Nobel Laureate Issues Plea on Behalf of Book-Starved Countries

Posted on December 8, 2008

The 68 year old French winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, J.M. de Clezio, gave an impassioned speech about the information age as his Nobel speech. de Clezio believes that the technological revolution has created great inequities around the world, in that it divides people into those who have easy access to book and information and those who don't. He called on publishers to help put books in the hands of all people.

"To provide nearly everyone on the planet with a liquid crystal display is utopian," he said. "Are we not, therefore, in the process of creating a new elite, of drawing a new line to divide the world between those who have access to communication and knowledge, and those who are left out?"

For Le Clezio, the book, despite its old-fashioned appearance, remains the best tool for disseminating information to the furthest corners of the planet. "It is practical, easy to handle, economical," he said. "It does not require any particular technological prowess, and keeps well in any climate." Publishers must support literary translation and act creatively so that books are no longer an inaccessible luxury for many, he said.

"Joint publication with developing countries, the establishment of funds for lending libraries and mobile libraries, and, overall, greater attention to requests from and works in so-called minority languages -- which are often clearly in the majority -- would enable literature to continue to be this wonderful tool for self-knowledge, for the discovery of others, and for listening to the concert of humankind, in all the rich variety of its themes and modulations."

There are many charities which exist to bring the written word to those that don't have it. But until certain countries relax their censorship restrictions on what books, information and news can be read by the citizens, those people will be cut off from the rest of the world. But we're all for trying to bring books to everyone, whether their government likes it or not.

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