December 07, 2007

Double Barreled Doris Lessing

"As I talk to them, the school in the blowing dust of north-west Zimbabwe is in my mind, and I look at the mildly expectant English faces in front of me and try to tell them about what I have seen in the last week. Classrooms without books, without textbooks, or an atlas, or even a map pinned to a wall. A school where the teachers beg to be sent books to tell them how to teach, they being only 18 or 19 themselves. I tell these English boys how everybody begs for books: "Please send us books." But there are no images in their minds to match what I am telling them: of a school standing in dust clouds, where water is short, and where the end-of-term treat is a just-killed goat cooked in a great pot.

Is it really so impossible for these privileged students to imagine such bare poverty?

I do my best. They are polite.

I'm sure that some of them will one day win prizes.

Then the talk is over. Afterwards I ask the teachers how the library is, and if the pupils read. In this privileged school, I hear what I always hear when I go to such schools and even universities. "You know how it is," one of the teachers says. "A lot of the boys have never read at all, and the library is only half used."

Yes, indeed we do know how it is. All of us."

Society has no idea what it means to have a hunger for books. The Literature Nobel Winner is eighty-eight and speaks her mind during her acceptance speech. Read It.

"Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write? Into that space, which is like a form of listening, of attention, will come the words, the words your characters will speak, ideas - inspiration." If a writer cannot find this space, then poems and stories may be stillborn. When writers talk to each other, what they discuss is always to do with this imaginative space, this other time. "Have you found it? Are you holding it fast?"

Are you?


Vivian Mahoney said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing this inspirational speech. I'm going to print this one out and keep it in my journal.

Ruth said...

Thank you so much for this. I cried the whole way through. I live in a country where people don't have books.

MotherReader said...

That was a speech that came just in time for me. My Girl Scouts are going to focus on Sub-Saharan Africa for their Thinking Day, and I will share some of this speech with them to give them a better understanding. Thanks for sharing it.

diane said...

There is great excitement in the edublogosphere about Students 2.0, a blog written by students ages 14-17.

YA writers and other adults interested in "Student Voice" should be sure to visit.

The site doesn't premiere until tomorrow, and it has already won an award!

Saints and Spinners said...

Thanks for posting this. I'm sure it's done in some areas, but it would be great if we could go to places online that have extensive book wish-lists and be able to order specific brand-new books to be sent to places that need them. I'll take a look myself, but if others know of such sites, please link them!