He’s not even wearing a hat

Waldemar Januszczak

The Life book has the air of a final statement about it, and since Nilsson was born as long ago as 1922, I set off for Stockholm expecting to encounter a sedate and venerable philosopher who was sharing with us his concluding thoughts on the human mystery. Boy, was I wrong. Stockholm was being battered by a mighty blizzard when I landed, and temperatures were in the low-minus teens. Nilsson sent his assistant to pick me up, a charming Swedish blonde called Anne, whose windscreen wipers were barely moving and whose de-icer had iced up. By the time we reached the Karolinska Institute, where they hand out the Nobel prize for medicine, and where Nilsson has his photographic lair, my nerves were as shattered as the sheets of cholesterol in crystalline form on page 182 of his book.

Kolesterol i kristalliserad form

Anne phoned ahead to tell Nilsson we had arrived and warned me not to get out of the car because of the cold. Okay. By the way, Anne, who is that chap in the brown corduroy suit dancing so nimbly down the treacherous snowy path? ‘There he is,’ she starts, and out I get to meet the world’s youngest 83-year-old, feeling inadequate, cowardly, British and old. He’s not even wearing a hat.

Waldemar Januszczak, The Sunday Times magazine February 26, 2006