Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Voices of Literature: Nobel Winners Gather for Olympiad

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Voices of Literature: Nobel Winners Gather for Olympiad

Article excerpt

ITA DOVE, poet laureate of the United States, called it a gathering of some of the world's most creative minds.

Eight of the 16 living Nobel Prize winners in literature met in Atlanta this week for readings and discussions that touched on topics from terrorism to literature's role as defender of the human spirit. It was the largest assemblage of Nobel authors in the 94-year history of the prestigious awards.

During discussions with moderator Ted Koppel of ABC's "Nightline," the laureates shared thoughts and ideas, some simple and witty, others profound and serious.

Predictably, the recent bombing in Oklahoma City resonated deeply for each of the writers gathered. The world community possesses in the writings of these authors a deep reservoir from which human wisdom and courage may be drawn in seeking to understand not only what triggers people to inflict such horror, but more importantly, how to prevail in the face of it.

"I think one of the reasons such actions are being taken is because people can't articulate themselves," said Joseph Brodsky, a Russian exile and now American citizen who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1987. "An inarticulate man uses muscles instead of verbs."

But Wole Soyinka, a Nigerian playwright awarded the Nobel Prize in 1986, looked at the issue differently. "The real managers of violence have been very articulate people -- they propose ideologies," he said.

The writers convened at the invitation of the Georgia Review, a literary magazine published at the University of Georgia, Athens, and the Cultural Olympiad of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. The event is one of many programs the Cultural Olympiad will present through August 1996 in an effort to celebrate and showcase in world culture what the Olympics do in athletics.

The roster of Nobel Laureates included Toni Morrison (US), Claude Simon (France), Derek Walcott (Trinidad), Czeslaw Milosz (Polish-American), Octavio Paz (Mexico), Wole Soyinka (Nigeria), Joseph Brodsky (Russian-American), and Kenzaburo Oe (Japan). …

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