Tuesday, 4 May 2021

We Need Nordahl Now

I’ve been reading a memoir by Graham Greene in which he recalls a Norwegian friend called Nordahl. The description he gives of him includes this passage:

“There were always arguments where Nordahl was, and never a trace of anger. He was the only man I have ever met with whom it was possible to disagree profoundly both on religion and politics and yet feel all the time the sense of goodwill and an open mind. He not only had goodwill himself, but he admitted goodwill in his opponent - he more than admitted it, he assumed it. In fact he had charity - of greater value than the gold of the National Bank, and to me he certainly brought a measure of hope in 1931, carrying it like a glass of akvavit down the muddy lane in Chipping Campden.”

"He not only had goodwill himself, but he admitted goodwill in his opponent" - how welcome a few more people like that would be in this new cantankerous age.


  1. Jacques Barzun quoted Chesterton on Shaw in a couple of places. The one I can find this morning reads

    "It is not easy to dispute with a man for 20 years without sometimes feeling that he hits unfair blows or employs discreditable ingenuities. I can testify that I have never read a reply by by Bernard Shaw that did not leave me in a better temper or frame of mind; which did not seem to come out of an inexhaustible fountain of fair-mindedness and intellectual geniality."

    1. That is charming. I only wish Shaw's plays had lasted - I think Stoppard's plays will enjoy the same fate, becoming clumping and boring, where they at first seemed to fizz with brilliant wit. I find it very intriguing that time can have this effect on what appears to be witty, that wit is not something that is immutable (unless it is bawdy, Chaucerian type of wit, which is, it seems eternal.)