Nils Klim Laureate Frederik Poulsen's Acceptance Speech


Nils Klim Laureate Frederik Poulsen's Acceptance Speech is published here in full.

Royal Ambassador; esteemed colleagues; family and friends,

It is a great honour to be the recipient of the Nils Klim Prize 2020.

I am truly grateful to the Holberg Board for awarding me this prestigious prize, to the Holberg Committee for its recommendation, to those who nominated me, and to Ambassador Aud Kolberg and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Denmark for hosting today’s ceremony.  

It is a great honour – almost like a dream.

I would never have dreamed about a day like this when I was first drawn into the study of the Bible. My early academic achievements were certainly stimulated when I as a young student of theology lived at Ludvig Holberg’s old college in Copenhagen, Borchs Kollegium. Ever since, I have been excited by studying the Old Testament, its literature, poetic images, and theological ideas.

Dreams drive us.

Recently, I read the stories about Nils Klim together with our oldest child. It is an entertaining travel narrative: A young theologian travels through several worlds under the ground. Like a researcher, he meticulously studies the very different ways people live in each world – their morality, religion, and politics. Traveling through all these worlds together with Nils Klim is fascinating – not least in these months where most of us dream about being able to travel in our own world again.

Dreams drive us.

But dreams also occur when we sleep. Involuntarily. Dreaming at night seems to help us to store memories or sort through complicated thoughts and feelings. Yet dreams at night may also contain signs or predictions about future events.

In the book of Genesis, the first book in the Bible, we encounter a young man, Joseph. He has big dreams about future influence and success. People from all nations shall bow down to him and receive help from him. However, his youth dreams are not popular among those who are close to him. His brothers become jealous and angry, and his father rebukes him. But Joseph continues to dream, and the dreams drive him. Through deportation, through trials, through sufferings. The dreams drive him towards their fulfilment, towards life and wisdom.

Why do we dream? Why should we dream? And why do we keep dreaming although dreams are often not fulfilled?

Because – in dreams – there is life. If we stop dreaming, we will stop living.

We must have big dreams – in politics, in art, in research, in our lives.

If we stop dreaming, we will never wake up in the baron’s bed: “Am I dreaming, or am I awake?” As the poor man, Jeppe, states – in Ludvig Holberg’s famous play.

So keep on dreaming.

Thank you.

Dr. Frederik Poulsen
2020 Nils Klim Laureate

The speech was given at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Copenhagen on 19 May, 2021, and it was included as part of the 9 June Holberg Week Virtual Award Ceremony , which was hosted from the University Aula in Bergen, Norway.