Press Releases

    2 December 2004

    “Telling Tales” Anthology, Aimed at Raising Funds for Anti-AIDS Effort, “Inspiring Display of Compassion”, Says Secretary-General at New York Launch

    NEW YORK, 1 December (UN Headquarters) -- Following are Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s remarks at the event celebrating the publication of “Telling Tales” anthology, edited by Nadine Gordimer, in New York, 30 November:

    I hesitate to speak in the presence of so many gifted wordsmiths.  But I will try anyway.

    First, I would like to express my tremendous gratitude to Nadine Gordimer for her devotion to the United Nations and for being such a good personal friend.  As a Nobel laureate, admired throughout the world for her commitment to justice and freedom, she has achieved enough for several lifetimes.  And yet, at a point in her career when some writers might contemplate a breezy memoir, she has taken up a new cause:  the fight against the global AIDS epidemic.  And she has succeeded remarkably, enlisting some of the world’s leading writers in an inspiring display of compassion and engagement.

    The latest statistics, released last week ahead of tomorrow’s observance of World AIDS Day, show a disease not only widespread in Africa, taking more lives than all the continent’s conflicts combined, but also rapidly advancing in Asia.  For all the often heroic efforts to get governments to pay attention, and to get treatment into the hands of people who need it most, the international response has been alarmingly slow.  For all the money that has been spent, we are still woefully under-funded.  All of us should be aware of that.  And for all the death we have witnessed so far, we have yet to see the worst of this crisis.

    So this is an urgent and worthy effort for the world’s writers to support, and I thank all those who appear in “Telling Tales” for their generosity.  Tonight we will hear from three of them.  Nadine will tell us about what got her started, and what led her to act.  Salman Rushdie and John Updike will read their contributions to the book.

    People often dismiss the words that are uttered here at the United Nations.  It is true that at times rhetorical flourishes and careful formulations can mask ugly realities or serve as a cover for inaction.  Not tonight. Tonight, we will hear about the human condition from two places where it is truly understood -- from the heart and from the imagination. And in “Telling Tales”, we have received a clear and collective plea not to hide from the AIDS epidemic or, indeed, from any of the other problems that blight our world.  We must do more than read the works of the 21 masters who have produced this book; we must heed their message.

    Thank you very much.

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