The UNHCR Nansen Awards : Who Was Fridtjof Nansen?

nansen colour with quote Small

This illustration was to help the UNHCR spread the word about the upcoming Nansen Awards that honour extraordinary service to the forcibly displaced.

Fridtjof Nansen was an extraordinary polymath, the founding father of the UNHCR and basically a dude in all respects. Reading about him for this project has left me a bit in awe. Here’s a quote that gives you an idea of the sort of man he was. So bleak and so magnificent

“Here I sit in the still winter night on the drifting ice-floe, and see only stars above me. Far off I see the threads of life twisting themselves into the intricate web which stretches unbroken from life’s sweet morning dawn to the eternal death-stillness of ice. Thought follows thought—you pick the whole to pieces, and it seems so small—but high above all towers one form … Why did you take this voyage? … Could I do otherwise? Can the river arrest its course and run up hill? My plan has come to nothing. That palace of theory which I reared, in pride and self-confidence, high above all silly objections has fallen like a house of cards at the first breath of wind. Build up the most ingenious theories and you may be sure of one thing—that fact will defy them all. Was I so very sure? Yes, at times; but that was self-deception, intoxication. A secret doubt lurked behind all the reasoning. It seemed as though the longer I defended my theory, the nearer I came to doubting it. But no, there is not getting over the evidence of that Siberian drift-wood. But if, after all, we are on the wrong track, what then? Only disappointed human hopes, nothing more. And even if we perish, what will it matter in the endless cycles of eternity?”

NB: It is a bit naughty to put penguins in here as they only live in the South Pole and Nansen never got there…apologies to strict ornithologists.


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