PRINT May 1987


“THE MOST DEEPLY INGRAINED TRAIT of the national character of the Swedes—one that goes a long way toward explaining our people’s disposition in other respects—is their strong love for nature.” So asserted Gustav Sundbärg, the Swedish statistician (or, as he was then styled, the “national arithmetician”), in an official report of 1910 entitled “Det svenska folklynnet” (The Swedish national character). Statistics, of course, can mean virtually anything one wants them to, and the face of a nation is about as elusive to read as the face of a human being. (Facial features and cranial bumps may have something to do with genetics and race, but nothing to do with character—physiognomy, and all its accompanying racial and racist assumptions, is fortunately a discredited science.) Were Sundbärg alive today, however, and reading the demographics, it’s unlikely he’d have to change his portrait of a

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