Jiménez: Banquet Speech

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Jiménez: Banquet Speech

Introductory remarks by R. Granit, Member of the Royal Academy of Sciences, at the Nobel Banquet at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm, 10 December 1956:

Juan Ramón has been called a poet for poets, but the layman can approach him if willing first to partake passively of the sheer visual beauty of his landscape, lovely Andalusia, its birds, its flowers, pomegranates, and oranges. Once inside his world, by leisurely reading and rereading, one gradually awakens to a new “living insight” into it, refreshed by the depth and richness of a rare poetical imagination. While doing so I recalled a conversation between the painter Degas and the poet Mallarmé, as related by Paul Valéry. Degas, struggling with a sonnet, complained of the difficulties, and finally exclaimed: “And yet I do not lack ideas . . .” Mallarmé with great mildness replied: “But Degas, one does not create poetry with ideas. One does it with words.” If ever there has been inspired use of words, it is in Juan Ramón Jiménez’s poetry, and in this sense he is a poet for poets. This is probably also the reason why, within the whole Spanish-speaking world, he is regarded as the teacher and master.

The literary awards may involve decisions more difficult than the scientific ones. Yet we should be grateful to the founder for having included a literary Prize in his will. It adds dignity to the other awards and to the act itself; it emphasizes the human and cultural element which the two worlds of creative imagination have in common; and perhaps, in the end, it expresses deeper insights than scientists can ever achieve.

As Jiménez was unable to be present, the speech was read by Jaime Benitez, Rector of the University of Puerto Rico

Juan Ramón Jiménez has given me the following message to convey to you:

“I accept with gratitude the undeserved honour which this illustrious Swedish Academy has seen fit to bestow upon me. Besieged by sorrow and sickness, I must remain in Puerto Rico, unable to participate directly in the solemnities. And so that you may have the living testimony of my own intimate feelings gathered in day-by-day association of friendship firmly established in this land of Puerto Rico, I have asked Rector Jaime Benitez of its University, where I am a member of the faculty, to be my personal representative before you in all ceremonies connected with the Nobel Prize awards of 1956.”

I have found such affection for Juan Ramón Jiménez and such understanding for his works that I trust you will excuse me if I single out for special thanks one among you so wise and penetrating that I am certain all others will be glad to be recognized in him. I refer to your own great poet Hjalmar Gullberg, whose presentation this afternoon we shall always remember and whose rendition of Juan Ramón Jiménez’ poetry has brought to the Scandinavian people the clear purity of our Andalusian master.

Juan Ramón Jiménez has asked me also to say this: “My wife Zenobia is the true winner of this Prize. Her companionship, her help, her inspiration made, for forty years, my work possible. Today, without her, I am desolate and helpless.”

I have heard from the trembling lips of Juan Ramón Jiménez some of the most touching expressions of despair. For Juan Ramón is such a poet that his every word reflects his own internal kingdom. We fervently hope that someday his sorrow will be expressed in writing and that the memory of Zenobia will provide renewed and everlasting inspiration to that great master of Hispanic letters, Juan Ramón Jiménez, whom you have honoured so signally today.

[© The Nobel Foundation, 1956.]

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