POSTSCRIPT: A Love Letter from Fridtjof Nansen

Each month, Anna Knoebel revisits letters from prominent writers and other artists to revive the dying art of letter writing. Anna is the editor and co-publisher of Abe’s Penny, a magazine of arts and literature delivered in the form of postcards.

For Valentine’s Day, a love letter written by Fridtjof Nansen, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his help in rehabilitating and resettling hundreds of thousands of World War One refugees. The object of his affection, the writer Brenda Ueland, lived in New York City until 1930. She met Nansen there in 1929, just about one year before he died. He was 67; she was 37.

Everyone wants to think of everlasting love on Valentine’s Day and in a way, Nansen’s was. He took his love for Ueland to the grave. Among other fascinations of their love affair are the nude photos he mailed her, reprinted in the book Brenda, My Darling: The Love Letters of Fridtjof Nansen to Brenda Ueland, edited by Eric Utne.

The transcript:

May 23rd, evening

O Brenda,

My darling, my girl, my mistress, my everything! I had written the letter and was going to mail it when yours of May 10th arrived this evening, and I must open the envelope again and add these few lines. Will write more soon. Oh, happiness, it is as if I had you here in my arms, and felt your lovely body pressed close to mine. You are a sorceress, indeed, you have tied me hand and foot, soul and body, everything, I am lost.

I remember well before I had seen you, I was curious to know what you would be like, and whether perhaps there might be waiting some nice acquaintance. When after dinner with your sister I spoke to you about meeting, and touched your hand and you pressed mine just so much that I thought I could feel it, and you proposed that I might come to Stamford, I thought that perhaps it might develop into some more or less innocent adventure. But the adventure has, indeed, become a very serious one. You have perfectly entranced me, I am carried off my feet, and cannot reach ground any longer. When I try to rehearse how it all happened, I cannot quite remember, but I do remember how wonderfully sweet you were, how willingly you kissed me, how sweetly you gave yourself without resistance, though you had said that you were not certain that you approved of lovers. Oh my darling, what incredible happiness it is, and how madly I love you.


— Anna Knoebel has been writing letters since she was about eight years old, often to her grandfather, who would send them back edited. She worked in publicity at MGM Studios in Los Angeles and as the Managing Editor of zingmagazine before co-founding Abe’s Penny with her sister, Tess. She lives in New York with her husband and daughter.

Reprinted with permission from the new book Brenda, My Darling: The Love Letters of Fridtjof Nansen to Brenda Ueland, edited by Eric Utne, published Jan. 1, 2012 by UTNE Institute, Inc., Hardcover, $25.00, 238 pages, 16 pages b&w photos, ISBN 0976198932, available from:, or at better bookstores.


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