Hammarskjöld: A Life

Overview

After his mysterious death, Dag Hammarskjöld was described by John F. Kennedy as the "greatest statesman of our century." Second secretary-general of the United Nations (1953 - 61), he is the only person to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize posthumously. Through extensive research in little explored archives and personal correspondence, Roger Lipsey has produced the definitive biography of Dag Hammarskjöld. Hammarskjöld: A Life provides vivid new insights into the life and mind of a truly ...

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Overview

After his mysterious death, Dag Hammarskjöld was described by John F. Kennedy as the "greatest statesman of our century." Second secretary-general of the United Nations (1953 - 61), he is the only person to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize posthumously. Through extensive research in little explored archives and personal correspondence, Roger Lipsey has produced the definitive biography of Dag Hammarskjöld. Hammarskjöld: A Life provides vivid new insights into the life and mind of a truly great individual. Hammarskjöld the statesman and Hammarskjöld the author of the classic spiritual journal Markings meet in this new biography - and the reader will meet them both in these pages. A towering mid-twentieth-century figure, Hammarskjöld speaks directly to our time.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lipsey (Angelic Mistakes) revisits the legacy of the Swedish diplomat and thinker 50 years after he perished in a plane crash while on a secret mission in Africa. Youngest son of an aristocratic family, Hammarskjold held top posts with the Swedish government before the UN recruited him to succeed Trygve Lie in 1953. Lipsey tackles the tricky question of Hammarskjold's private life: the fact that he was a "confirmed bachelor" and good friend of poet W.H. Auden generated widespread speculation; denial was the only option at the time. Like Henry David Thoreau, Hammarskjold preferred solitude and kept a journal that posthumously became the bestseller Markings. Lipsey views his subject as a man of deep faith who showed remarkable courage in the face of numerous Cold War crises, and his spirit lives on at the UN thanks to the Room of Quiet, a sanctuary built during his tenure. Meticulously researched, new evidence shows that his death may have been an assassination, an interpretation sure to intrigue conspiracy theorists. Murky scandals aside, political junkies and history buffs will relish this definitive, painstakingly thorough treatment of a great statesman and consummate diplomat. 20 b&w halftones. (Mar.)
From the Publisher

“A monumental life, spiritual and intellectual more than purely biographical, of the great Swedish diplomat and author. Dag Hammarskjöld (1905–1961), writes Lipsey (Angelic Mistakes: The Art of Thomas Merton, 2006, etc.), was "formidable in his time, somewhat forgotten now." The second secretary general of the United Nations, he was also an author of note whose book Markings sold widely across the world--and, the author is careful to record, some 185,000 copies in its first six months in the United States. Lipsey makes a convincing case for why Hammarskjöld should not be "somewhat forgotten": His spiritual yearnings and conviction that the U.N. could serve as a vehicle for true Christian compassion may seem a touch arcane now, but his activist stance and equal conviction that all humans are indeed created equal lend the office and institution a certain nobility. Lipsey argues that, more than mere inspiration, Hammarskjöld, once a diplomat with an economic portfolio, brought useful specific ideas to the business of international human rights, among them the importance of sanctuary and his capacity for "lightning-like" assessment of unfolding crises. He died a half-century ago in one such crisis, in the Congo, where an ugly civil war was raging; Lipsey devotes a considerable number of pages to this conflict as a kind of exemplar of all the things the U.N. is meant to ameliorate. Another episode he covers thoroughly is of current interest again more than 50 years later, namely the flight of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese invasion of Tibet, which the U.N. could not satisfactorily resolve. A good and indispensable man, Hammarskjöld "understood and respected the need for heroes." In this lucid, well-written biography, he certainly emerges as one.” -- KIRKUS

New York Review of Books - Michael Ignatieff

"Lipsey is a patient, discreet, and compassionate guide to Hammarskjöld’s inner world. ... [H]is biography of Hammarskjöld illuminates how the Christian mystical tradition became the secret source of Hammarskjöld’s life and thought."
---New York Review of Books
Rowan Williams

"...an intellectual and spiritual memoir. As such, it is masterly." - Rowan Williams, Cambridge Humanities Review
Dagens Nyheter
"[Lipsey] opens the door to a deeper understanding of Dag Hammarskjöld as a possible guide for those who live and work in a society beyond left and right." - Mats Svegfors, Dagens Nyheter
Per Lind

"An important, brillaintly written book. Its wide selection of sources gives a masterful, true, and full portrait of Hammarskjöld. Lipsey's learned and wise comments cobtribute much to understanding the inner life and outward actions of a unique person."
--- Per Lind, Swedish Foreign Service and personal aide to Hammarskjöld, 1953 - 56
K.G. Hammar

"A great book about a great man who must not be forgotten in a time which more than ever needs to see the footprints of Dag Hammarskjöld - the combination of wholehearted engagement in the world and familiarity with the spiritual 'journey inwards.'"
--- K.G. Hammar, Visiting professor (emeritus) at the Center for Theology and Religious Studies, Lund University, and former archbishop of the Church of Sweden
Jan Eliasson

“Roger Lipsey’s book is a fascinating literary journey through Dag Hammarskjöld’s personal and professional life. It demonstrates how his spirituality and inner strength were translated into penetrating analyses of world problems and, most importantly, into principled action.” – Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations
The Wall Street Journal - George Melloan

“...no one has sketched [Dag Hammarskjöld's] life and peacekeeping endeavors with such depth and breadth as Mr. Lipsey...He argues that Hammarskjöld's diplomatic skills preserved the U.N. as a beacon of hope through turbulent times.”
– George Melloan, The Wall Street Journal
Huntington News - Winslow Myers
"Roger Lipsey has produced a magisterially comprehensive portrait of the second Secretary-General of the United Nations ... Lipsey's achievement is all the more remarkable because at first glance Hammarskjöld appears to be, in the combination of his monastic bachelor dedication to his role and his veiled diplomatic tact, a uniquely unknowable person."
---Huntington News
Library Journal
Dag Hammarskjöld was UN secretary-general from 1953 until his death in 1961, a crucial period in the development of the organization and the post-World War II international system. Lipsey's (The Spiritual in Twentieth-Century Art) skill in tracing spiritual consciousness is well applied to Hammarskjöld, whose posthumously published book of reflections, Markings, is a frequent source here. Hammarskjöld's moving sense of moral calling forms a fine counterpoint to his UN work. Lipsey describes the innovative UN Emergency Force (UNEF), created after the Suez crisis of 1956, and the secretary-general's tireless efforts for peace in postcolonial Belgian Congo. The results here balance material on the violent politics of the Middle East and African decolonization with material on the devotion of a statesman who never seems to have parted from his worn copy of Thomas à Kempis's The Imitation of Christ. Ultimately Hammarskjöld's UN efforts would lead to his death in what is now considered a probable assassination. VERDICT Hammarskjöld's reserved personality prevents Lipsey from employing the familiarity of earlier biographers, e.g., Brian Urquhart, who actually worked with Hammarskjöld, but such detachment is perfectly appropriate. This scholarly book will be of interest to serious readers in any of its intertwined themes.—Zachary Irwin, Behrend Coll., Penn State Univ., Erie
Kirkus Reviews
A monumental life, spiritual and intellectual more than purely biographical, of the great Swedish diplomat and author. Dag Hammarskjöld (1905–1961), writes Lipsey (Angelic Mistakes: The Art of Thomas Merton, 2006, etc.), was "formidable in his time, somewhat forgotten now." The second secretary general of the United Nations, he was also an author of note whose book Markings sold widely across the world--and, the author is careful to record, some 185,000 copies in its first six months in the United States. Lipsey makes a convincing case for why Hammarskjöld should not be "somewhat forgotten": His spiritual yearnings and conviction that the U.N. could serve as a vehicle for true Christian compassion may seem a touch arcane now, but his activist stance and equal conviction that all humans are indeed created equal lend the office and institution a certain nobility. Lipsey argues that, more than mere inspiration, Hammarskjöld, once a diplomat with an economic portfolio, brought useful specific ideas to the business of international human rights, among them the importance of sanctuary and his capacity for "lightning-like" assessment of unfolding crises. He died a half-century ago in one such crisis, in the Congo, where an ugly civil war was raging; Lipsey devotes a considerable number of pages to this conflict as a kind of exemplar of all the things the U.N. is meant to ameliorate. Another episode he covers thoroughly is of current interest again more than 50 years later, namely the flight of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese invasion of Tibet, which the U.N. could not satisfactorily resolve. A good and indispensable man, Hammarsjköld "understood and respected the need for heroes." In this lucid, well-written biography, he certainly emerges as one.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780472118908
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press
  • Publication date: 3/31/2013
  • Pages: 760
  • Sales rank: 208,240
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Roger Lipsey, author, art historian, editor, and translator, has written on a wide range of topics and intellectual figures. He was the general editor of the monumental three-volume edited works of Ananda K. Coomaraswamy (Princeton University Press, 1977), which included the first and still unsurpassed biography of Coomaraswamy. Other works include An Art of Our Own: The Spiritual in Twentieth-Century Art (Shambhala, 1988, currently in print with Dover Books) and the prizewinning  Angelic Mistakes: The Art of Thomas Merton (New Seeds, 2006). He is director of the parent company that publishes Parabola magazine.

The website related to Hammarskjöld: A Life will be found at www.dag-hammarskjold.com

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