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Seifert: Banquet Speech

Seifert: Banquet Speech

As Seifert was unable to be present at the Nobel Banquet on 10 December 1984, the speech was given by his daughter, Jana Seifertová:

Vos Majestés, Vos Altesses Royales, Mesdames et Messieurs, Ce que mon père à écrit, il l’a toujours écrit sans grandes prétentions. Seule, la spontanéité l’a toujours poussé; il n’a jamais visé ni trop loin, ni trop haut. Par ses mots il n’a essayé que de se saisir de la vie, et c’est la vie elle-même qui s’est saisie de lui, toujours et malgré tout.

Ce fut pour lui une belle aventure que de chercher le mot juste qui dirait son émerveillement pour une branche de pommier vibrante sous sa toile d’araignée, pour la mélancolie d’un miroir aveugle, pour le jaillissement d’une flamme amoureuse, source de vertige, enfin pour tout ce qui est défi à la mort.

Si, aujourd’hui, il lui est permis de croire qu’il a réussi dans cette aventure, écrire des vers qui soient acceptés comme plus qu’un simple soupir intime ou une exaltation enivrée, c’est une joie sans borne au déclin de ses jours.

II se réjouit de cet honneur immense qui lui est accordé; il en remercie l’Académie Suédoise, il lui en est reconnaissant, comme il l’est de tout écho que rencontre sa poésie.

II a conscience que la renommée ne va pas de soi, qu’elle une grâce, loin d’approcher ceux qui la méritent.

Et c’est pourquoi il pense en ce moment à tous ceux qui n’ont pas reçu, comme lui, une récompense, fut-elle incomparablement plus modeste. Une simple récompense qui serait venue couronner des efforts souvent plus intenses que les siens, parfois marqués par la douleur.

Et s’il était present, c’est eux qu’il voudrait saluer en cette occasion solennelle.

[© The Nobel Foundation, 1984. Jana Seifertová is the sole author of her speech.]

(Translation of the French by Michael Lazare)

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Whatever my father has written he has always written without pretension. Only spontaneity drove him; he never aimed too far, nor too high. With his words he only tried to seize life, and life itself seized him, always and despite everything.

It was for him a great adventure just to search for the right word to express his amazement at the branch of an apple tree vibrant under its spider’s web; at the melancholy of a blind mirror; at the spurt of a flame of love, the source of dizziness; in other words, at everything that challenges death.

If today he can be permitted to believe that he has succeeded in this adventure, that he has written verses accepted as more than a simple intimate sigh or an intoxicated elation, it will give him boundless joy in his declining days.

He rejoices at this immense honor given to him, he thanks the Swedish Academy, he is grateful for it as he is for whatever echo his poetry encounters.

He is well aware that fame does not come from within, that it is a grace which often does not come to those who deserve it.

And that is why at this moment he is thinking of all those who have not received their reward, even if incomparably more modest than his. A simple reward which might have crowned efforts often more intense than his, often marked by pain.

And if he were here, it is those people he would salute at this solemn occasion.

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