fredag, september 10, 2010

Encounter with "Alfred Nobel"

As paradoxical as it may sound, reading a biography of Alfred Nobel, perhaps the most famous Swede to the outside world, does not immediately conduce to conjuring up an image of his being particularly Swedish in our minds. Nobel was undoubtedly an internationalist. Never married, and childless, he spent a large part of his life abroad, in Russia, France, and Italy mostly. Indeed the Prize bearing his name founded in his last testament symbolized the international ideals of this man. Since these ideals transcend all national borders, for a long time I've been wondering how they were received in his native land. When, this summer, I visited the mansion of Björkborn in Sweden where Nobel lived during his final years, I finally got the chance to present the question to our guide at Nobel's Swedish home.

-"Not too well, I must say."

After he stunned me by suddenly standing up from the dinner table when the doorkeeper just welcomed me in (I initially thought this guide was a wax figure as he appeared almost a Nobel look-alike), his answer came as a second surprise. "At first, the King, the Royal Academy, as well as Karolinska Institute, all hesitated." They did not want to have anything to do with the Nobel Prize; but gradually, taking a long-term view, they started to realize the instituted prize, the first truly international Prize, would eventually prove to be a pride for this country. Or, in my unqualified thoughts, precisely because it's so international, it becomes very Swedish.

Although, an interesting historical anecdote may serve as a counter note when ideals meet the reality. There arose a dispute between Sweden and France shortly after Nobel's death with regard to executing Nobel's testament. Since Nobel often visited his Paris home towards the end of his life, the French government deemed France as Nobel's home land. The French court overseeing the case differed and opined that where the man had his horses should his home be located. It turned out that Nobel had at the time several Russian stallions in his Björkborn mansion, so this place was decisive for legally ratifying Nobel's last will in Sweden and subsequently bringing his grand vision to fruition.

Watch the man himself narrating the story:

A virtual tour of Björkborns herrgård -

Inga kommentarer: