Happy Holidays from Tocci!


Bronze statue of William Faulkner sitting on a bench

Faulkner begins his acceptance speech by saying not he, but his work, received the award.

He didn’t get the award because he’s so great, but because he’s worked hard and his work is good. He refers to the “agony and sweat of the human spirit” in order to create “something which did not exist before.”

All of us in the building industry share the writer’s urge to create, only our tools are different.

This urge is not without cost: to think new, to design ahead, to build different, to labor side-by-side:  this work is not without the “anguish and travail” of our literary counterparts.

In Faulkner’s time, the world faced the threat of annihilation from the atomic bomb. Today we face the debt threat and credit crisis—perhaps not a sudden death but slow strangulation. In uncertain, highly volatile times, Faulkner urges a return to the “old verities and truths of the heart;” similarly we appeal to you, our partners in building, who have shown pride in your craft and restored honor to the profession—Keep calm and carry on.

Lila Tocci

Faulkner’s Speech in Full:

Ladies and gentlemen,

I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work – a life’s work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand here where I am standing.

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope, and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he relearns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.

I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969

Header Image:
William Faulkner Statue in Oxford, MS
Credit: Visit Mississippi (Permissions)