Archive for the ‘Albert Einstein’ Tag

In Einstein’s Shadow   Leave a comment

Thanks to National Geographic’s limited TV series, “Genius,” several years ago, I knew of Albert and Mileva Einstein’s marriage and his dismissal of her. Marie Benedict’s fictionalized account of her life in The Other Einstein adds nothing new.

It does, however, reinforce my negative perception of Albert. More disappointing is the portrayal of Mileva. Although her brilliance is never underplayed, she’s rendered as a weak, indecisive woman where Albert is concerned.

The narrative focuses on their courtship, which begins at the Polytechnic Institute in Zurich where she and Albert are studying physics. It soon becomes evident that she is an excellent student, despite being scorned by her professor because she is a woman.

Her gender is a constant obstacle to her ability to make a name for herself as a scientist. Benedict gives credence to Mileva’s contributions to numerous theories, particularly that of relativity for which Albert is, perhaps, most well-known. Although. her name is never included in any of the studies.

In Benedict’s hands, Albert is a selfish, insensitive man. Mileva recognizes this, yet she still falls for him. The relationship distracts from her ability to obtain her degree. She becomes pregnant, something Albert comes to view as an impediment to his own future. When their daughter is born, he has nothing to do with her.

I have enjoyed Benedict’s other novels about interesting, strong women in men’s shadows. However, this is the most unsatisfying. Mileva is pathetic in her vulnerability to what she mistakenly sees as Albert’s charms.

The Other Einstein

Two Bookmarks

Sourcebooks Landmark, 2016

304 pages

It’s Time   Leave a comment

einstein

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