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Remembering Toni Morrison In Her Own Words

Aug 6, 2019
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TONI MORRISON: Once upon a time, there was an old woman - blind but wise.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

That's Toni Morrison accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. Morrison died yesterday at the age of 88. This speech launches us into Toni Morrison's own fantastical imagination as she did with so many of her books - "Beloved," "Song Of Solomon," "Jazz." In celebrating her writing, she points out the limits of language.

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MORRISON: Language can never pin down slavery, genocide, war, nor should it yearn for the arrogance to be able to do so. Its force, its felicity is in its reach toward the ineffable. Be it grand or slender, burrowing, blasting or refusing to sanctify, whether it laughs out loud or is a cry without an alphabet, the choice word, the chosen silence, unmolested language surges toward knowledge not its destruction. But who doesn't know of literature banned because it is interrogative, discredited because it is critical, erased because alternate? And how many are outraged by the thought of a self-ravaged tongue? Word-work is sublime, she thinks. Because it's generative, it makes meaning that secures our difference - our human difference - the way in which we are like no other life.

CORNISH: Writer Toni Morrison - she died yesterday at the age of 88.

(SOUNDBITE OF AKIRA KOSEMURA'S "DNA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.