The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Doris Lessing on Nobel Prize Fame

Recently, Doris Lessing was bemoaning her newly won Nobel Prize fame. She opined that winning the Nobel Prize for Literature was a "disaster". She revealed that her life had become one long round of interviews and that she had ceased to write.

Now, that is her viewpoint from the present. However, I think she has overlooked something. Winning the Nobel Prize has made her much more famous than she had been. She is also 88 years old and probably near the end of her long life. To my eyes, she is thinking too much of the present and not enough of the long-term. In the long-term she will be dead - and what will remain are her books and her reputation. Winning the Nobel Prize has heightened her reputation and called attention to her work in a way she had never achieved before. History may turn more readily towards her, for having won that prize, than it would otherwise have done. She may have lost the ease of her quiet, writing life - but that loss comes at the end of a long and productive life. She has, however, gained something else: a more solid place in posterity.

No doubt, Doris Lessing is not the only Nobel Prize winner to be besieged by sudden fame. Yet, almost all Nobel Prize winners share one thing in common: they tend to be old. It takes time for a reputation to accrue. It takes time for people to notice the quality of one's work and thinking. It takes time for the Nobel committee to decide that someone is of sufficient merit to make such an award. Indeed, so much time does all of this take that many decades often pass between the work that merited an award, and the award itself. I used to think this was a bad thing. I used to think that the money that came with the award would be more useful in the early stages of a career, while the creator is still young. However, there is another side. The great fame that a Nobel Prize usually bestows is less disruptive to a career nearing its end. So, perhaps it is merciful that this most prestigious of all awards should come so late in a life. The result is that little work is lost to the ever present interviews - but that a more enduring fame is won.

So, though Doris Lessing may not understand this, at this time, her Nobel Prize is much more of a blessing than a curse. Her reputation may endure that much longer and her place in literary history be that much more secure because she was picked out, from all the world's writers, for the greatest prize of all.

There is something else Doris Lessing could do. She could always say: "no" to the interviews, go somewhere quiet, and isolated, and begin to write again. So, even if made world famous through the Nobel, the choice for peaceful solitude remains in the hands of the creator - they just have to be firm enough to make it.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and five months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and ten months, and Tiarnan, twenty-seven months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind, niño, gênio criança, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:15 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"To my eyes, she is thinking too much of the present and not enough of the long-term. In the long-term she will be dead - and what will remain are her books and her reputation."

I think she is thinking more along the same line as line as Woody Allen:

"I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying."

5:55 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

You may be right. That, of course, is the ideal and only truly satisfying form of immortality. With present technology, however, it is unachievable. Doris Lessing has, however, achieved the other form of immortality to a degree. Few of us achieve even that.

Thanks for your comment.

6:41 PM  

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