It’s Time   Leave a comment


A physics background isn’t necessary to appreciate Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman. This terse, yet philosophical, novel offers poetic vignettes, the dreams, based on what Albert Einstein might have wrestled with in his subconscious while developing his theory of relativity.

Each dream examines an altered way of experiencing time. Some are nightmarish, some sweet, others poignant, but all are interesting possibilities that, perhaps, other people have also considered, but never articulated. For example, time standing still, literally; or the opportunity to replay time for different outcomes. A variety of perspectives toward time also fill the dreams: parents who have lost children, lovers who grow apart, a baker who grows weary of extending credit. These are fleeting moments that haunt Einstein in his waking hours.

The dreams are offset by several “interludes” in which Einstein is awake. He meets with a colleague, seemingly his only friend, from the Swiss patent office. Although there’s a sense that Einstein wants to share his dreams, he always holds back. What is most obvious in the conscious interims is Einstein’s unhappiness. He feels a sense of drowning in his job and marriage. His desire to understand time buoys him.

Lightman’s writing is imaginative yet concise. It’s easy to imagine the vivid dreams with specific street names and recurring characters. From the very first dream, which begins “Suppose time is a circle, bending back on itself. The world repeats itself, precisely, endlessly,” it’s clear the author will explore the rhythms, pain and joy that comprise life.

Einstein’s Dreams
Four Bookmarks
Vintage Contemporaries, 1993
140 pages


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