books · Quotes

Friday Quick Quote: Toni Morrison’s “Nobel Prize Lecture”

“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”

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Today is the sort of day that makes me want to celebrate words in all of their beauty and all of their power. With that, I want share a brief excerpt from the lecture that Toni Morrison gave for receiving the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature. I encourage you to go read (or listen to) the lecture in its entirety. It is a brilliant one.

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“The inn door opens: a girl and a boy step away from its light. They climb into the wagon bed. The boy will have a gun in three years, but now he carries a lamp and a jug of warm cider. They pass it from mouth to mouth. The girl offers bread, pieces of meat and something more: a glance into the eyes of the one she serves. One helping for each man, two for each woman. And a look. They look back. The next stop will be their last. But not this one. This one is warmed.”

It’s quiet again when the children finish speaking, until the woman breaks into the silence.

“Finally”, she says, “I trust you now. I trust you with the bird that is not in your hands because you have truly caught it. Look. How lovely it is, this thing we have done – together.”

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Toni Morrison, Nobel Lectures, Literature 1991-1995, Editor Sture Allén, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, 1997.

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