Nobel Prizes and Laureates

Nobel Prizes and Laureates

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2005
Yves Chauvin, Robert H. Grubbs, Richard R. Schrock

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Interview with Yves Chauvin

"I am not used to fame, and fame is heavy to bear"

Transcript of the telephone interview with Yves Chauvin after the announcement of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, on 5 October 2005. Interviewer was Joanna Rose, science writer. The interview is partly in French. The text is also translated into English.

- Âllo.

- Hello. Is this Yves Chauvin?

- Yes.

- Hello. My name is Joanna Rose. I am calling from which is the official site of the Nobel Foundation. My congratulations to the Nobel Prize.

- Thank you very much.

- How are you feeling about that?

-Oh, more or less ...

[Telephone answering service interruption]

- I am making a recording for our website for a few minutes, can you speak to me?

-Yes, but I speak ... not fluent English. You cannot speak French, not?

- Maybe you can answer in French, if you prefer that.

- Yes.

- Do you understand the questions?

- I hope so.

- So ... How does it feel?

- Je me sens plutôt embarrassé.
/- I find it embarrassing, above all./

- Ah ... Pourquoi?
/- Why so?/

- Eh bien, parce que je n'avais pas l'habitude de la célébrité. Et la célébrité, c'est lourd à porter. Voilà.
/- Because I am not used to fame, and fame is heavy to bear./

- Are you totally surprised?

- Yes, yes, sure, certainly very surprised.

- And you did not expect to receive the Prize.

- No, not at all.

- Do you know the other Prize-winners?

-Ah, oui, je les ai rencontrés; j'ai lu beaucoup leurs travaux. J'ai beaucoup lu leurs travaux. Donc je connais bien ce qu'ils ont fait, mais je les ai vus deux ou trois fois dans les congrès, quoi? Voilà. Je n'ai pas de relation directe avec eux.
/- Yes, I have met them and I have read their works a lot. So I'm well-acquainted with their work, but we have only met a few times at conferences, I do not have a direct relationship to them./

- What does this Prize mean to you?

- Oh ...! It is difficult to say. No, I ... It is difficult for me, to manage this situation ...

- Vous pouvez parler français.
/- Please speak French if you wish./

- Oui, oui. C'est difficile pour moi de manager cette situation. Je n'ai pas l'habitude des ... disons ... de la célébrité; et c'est quand même une célébrité, et je n'ai pas l'habitude. Donc je ne suis pas bien - je ne suis pas très à l'aise. Vous comprennez? Je ne suis pas à l'aise. Donc je ne peux pas dire que ça me remplit de joie. Bien sur, c'est une fierté, mais je suis plus gêné que ... enthousiaste. Voilà.
/- It is difficult for me to manage this situation, since I am not used to, let's say, fame; and this is nevertheless fame and I am not used to it. So I am not comfortable, I don't feel at ease, you see? I don't feel at ease. So I cannot say that this fills me with joy. Of course, it is something to feel pride in. I feel more embarrassed than enthusiastic./

- Will you celebrate the Prize now?

- No, no! Quelle genre de célébrations ... Quelle genre de gens? Non, rien de spécial, non.
/- No, no. What kind of celebrating ... What kind of people ...? Nothing special, no./

- I've been trying to call you all day, but the phone was busy all the time.

- Yes! Ça ... Il y a une foule de journalistes. Il y a beaucoup de journalistes qui sont déjà venus et on me telephone très souvent et je ne leur ai pas répondu, parce qu'il y avait un journaliste dans mon appartement. Voilà. Donc c'est pas facile.
/- Yes, there's a whole crowd of journalists that have already turned up and people are constantly phoning me, but I have not answered because there was a journalist in my apartment, so it's not easy./

- I understand. But I hope that you are planning to go to Stockholm in December?

- Perhaps. Je pense. Je ne sais pas. Mais, on est obligé de faire un discours? Non? On est obligé de faire une ...
/- Perhaps. I think so, I don't know. - Is one obliged to give a .../

- Nobel Lecture.

- A Nobel Lecture, on est obligé?
/- A Nobel Lecture - is it obligatory?/

- Well, it's usual that people do it.

- Parce que ... on est trois, et il y en a deux qui peuvent faire un "speech", une lecture. Et puis, moi pas. Parce que je n'ai pas beaucoup à raconter. Parce que, si, j'étais le premier, et après j'ai abondonné assez rapidement ce domaine.
/- Because there are the three of us, and two of us could hold a speech. But me, no, because I don't have much to tell you. Because yes, I was first, but then I left that field pretty soon. /

- Ah ...

- Oui, j'étais le premier et c'est pour ça que l'on m'a donné un prix parce qu'on a dit "Oui, c'est le premier qui l'a fait." Et puis voilà. Mais, depuis, je n'ai pas tellement travaillé dans ce domaine. Donc je n'ai pas beaucoup de choses à dire. Voilà.
/ Yes, I was first and that is why they gave me a prize, but since then I have not worked much within that field, so I do not have much to relate./

- But do you remember how it was when you did the work?

- Yes, yes. Sure.

- So you can tell this story.

- C'était un dimanche après-midi, dans mon appartement; il faisait mauvais temps. Et d'un seul coup j'ai dis "Ah, oui - c'est évident." Voilà. Aussi simple que ça. Mais ça arrive à beaucoup d'autres scientifiques que c'est dans les périodes de repos qu'on peut avoir de bonnes idées, quoi. Voilà.
/- It was a Sunday afternoon in my apartment, the weather was bad, and all of a sudden I said - Oh, yes, it's obvious. Voilà, as simple as that. But that happens to lots of others in science, that it is while you are resting that great ideas come to you, see? There you are./

- Are you engaged in environmental issues?

- Non. Je suis intéressé, mais pas engagé. Bien sur, je suis préoccupé, mais pas engagé.
/- No. I am very interested, but not involved. Of course I'm worried, but I'm not involved./

- I would like to say that I am looking forward to meeting you in Stockholm in December; I hope really that you can come.

- Oui.

- Did you think about what you might do with the Prize money?

- Ah, no. I don't ... Je ne sais pas combien je vais toucher. Je ne sais pas combien. Je donnerai ça à mes enfants.
/- No, I don't know how much it is, I don't know how much. I'll give it to my children./

- Thank you very much for taking your time.

- Je vous en prie.
/You are welcome./


Listen to the Interview
In French 6 min.


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MLA style: "Transcript of the telephone interview with Yves Chauvin after the announcement of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry". Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 29 Nov 2015. <>