The Woman behind the Nobel Peace Prize: Bertha von Suttner and Alfred Nobel

Bertha von Suttner was a pioneer in the peace movement at the end of the 19th century, while Alfred Nobel earned his fortune on the invention of dynamite. This book tells the gripping story of their relationship and how she came to influence him in his decision to establish the Nobel Peace Prize, “the most prestigious prize in the world”, according to the Oxford Dictionary of Contemporary History.

Bertha von Suttner was a pioneer in the peace movement at the end of the 19th century, while Alfred Nobel earned his fortune on the invention of dynamite. This book tells the gripping story of their relationship and how she came to influence him in his decision to establish the Nobel Peace Prize, “the most prestigious prize in the world”, according to the Oxford Dictionary of Contemporary History.

Their correspondence of more than ninety letters, written with intensity and elegance, is the main source of this work. Young Bertha Kinsky, as her maiden name is, came from Austria to work as a secretary for Alfred Nobel in Paris in 1875. This was the beginning of a friendship that would last for more than twenty years, until Nobel’s death in 1896.

In “The Woman behind the Nobel Peace Prize”, we follow the ups and downs of their professional and private lives, and see how their stories and thinking interlink. Von Suttner, full of vitality, went from living the the nonchalant life of a young aristocrat to became a dedicated peace activist and author – a story of personal growth and female emanicipation. Nobel, an engimatic character who combined technical passion with a literary interest, increasingly looked for ways to support peaceful solutions as an alternative to war, and von Suttner prodded him on through the stages of the writing of his last will.

The reader is also taken on a journey through a Europe in an era of fundamental changes – the decline of the aristocracy and the rise of the bourgeoisie, the explosion of industrialization and the stark contrast of militarism and a peace-movement full of optimism in “La Belle Epoque”. But most of all, this is a moving story that sheds new light on the origins of the Nobel Peace Prize, in which the woman behind gets her rightful place. The author Anne Synnøve Simensen developed her interest in the topic when she worked at the Nobel Peace Prize Centre in Oslo. First published by the Norwegian publishing company Cappelen Damm (2012), this is a revised and amplified edition for an English-speaking audience.

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