‘I Am a Man of Words.’ Naveen Kishore’s Goethe Medal Acceptance Speech at Weimar, Germany


Naveen Kishore, Publisher, Seagull Books, was awarded the prestigious Goethe Medal by the Goethe-Institut, Germany, in Weimar on 28 August 2013 for representing, in an outstanding way, dialogue and cultural cooperation between India and Germany. We are delighted to share Mr Kishore’s acceptance speech with Seagull’s admirers and followers. 

Photograph by Maik Schuck, courtesy Goethe-Institut, Germany.


I found the words that had escaped.

Rounded them up at gunpoint.

Marched them into the compound ringed by barbed wire.

Knocked them senseless with the butt of my gun.

Watched them collapse into a heap of meaninglessness.

Lit a match.

Flicked it on to the heap.

It took several lifetimes.

But at last I succeeded.

To set the words on fire.

The rising smoke drew across the sky

the meaning of my life.

To write is to delve. To hope. To write is to set off on a journey. There’s no arriving. There’s no ‘getting there’. Just the tramping. The walking. The dust tracks as signs of life. Someone has walked this way before. The reassurance. The comfort of friends. And of course the words. Words as solace. Words as recollection. Incomplete words seeking salvation. Broken words in limbo. Premature ones spewed into the gutter even as they are born. Words without moorings. Or roots. Homeless words seeking shelter from the storm. Good. Bad. Indifferent. Words that act like an opiate. Words that sing a lullaby. Unashamed words. Naked and stripped of veils. Harsh and therefore often truthful words. Words of the people. Words that refuse to die. Or be buried. Fighting words. Words with a cause. Borderline words strutting to a neutral tune. Neither-here-nor-there words. Our words. Their words. Words of attrition. Those that feast on anger and prejudice. Words of war. And those that want nothing but a happy ending.

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