Compiled by David Pratt
eBook release: August 2010
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
Elie Wiesel , Nobel Prize for Peace
“No one will ever know,” wrote the German novelist Heinrich Böll, “how many novels, poems, analyses, confessions, sufferings and joys have been piled up on this continent called Love, without it ever having turned out to be totally investigated.” Part of the paradox of love is its immeasurability, its elusiveness of definition, the variety of its objects and manifestations. This book collects the observations on love of 166 recipients of the Nobel Prize, a group that includes some of the most distinguished minds of the last hundred years.We may take it that Nobel laureates are no more immune than ordinary mortals to the experience of deep attachment, and to the resultant sense of heightened well-being, that we call love. Indeed, without such passion for their chosen field of endeavour, they would be unlikely to realize the achievements that result in the Nobel Prize. The novelist Ivo Andric remarked that “Every working day is a celebration for me,” and with this sentiment most Nobel laureates from every field would agree.In the popular mind, love refers primarily to romantic love, a frequent subject in the work of recipients of the Nobel prize for literature. A substantial part of this book is devoted to their observations of interpersonal love, both romantic and erotic. If the scientists write less on this topic, it is because their primary commitments are elsewhere; nevertheless, it is worth noting how frequent are successful marriages among the science prize winners. In the first century of the prize, the divorce rate among recipients of the prizes for Chemistry, Medicine, and Physics, was less than 7 per cent; for the Literature laureates it was 23 per cent. The stability of a happy marriage is no doubt a factor in professional success. So thought Linus Pauling, who won two Nobel prizes; he advised those seeking a career in science to “get married young, and stay married.” Winston Churchill would have agreed. Referring to the family home of the Marlboroughs, he wrote: “At Blenheim I took two very important decisions: to be born and to marry. I am happily content with the decision I took on both those occasions.”If the laureates are deeply attached to their partners, families, and homes, they are no less attached to their homeland. This is not necessarily the land of their birth; indeed, exile and immigration are common experiences of Nobel laureates. Many Israeli laureates immigrated from less congenial countries. Even more future laureates left Europe for Britain and America during the 1930s. Prior to the rise of Adolf Hitler, German Nobel prizes in the sciences outnumbered those awarded to Americans by 2:1; since Hitler, this ratio has been reversed. Laureates from Albert Einstein to Henry Kissinger have written movingly of the safety and freedom they found in their new homeland. Following World War II, a new flood of refugees left the countries of Eastern Europe for the West, among them the writers Czeslaw Milosz, Joseph Brodsky, and Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, and their feelings for the places they left, and that to which they came, permeate their writing.In the pages of this book will be found many and varied observations on love by Nobel laureates; by writers of their love of writing and particularly of poetry; by scientists of experiment and discovery; by peace laureates of justice and freedom; by academic laureates of their students and of teaching; and by laureates from all fields of relationships, of humanity, and of the natural world. Among Nobel laureates there are few cynics and few pessimists, and this is as Alfred Nobel would have wished. The creations of literature laureates have given us a fuller depiction of the human passions. The dedication of recipients of the prize for peace has prevented or resolved much human conflict. The achievements of the scientists have illuminated the wonders of nature, and their technical results have enhanced human potential and reduced burdensome toil. And the discoveries of the laureates in medicine have provided treatment for many hitherto intractable diseases. Perhaps more than any other community of individuals, the Nobel laureates, still fewer than one thousand in number, have illuminated human love and mitigated the obstacles that stand in its way.
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