Man will not merely endure: he will prevail

by Aki Schilz

Frequent is the plight of writers who feel, all at once or over a number of days, with a slow dawning realisation, that they are writing into the dark. Why else do we write except that we feel we need to? That it is in our nature? Our blood? It is not a cure for cancer, or an end to poverty. It is a desire, as human and as simple and as self-centric as hunger, thirst, sex. Not self-indulgent (well, in most cases), but certainly, self-centric. And unsated, or unsuccessful, this frustrated desire can be cripplingly immobilising. Debilitating, even.

A friend of mine, who also writes, confided in me that his trick when he is tiring of it, or wonders if there is any point, is not to write any further into the unknown, but to rest a while with what is familiar to him. And what is familiar to my friend is the voice of this man:

William Faulkner

William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech is a call to all writers not to lose faith in the true purpose of writing.

Writing must be

a life’s work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before.

[…]

[The writer] must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.

The video unfortunately cuts off toward the end and is a little fuzzy on the audio front. However, full transcripts are available online. For example, here.

In light of the recent crisis across the UK, Faulkner’s closing words resound not only for writers struggling to find their voices, and make those voices heard, but for humanity as a whole.

I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

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