Letter: Baroness who inspired Nobel

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The Independent Online
From Dr Peter van den Dungen

Sir: In his article on the Nobel prizes, Paul Vallely (10 October) writes that Nobel acquired his pacifism from an Austrian baroness friend "who was also a novelist manque".

This is an unworthy put-down of one of the most remarkable and high- minded women of the pre-1914 world. Bertha von Suttner, the author of many novels (often of social criticism), was extremely well-known in the German-speaking world and had become Austria's most popular woman writer and journalist by the turn of the century.

Her novel Lay down your arms! (1889) was translated into 27 languages and made her famous world-wide. Tolstoy complimented her for having written "the Uncle Tom's Cabin of the peace movement". While not abolishing war, her novel invigorated and inspired the international peace movement in the quarter-century before August 1914.

It has been claimed with considerable justification that hers was one of the most influential novels of the 19th century. It also started Nobel on the course that resulted in his establishment of the Peace Prize (of which von Suttner became the first woman recipient).

Yours faithfully,

Peter van den Dungen

Department of Peace Studies

University of Bradford


11 October