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Of Tenderness in Stories: Revisiting Olga Nawoja Tokarczuk's Nobel Prize 2019 Speech
"I write fiction, but it is never pure fabrication. When I write, I have to feel everything inside myself. I have to let all the living beings and objects that appear in the book go through me, everything that is human and beyond human, everything that is living and not endowed with life. I have to take a close look at each thing and person, with the greatest solemnity, and personify them inside myself, personalize them.
That is what tenderness serves me for―because tenderness is the art of personifying, of sharing feelings, and thus endlessly discovering similarities. "
The words of Olga Nawoja Tokarczuk in her Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 2019 were more than just an acceptance of an award. They were a reminder of why we, as writers, do what we do. They were a call to action, a call to use the power of our words to create a better world.
As I listened to her speech, I was struck by the way she emphasized the importance of empathy in literature. She spoke of the need for stories that teach us to extend our sympathies beyond our immediate surroundings and to see the world from different perspectives. And I realized that this was exactly what I had been trying to do with my own writing, to create characters and stories that challenge my own biases and assumptions, and that encourage readers to do the same.
But Tokarczuk's speech wasn't just about empathy. It was about the power of storytelling to connect us with others and to make sense of the world around us. She spoke of stories as "roots that keep us together in the same soil," and I could feel the truth of those words deep in my bones. As writers, we have the power to create stories that resonate with readers on a fundamental level, to offer a new perspective on the world around us.
And then there was her call for a more inclusive and interconnected world. She spoke of the need for a world that is more gracious, more tolerant, and more accepting. And I knew that this was what I wanted to write about, to use my words to advocate for those who may not have a voice, to challenge stereotypes and biases, and to celebrate diversity.
As I reflect on Tokarczuk's speech, I am reminded of why I became a writer in the first place. I wanted to create stories that matter, that have the power to change hearts and minds, and that make the world a better place. And I realize that this is still my goal, my mission, my reason for writing.
In the end, Tokarczuk's words were more than just a speech. They were a call to action, a reminder of the power of literature to change the world. And I am grateful for that reminder, for the inspiration it has given me to keep writing, to keep creating stories that matter.
Link to the full speech - https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/literature/2018/tokarczuk/lecture/
Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Parul Sood