sans se soucier d’être édité. Et même quand il fut édité, il ne se soucia pas de connaître les réactions. Soudain, le voilà dans cette brillante salle, qui reçoit cette précieuse récompense des mains de Sa Majesté le Roi.

Alors, il ne peut s’empêcher de demander: Votre Majesté, est-ce la réalité ou un conte ?

Translation by William F. Edmiston

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The man who stands before you still remembers that at the age of eight, his mother had asked him to keep a journal. Thus he devoted himself to writing until an adult age.

He still remembers that upon entry into high school, an elderly composition teacher had tacked to the bulletin board a painting, without revealing the title, and asked his pupils to write a composition about it. The man who stands before you did not like that painting, and he wrote a criticism of it. Not only did the old teacher not get angry, but he gave him a good grade along with the comment “Vigorous pen.” And thus this man never stopped writing, first stories for children, then novels, poetry and theater, until the revolution overturned the culture. Then, seized with fear, he burned everything.

Then he went off to cultivate rice fields for many years. But he was still writing in secret and hid his manuscripts in earthen pots that he buried.

What he wrote next was forbidden.

Still later, having arrived in the West, he continued to write, but with no wish to publish. And even when he was published, he cared nothing about knowing the reaction to his work. Suddenly, here he is in this brilliant room, receiving this precious award from the hands of His Majesty the King.

And so, he cannot help asking: Your Majesty, is this reality or a story?

[© The Nobel Foundation, 2000. Gao Xingjian is the sole author of his speech.]

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