Thirty vignettes take the reader back in time to 1905, when a young patent clerk named Albert Einstein was putting the finishing touches on his theory of relativity. Reprint. 110,000 first printing. $50,000 ad/promo.
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If you liked the eerie whimsy of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, Steven Millhauser's Little Kingdoms, or Jorge Luis Borges's Labyrinths, you will love Alan Lightman's ethereal yet down-to-earth book Einstein's Dreams. Lightman teaches physics and writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, helping bridge the light-year-size gap between science and the humanities, the enemy camps C.P. Snow famously called The Two Cultures.
Einstein's Dreams became a bestseller by delighting both scientists and humanists. It is technically a novel. Lightman uses simple, lyrical, and literal details to locate Einstein precisely in a place and time--Berne, Switzerland, spring 1905, when he was a patent clerk privately working on his bizarre, unheard-of theory of relativity. The town he perceives is vividly described, but the waking Einstein is a bit player in this drama.
The book takes flight when Einstein takes to his bed and we share his dreams, 30 little fables about places where time behaves quite differently. In one world, time is circular; in another a man is occasionally plucked from the present and deposited in the past: "He is agonized. For if he makes the slightest alteration in anything, he may destroy the future ... he is forced to witness events without being part of them ... an inert gas, a ghost ... an exile of time." The dreams in which time flows backward are far more sophisticated than the time-tripping scenes in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, though science-fiction fans may yearn for a sustained yarn, which Lightman declines to provide. His purpose is simply to study the different kinds of time in Einstein's mind, each with its own lucid consequences. In their tone and quiet logic, Lightman's fables come off like Bach variations played on an exquisite harpsichord. People live for one day or eternity, and they respond intelligibly to each unique set of circumstances. Raindrops hang in the air in a place of frozen time; in another place everyone knows one year in advance exactly when the world will end, and acts accordingly.
"Consider a world in which cause and effect are erratic," writes Lightman. "Scientists turn reckless and mutter like gamblers who cannot stop betting.... In this world, artists are joyous." In another dream, time slows with altitude, causing rich folks to build stilt homes on mountaintops, seeking eternal youth and scorning the swiftly aging poor folk below. Forgetting eventually how they got there and why they subsist on "all but the most gossamer food," the higher-ups at length "become thin like the air, bony, old before their time."
There is no plot in this small volume--it's more like a poetry collection than a novel. Like Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, it's a mind-stretching meditation by a scientist who's been to the far edge of physics and is back with wilder tales than Marco Polo's. And unlike many admirers of Hawking, readers of Einstein's Dreams have a high probability of actually finishing it.From the Inside Flap:
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An imaginary re-creation of Einstein's discovery of the nature of time, this novel takes us through the young patent clerk's many dreams depicting compelling conceptions of time.
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Book Description Warner Books, 1994. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 0446670111 6.20 X 4.30 X 0.90 inches; 179 pages. Bookseller Inventory # AJ1733
Book Description Warner Books Inc, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A., 1994. Soft Cover. Book Condition: New. A modern classic, Einsteinís Dreams is a fictional collage of stories dreamed by Albert Einstein in 1905, when he worked in a patent office in Switzerland. As the defiant but sensitive young genius is creating his theory of relativity, a new conception of time, he imagines many possible worlds. In one, time is circular, so that people are fated to repeat triumphs and failures over and over. In another, there is a place where time stands still, visited by lovers and parents clinging to their children. In another, time is a nightingale, sometimes trapped by a bell jar. Now translated into thirty languages, Einsteinís Dreams has inspired playwrights, dancers, musicians, and painters all over the world. In poetic vignettes, it explores the connections between science and art, the process of creativity, and ultimately the fragility of human existence. Bookseller Inventory # 001611
Book Description Warner Books Inc,, Boston, MA, 1994. Softcover. Book Condition: New. Brand New Multiple copies available this title. Quantity Available: 4. ISBN: 0446670111. ISBN/EAN: 9780446670111. Pictures of this item not already displayed here available upon request. Inventory No: 1560792876. Bookseller Inventory # 1560792876
Book Description Warner Books February 1994, 1994. Paper Back. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # 100193
Book Description Warner Books, 1994. Book Condition: new. Shiny and new! Expect delivery in 20 days. Bookseller Inventory # 9780446670111-1
Book Description Warner Books, 1994. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110446670111
Book Description Warner Books, 1994. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0446670111