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Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Hammarskjöld, Dag (1905-1961)

b. 29 July 1905
d. 18 September 1961

Immediately upon his election as Secretary General, the rumors of his homosexuality began to circulate. Throughout his life, Hammarskjöld remained without female attachments. He dismissed his lack of family life by explaining that his mother had suffered terrible loneliness as a result of his father's devotion to government service and he did not wish to inflict such a life on anyone else. Considering how rare a high-ranking single man was in any government at the time, such excuses seem rather flimsy.

Hammarskjöld held deep religious beliefs and held himself, and others, to impossibly high standards. His introspective book of personal reflections, Markings, reveals a man who frequently regarded himself and others with loathing and contempt. He never spared himself from the same exacting requirements of perfection that he sought in others. Speculation that he could see his sexuality only as a personal weakness, and therefore something to be sublimated and overcome, continues to be the primary interpretation of his apparently asexual existence.

In Markings, he leaves only vague hints that may be keys to his sexual feelings. He implies that he feels ostracized for being different, perhaps superior. In another passage, he describes someone who is more true to himself; Hammarskjöld simultaneously admires and abhors the person. While such thoughts may point to Hammarskjöld's tormented sexual conflicts, they could equally well refer to something else entirely.

Unless some hidden manuscript surfaces or an aging lover suddenly feels moved to revelation, it seems unlikely the world will ever know for sure the details of Hammarskjöld's sexual experience. W. H. Auden, who translated Markings, was convinced of his homosexuality; it is thought that saying so publicly during a lecture tour of Scandinavia may have cost Auden the Nobel Prize for Literature that he was widely expected to receive in the 1960s.

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