Sounding like a man close to retirement, President Leonid Brezhnev today accepted the Lenin Prize for Literature in a Kremlin ceremony.
"Time is passing quickly. It cannot be stopped. This imposes on us a special responsibility for the growing generation," Brezhnev, 73 and ailing, said in accepting the prize, according to the official Tass news agency.
"I believe we are obliged to pass on to the new generation all of value from our experience. I continue thinking of this and if I find time, if I manage, I shall continue these notes," Brezhnev was quoted as saying.
The presentation was held before what Tass described as a "meeting of representatives of the working people of Moscow," apparently a substitute for a bigger ceremony canceled last week.
Brezhnev and other top Kremlin leaders failed to appear last week at the first assembly of the new Russian Republic parliament to which they were recently elected, setting off new speculation about this health and relations with other officials.
The prize was awarded for three volumes of Brezhnev's memoirs. The books, entitled "Little Land," "Rebirth" and Virgin Land," were all published in 1978 and offered what a spokesman called "the science to win" for Soviet readers.
"Millions upon millions of people, not only in the Soviet Union but also in other countries of the planet, expressed to Leonid Brezhnev sincere gratitude for his books, which enriched them spiritually and inspired new heroic deeds for the sake of the triumph of socialism and communism, democracy and freedom, international fraternity," Georgy Markov, chairman of the awards committee, said.
In response, Brezhnev said: "As you know, I am not a writer but a party functionary. But as every communist, I consider myself mobilized by party propaganda and see my duty in actively participating in the work of our press."