Coetzee recalls a reading childhood

first_img The Daily Gazette Sign up for daily emails to get the latest Harvard news. Accepting the inaugural Mahindra Award for Global Distinction in the Humanities, Nobel Prize-winning author J.M. Coetzee treated the audience filling Sanders Theatre on Wednesday to thoughts about his earliest reading and the concept of a mother tongue.The ceremony, which included a panel discussion among 11 humanities scholars, opened with a performance of Bach by pianist Stephen Prutsman. Homi K. Bhabha, director of the Mahindra Humanities Center, then introduced the award, named after Anand G. Mahindra ’77 and his wife, Anuradha Mahindra, which “celebrates the work and vision of an internationally renowned public figure whose career has contributed significantly to the flourishing of the arts and humanities.”Calling Coetzee a “foundational writer of the century,” Bhabha said, “What I have learned from Coetzee’s works … is that great classics glow with the slow fires of survival, their flint igniting again and again and again, rather than burning out in a showy blaze of genius.”The award itself, designed (as was the color-washed logo of a jagged mountain range) by Sir Anish Kapoor, was presented by University President Larry Bacow. Referring to the award’s gold-toned peaks, Bacow thanked Coetzee “for seeking summits in your craft and for opening our eyes to vistas beyond our imaginations.”Accepting the honor, the 78-year-old Coetzee began with a reference to his age: “You see a venerable gent nearing the end of his days.” But the two-time Booker Prize winner quickly transitioned to speaking about his “relations with the English language,” via his earliest reading.The author related how, as a child in South Africa (he now lives in South Australia), he was given a copy of the “Children’s Encyclopedia,” a British book he cited as a formative influence. Even before he could read, he recalled, “I used to pore over the pictures and try to make sense of them, and by them make sense of the world.” Once he could understand the words, he would often reread the “green books” that made up the encyclopedia. Revisiting them as an adult, however, he found them somewhat less entertaining.Published “shortly before the Great War” and revised shortly thereafter (Coetzee’s childhood edition was published in 1923), the book was very much a product of its time, he recalled, espousing British nationalism that promoted “unthinking obedience.”“In particular, it was committed to the idea of patriotic sacrifice,” he said. With its teachings on race (defending the superiority of Anglo Saxons), sex (“simply absent”), and nationality, “it was not a good preparation for the late 20th century.”Even as a child, Coetzee recalled, he felt a disconnect between the life he experienced and the one described in the green books he knew so well. “I could never quite associate myself with that world,” he said. That disconnect created a rupture with English itself.“Only later did my commitment to the language begin to fade,” he explained. “As it faded, English began to look to me like just one language among many. Writing in English still came easily to me, but it did not come naturally. I no longer felt I had any duty to continue in it or sustain it.”Returning again to the concept of a “mother tongue,” he asked, “Is ‘mother tongue’ just a locution, or are there people who feel enfolded in the language they hear as a child feels enfolded in a mother’s arms? Are there people who feel … motherless?” He said the question feels particularly relevant today, “an experience worth exploring in depth, or so it seems to me.”The novelist’s major works include “In the Heart of the Country” (1977), “Waiting for the Barbarians” (1980), and the Booker Prize-winners “Life & Times of Michael K” (1983) and “Disgrace” (1999). He also wrote the fictionalized memoirs “Boyhood” (1997) and “Youth” (2002).Coetzee won the Nobel in literature in 2003.The idea of a mother tongue was the first of several concepts picked up by the panel that followed his remarks.,Prutsman, Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music Suzannah Clark, composer Osvaldo Golijov, writers Elaine Scarry and Professor of African and African American Studies in Residence Jamaica Kincaid, Jonathan Trumbull Research Professor of American History Nancy F. Cott, Cogan University Professor of Humanities Stephen Greenblatt, Museum of Modern Art Director Glenn D. Lowry, scholar and Coetzee chronicler David Attwell, and Evelyn Stefansson Nef Distinguished Service Professor in the Committee on Social Thought Robert B. Pippin traded thoughts on mother tongues, as well as on bicycles, Roget’s Thesaurus, and Bach, three favorite topics of Coetzee, before another performance by Prutsman closed the event.While Golijov discussed learning English after hearing both Spanish and Yiddish at home, others spoke of unease with the language, stemming from their parents’ greater fluency in other languages, from French and Norwegian to Yiddish. Reacting to the honoree’s speech, Scarry noted that fluency is not always an answer. “If I have a mother language, it is English,” she said. “But I also recognize the feeling of not always feeling at home in it.”last_img read more

Outdoor Updates: Governments consider adding extinct wooly mammoth to endangered species list to slow ivory smuggling

first_imgGovernments consider adding extinct wooly mammoth to endangered species list to slow ivory smuggling For the first time ever, governments are considering adding an extinct animal to the endangered species listing. The wooly mammoth has been dead for thousands of years but government conservationists are proposing to register the animal under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). Most involved agree the action is technically allowed under the rules of the convention. The unorthodox move is being made in an attempt to protect elephants. Wildlife authorities report that smugglers try to pass African elephant ivory off as wooly mammoth ivory in an attempt to trick authorities. That won’t be so easy if the wooly mammoth ivory trade is regulated. The proposal will likely be considered at the next CITES gathering, which has not yet been scheduled. If you want to truly return to the earth after your death, Washington State is the place to kick the bucket. The state just became the first to legalize human composting. The law, which goes into effect in 2020, recognizes “natural organic reduction,” sometimes also called liquid cremation, as a legal means of disposing of human bodies. The process, called Recompose, involves using wood chips, straw, and other materials to turn the body into rich, odorless soil that passes all state and federal guidelines. More pollution by toxic substances found at Duke coal ash sitescenter_img It’s now legal to compost a human body in Washington State According to disclosures required by federal law, Duke Energy has shared for the first time that more toxic chemicals are polluting the water at Duke coal ash sites in North Carolina. Duke has disclosed that it is exceeding federal groundwater protection standards for the following toxic substances at these coal ash lagoons: mercury at Belews Creek in Stokes County; barium at Marshall on Lake Norman; and lithium, radium 226, and radium 228 at Roxboro in Person County. The disclosure means that the toxins released from Duke’s coal ash sites are even worse than first reported. Despite the toxic mix of chemicals leaking into North Carolina’s water, Duke Energy wants to leave coal ash in unlined pits at six sites.last_img read more

China Southern recruits Australian pilots

first_imgChina Southern Airlines has welcomed 10 new Australian pilots to its international ranks in recent months, joining eight compatriots in a growing contingent of international aircrew.The airline now has 14 serving Australian pilots and a further four in training, just some of about 90 China Southern pilots enlisted from outside China.Each has been recruited as part of a program to increase the diversity and international experience of the airline’s pilots, coming from countries including Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Canada.China Southern regional general manager Australia and New Zealand Henry He said the introduction of Australian pilots highlighted the growing importance Australia played in the airline’s success.“Australian pilots are very highly regarded internationally and we consider Australia a key part of our international network, it’s important to us that Australian experience and expertise is represented in the crew we have aboard China Southern aircraft worldwide,” Mr He said.In addition to recruiting Australian pilots, China Southern Airlines has invested heavily in pilot training at the China Southern West Australian Flying College at Jandakot Airport in Perth.From its hub at Baiyun International Airport in Guangzhou, China Southern flies to almost 200 destinations in 35 countries including more than 150 Chinese cities on the world’s most extensive domestic network.China Southern is a proud member of the SkyTeam Alliance, which offers passengers a worldwide system of more than 19,000 daily flights spanning more than 1000 destinations in 187 countries.Source = ETB Travel News: Lewis Wisemanlast_img read more