REMARKS BY H. E. SERGIO COURI, AMBASSADOR OF BRAZIL, AT THE CEREMONY OF INDUCTION OF HON. DEREK WALCOTT AS A HONORARY MEMBER OF THE ACADEMY OF LETTERS OF BRASILIA.
Her Excellency, Dame Calliopa PearletteLouisy, the Governor-General of Saint Lucia,
Their Excellencies, the Ambassadors of Mexico, France, Argentina, Morocco, Cuba and iica,
The Chargé d’Affaires of Spain and Representatives of the Embassies of Venezuela and of British High Commission,
The Mayor of Gros Islet, Mrs.Alison King,
Academician Marco Coiatelli,
Ladies and Gentleman.
My dear Derek,
My wife and I are very honoured to have you and Sigrid at this Embassy to induct you as an Honorary Member of the Academy of Letters of Brasilia, in which I occupy the chair no. 40, under thepatronage of Vinicius de Moraes, a Brazilian Poet and songwriter, songs of whom we are now hearing from the guitar of Wagner Trindade.
2.The Academy of Letters of Brasilia is a cultural institution inaugurated in March 1982 and headquartered in the federal capital of Brazil. It is composed of 48 members, both effective and permanent. The Academy’s purpose is the promotion of the culture of the Portuguese language and of Brazilian literature; the protection and conservation of the historic and cultural Brazilian heritage; ethics, citizenship, democracy and other values linked with the Brazilian culture and literature; studies, research and programs aimed at developing it. Its present President is the Academician José Carlos Gentili.
3.Brasilia, the Academy’s ambience, built in the middle of nowhere, broke up its isolated image by conquering spaces in the Brazilian and universal literature and music. In 1960, when it became the capital, to live in it was an extreme adventure. Today,it can be said that Brasilia has a shelter in theadmiration and affection of the Brazilians and of the world, as per the witness of André Malraux, for example, and of so many personalities who havevisited there and understood the historic sense of that imposing legacy of President Juscelino Kubitschek.Brasilia, besides being the capital of Brazil, and, thus, the “cradle of the highest decisions of the Nation”, nowadays with a population of three million, is thethird largest city in the country, ranking after São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. It is mostly known for the modern architecture of Oscar Niemeyer, the urban planning of Lucio Costa and the landscapes of Burle Marx. It is also known for its meaning to the Brazilian integration and as a plasma of the Brazilian citizenship.
Ladies and gentlemen,
4.As we all know, Derek Alton Walcott, winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize for Literature, has risen from his origins to lay claim to rich cultural heritage. “The progeny of Asia, Africa, Europe and America came togheter in his work – said Robert Hanner in “Critical Perceptions on Derek Walcott- as they populate his native Caribbean islands; his poetry and plays record their struggles to overcome the ironies of their lives, to establish their ‘new world identity’ “.
5.Much of Walcott’s work reaches out for an unattainable paradise or utopia which finds its physical parallel in the Caribbean of his childhood. Recurring themes of loss, survival and remembrance are present in “Sea Cranes”, an attempt to resurrect the dead through memory, which can be strong and lasting enough to possess the rational “radiance of stone”. His desire is to keep faith with reality, to reconstruct the past and its people “as they were,/ with faults and all”.In Derek’s own verses:
“Only in a world where there are cranes and horses
(…) ‘can poetry survive.’
Or adept goats on crags. Epic
follows the plow, meter the ring of anvil;
prophecy divines the figuration of storks, and awe
the arc of the stallion’s neck.
The flame has left the charred wick of the cypress;
the light will catch these islands in their turn.
Magnificent frigates inaugurate the dusk
that flashes through the whisking tails of horses,
The stony fields they graze.
From the hammered anvil of the promontory
The spray settles in stars.
Generous ocean, turn the wanderer
From his salt sheets, the prodigal
drawn to the deep troughs of the swine-black porpoise.
Wrench his heart’s wheel and set his forehead here.”
6. In Forest of Europe, Derek wrote, on poetry and on the poet’s mission:
there is no harder prison than writing verse,
what’s poetry, if it is worth its salt,
but a phrase men can pass from hand to mouth?
From hand to mouth, across the centuries,
the bread that lasts when systems have decayed,
when, in his forest of barbed-wire branches,
a prisoner circles, chewing the one phrase
whose music will last longer than the leaves,
My dear Derek,
7.By contributing so highly to literature, you highly contributed to the belief in inspiration, as a celestial fluid which anoints the spirit; in intuition, as an animistic and extra-sensorial treasure; in the communion of emotions, which prove existence, in the redemption of life by sentiment, which articulates the beings; in the resurrection of Times through expression, which renders the unlikely true andsacralises the truth . And in the eternal life of the word,the word precise and vague, hallucinated and pyrotechnical, acrobatic and kaleidoscopic, which strikes arabesques in the air and solemnizes inspiration, intuition, emotion, sentiment, expression, amen!
Ladies and gentleman,
8.For the sake of our self-esteem, let us love, after love:
“The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love- letters from the bookshelf
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.”
9.And, “sixty years after”, let us also remember:
“In my wheelchair in the Virgin lounge at Vieuxfort,
I saw, sitting in her own wheelchair, her beauty
hunched like a crumpled flower, the one whom I thought
as the fire of my young life would do her duty
to be golden and beautiful and young forever
even as I aged. She was treble-chinned, old, her devastating
smile was netted in wrinkles, but I felt the fever
briefly returning as we sat there, crippled, hating
time and the lie of general pleasantries.
Small waves still break against the small stone pier
where a boatman left me in the orange peace
of dusk, a half-century ago, maybe happier
being erect, she like a deer in her shyness, I stalking
an impossible consummation; those who knew us
knew we would never be together, at least, not walking.
Now the silent knives from the intercom went through us.”
10. On behalf of the Academy of Letters of Brasilia, in a humble but sincere tribute, the first one of the kind for the Academy, I would like to request Academician Marco Coiatelli, who excels in tales for children and came to Saint Lucia especially for this ceremony, to deliver to you the diploma of Honorary Member and to impose upon you the appertaining award.
11.That done, I would like to close these remarks with the same words I pronounced at the ceremony in which I handed over my credentials last year at the Governor General’s Official Residence:
“ (…) allow me to express my utmost admiration for the conquest by Saint Lucia of two Nobel Prizes(…)
It is a prowess chanted out by the breeze in all quadrants of the Earth, celebrated by the Hesperides in their unique Garden and lit out by starlight to all galaxies in the universe!
May the creative blast of both winners inspire the utterance of the relations between Saint Lucia and Brazil.”
12.I propose a toast in the honour of Derek Walcott, the Son of Saint Lucia, the Minstrel of the Caribbean, the Nobel Laureate, and in the honour of the friendship and cooperation between Saint Lucia and Brazil.
Cap Estate, the 26th of September 2015