An author’s tenderness

In 2018, she won the Man Booker International Prize for her novel Flights (translated by Jennifer Croft). In 2019, she was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature – Wikipedia

“Tenderness is spontaneous and disinterested; it goes far beyond empathetic fellow feeling. Instead it is the conscious, though perhaps slightly melancholy, common sharing of fate. Tenderness is deep emotional concern about another being, its fragility, its unique nature, and its lack of immunity to suffering and the effects of time. Tenderness perceives the bonds that connect us, the similarities and sameness between us. It is a way of looking that shows the world as being alive, living, interconnected, cooperating with, and codependent on itself.” Olga Tokarczuk, from her Nobel Lecture

If you’re an author, reading Olga Tokarczuk’s entire speech will be, IMHO, time well spent.

An atomistic approach to everything has split the world and ourselves into bits and pieces that tend to compete with each other, and become so polarized they obscure any hope of inclusiveness and oneness. While acknowledging that first-person narratives are/were a miracle in storytelling and seeing the world, Tokarczuk acknowledges that they do not allow for the importance of others and others’ views. When it comes to the world as a whole, this is rather like the lefthand having no idea or concept that it’s part of the same entity that brings forth the right hand or the feet or the heart.

“Literature,” said Tokarczuk, “is built on tenderness toward any being other than ourselves. It is the basic psychological mechanism of the novel. Thanks to this miraculous tool, the most sophisticated means of human communication, our experience can travel through time, reaching those who have not yet been born, but who will one day turn to what we have written, the stories we told about ourselves and our world.”

Seeing all our stories throughout our own first lens is natural, but we cannot stop there if we want our books to carry meaningful messages that get past the illusion of the world as a collection disparate objects and events into the oneness that is really there.