My first sighting of a Nobel Laureate

The year was 1987. I was a First year Pre Degree student at Arts College, Thiruvananthapuram. My English teacher P. Vijayakumar told the class one day, ‘If you want to see a Nobel Laureate in the flesh, here is your chance.’  The very next day I was present at the Institute of English inside the Kerala University campus in Palayam for the said event. The Institute was headed by the reputed poet, academic, and critic Dr. Ayyappa Panicker. William Golding was in town as an invitee of the Institute and the British Council Library. I first learned about the 1983 Literature Nobel winner Sir William Gerald Golding (1911 – 1993)  from seeing his books like Lord of the Flies, Rites of Passage, Fireflies, The Inheritors, etc in the library. The meeting was hilarious and memorable. He took questions from the audience. When asked what he did with the Nobel Prize money, he said it was top secret. Regarding his first experience of writing, he had this to say, When I was twelve I decided to write my autobiography. I wrote, “Once upon a time I was born to rich but honest parents.” Now I found this line enormously funny, so funny that I stopped it then and there and started to write Volume II.’

Lord of the Flies, a hardly 200-page novel which came out in 1954, is one of the most important works of the twentieth century. The book which tells the story of a bunch of kids who are marooned in a Pacific island during World War II is a brilliant allegory for mankind itself. The children who hail from a civilized society comes to unleash unimaginable brutality on one another. There is even murder in this tale. It is about the conflict between civilized behavior/ societal mores and the innate avarice/ greed for power in man.  Peter Brook adapted it to the big screen in 1963. I watched it during my US stay in the late 90s.

PS: It was while in the US that I could see another Nobel Laureate. While living in Plainsboro, New Jersey in 2000, I learned about the ‘Millennium Lecture’ to be delivered by Toni Morrison at nearby Princeton University and which was open to the public. The black writer who headed the Humanities Department there was someone I had come to admire after reading her magnum opus ‘Beloved’. She is one of 14 women to have won the Literary Nobel in the prize’s 114-year history.  Another American won the Prize a full quarter century later when singer Bob Dylan was honored with it. Like Kazuo Ishiguro, she has written just a handful of books, prominent among them being Sula, Tar Baby, Song of Solomon, Jazz and The Bluest Eye. When Jonathan Demme filmed Beloved in 1998, Oprah Winfrey was cast in the main role of fleeing slave woman Sethe.   Watching it in a Columbus, Ohio theatre was another memorable experience for me.

The Lord of the Rings was one of the recommended books of maverick entrepreneur Elon Musk




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