Fabulous Finns

by Jay Nordlinger

In today’s installment of my “Salzburg Journal,” there’s the usual smorgasbord, including a note on the goat that Igor and Vera Stravinsky kept in L.A. (really). It’s yesterday’s installment that I want to address now.

In it, I quoted Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Finnish conductor, on Sibelius, the great composer of his homeland. Salonen was saying how, for a long time, Sibelius was the most famous Finn, the only one known worldwide. The only one on the cover of Time magazine, for example. Salonen said something like, “Sibelius was the No. 1 Finn — virtually the only Finn — until the Linux guy came along.” That would be Linus Torvalds.

A reader writes to say, “Au contraire,” at least on the Time-magazine matter: Appearing on the cover of the Feb. 5, 1940, issue was Gustaf Mannerheim, leader of the Finnish defense forces. You can see that cover here. An extraordinary face, the baron had.

Other readers have written about other Finns, but they are small fry, comparatively (if I may). And by the way, Torvalds was apparently named after Linus Pauling, the great American chemist, and repugnant American radical. Torvalds’s parents were radicals themselves. Pauling, remember, won the Nobel chemistry prize in 1954, and the Nobel peace prize in 1963. (That particular prize was for 1962, but it was conferred in 1963.)

Later, Pauling won yet another prize, this one meaning a great deal more to him (by his own testimony). That was the Lenin peace prize, from the Soviet dictatorship. This prize began life, of course, as the Stalin peace prize.

And, as I like to say, you didn’t win the Stalin or Lenin peace prize for nothing. The Kremlin did not give it lightly. No, you earned it, and Pauling really did.

Hang on, I’ve gone a long way from Sibelius, haven’t it? And the formidable Baron Mannerheim.

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