Peace Is the Word
And the prize.


LOPEZ: How was writing Peace, They Say philosophically nourishing?

NORDLINGER: Because it made you ponder those big questions concerning war and peace, freedom and tyranny, etc. It made you decide what you regard as true, or most true.

LOPEZ: There are some tremendous people who have been nominated over the years — that must be an uplifting tour to take?

NORDLINGER: Yes, I enjoyed meeting a great many of the laureates (and nominees). Some were uplifting, such as Albert John Lutuli, an early anti-apartheid leader in South Africa. But even the scoundrels, I enjoyed meeting!

LOPEZ: “If you win the prize,” you write, “people will recite a Beatitude to you, and about you: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’ (They don’t so often recite the second part of that Beatitude: ‘for they shall be called the children of God.’ Perhaps those words seem unfit for secular society.)” Is that just a right-winger religious zinger or is it a real concern? How can you recognize a Mother Teresa and be a secularist?

NORDLINGER: True, the committee honored Mother Teresa in 1979. It has also honored other religious leaders, and religious people, over the years: e.g., Nathan Söderblom, the primate of Sweden, in 1930. And Bishop Belo of East Timor in 1996.

I was just saying that, when people — people in general — recite that Beatitude, they usually say “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and leave it at that. It’s normal..

LOPEZ: Where does Barack Obama rate on the “least deserving laureate” list?

NORDLINGER: In my view, there have been many laureates less deserving than President O! But he’s somewhere on the list, yes. I have a feeling he agrees, too.

LOPEZ: Who is the most deserving non-laureate?

NORDLINGER: Most people would say Gandhi, I think. You and I, Kathryn, might well say Reagan.

LOPEZ: How did Hitler get nominated? 

NORDLINGER: Some Swedish parliamentarian thought it was a good idea. Hitler had signed the Munich Agreement, after all.

LOPEZ: Why is Nobel himself more interesting than anyone who ever got the prize?

NORDLINGER: Oh, Kathryn, he is so interesting — certainly as interesting as any of the winners. He was a brilliant chemical engineer, probably a genius. And he was a brilliant entrepreneur. And an excellent writer, particularly in his letters, of which there are thousands and thousands. He was complicated, probing, humane — a great man. A great man, really. Wrong about some things — like most of us? — but great.

I loved reading his letters.