While Robert Mugabe is performing crocodile smiles in Lisbon, Doris Lessing accepts her Nobel Prize for Literature and describes the hunger for books in her homeland. Read the entire speech here. It is extremely moving. Here is an extract:
We have a bequest of stories, tales from the old storytellers, some of whose names we know, but some not. The storytellers go back and back, to a clearing in the forest where a great fire burns, and the old shamans dance and sing, for our heritage of stories began in fire, magic, the spirit world. And that is where it is held, today.
Ask any modern storyteller and they will say there is always a moment when they are touched with fire, with what we like to call inspiration, and this goes back and back to the beginning of our race, to fire and ice and the great winds that shaped us and our world.
The storyteller is deep inside everyone of us. The story-maker is always with us. Let us suppose our world is attacked by war, by the horrors that we all of us easily imagine. Let us suppose floods wash through our cities, the seas rise . . . but the storyteller will be there, for it is our imaginations which shape us, keep us, create us – for good and for ill. It is our stories that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt, even destroyed. It is the storyteller, the dream-maker, the myth-maker, that is our phoenix, that represents us at our best, and at our most creative.
That poor girl trudging through the dust, dreaming of an education for her children, do we think that we are better than she is – we, stuffed full of food, our cupboards full of clothes, stifling in our superfluities?
I think it is that girl and the women who were talking about books and an education when they had not eaten for three days, that may yet define us.
Hats off to German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, for publically rebuking Robert Mugabe for the human rights atrocities in Zimbabwe at the Lisbon summit. She said time is running out for the country, and that the terrible situation is ruining the image of the new Africa. While I support Gordon Brown’s boycotting the summit, I think Merkel’s is the braver and more proactive approach: taking him to task in public, while his crony Thabo Mbeki doesn’t even mention the Zimbabwe crisis in his speech.