When We Cease to Understand the World (Paperback)
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When We Cease to Understand the World (Paperback)

(author), (translator)
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£9.99
Paperback 192 Pages
Published: 06/05/2021
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Waterstones Says

Reimagining pivotal moments in the history of science with an emphasis on the moral and ethical dilemmas that dominated the twentieth century, Labatut’s searingly intelligent novel of ideas boasts a cast including Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schroedinger.

Shortlisted for the International Booker Prize 2021

Albert Einstein opens a letter sent to him from the Eastern Front of World War I. Inside, he finds the first exact solution to the equations of general relativity, unaware that it contains a monster that could destroy his life's work.

The great mathematician Alexander Grothendieck tunnels so deeply into abstraction that he tries to cut all ties with the world, terrified of the horror his discoveries might cause.

Erwin Schroedinger and Werner Heisenberg battle over the soul of physics after creating two equivalent yet opposed versions of quantum mechanics. Their fight will tear the very fabric of reality, revealing a world stranger than they could have ever imagined.

Using extraordinary, epoch-defining moments from the history of science, Benjamin Labatut plunges us into exhilarating territory between fact and fiction, progress and destruction, genius and madness.

Publisher: Pushkin Press
ISBN: 9781782276142
Number of pages: 192
Dimensions: 198 x 129 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

Ingenious, intricate and deeply disturbing... Labatut has written a dystopian nonfiction novel set not in the future but in the present - John Banville, Guardian

We may be familiar with such things as Schrödinger's cat and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle... but the sheer audacity, the utter insanity of the ideas and the thinkers who discovered these ideas has never, in my experience, been so vividly and terrifyingly conveyed as in this short, monstrous, and brilliant book - Philip Pullman

Absolutely brilliant. I was utterly gripped and wolfed it down. It feels as if he had invented an entirely new genre - Mark Haddon, author of 'The Porpoise'

Labatut uses fiction to crack open the stories of scientists and mathematicians whose expanded our notions of the possible, while also presenting them as human, all too human - Dazed

A wholly mesmerising and revelatory book. A blend of limpid scientific exposition and bravura fictional gloss. Completely fascinating - William Boyd

"Double physics!" Nothing in the school time-table was as unwelcome as those two words. Benjamín Labatut's When We Cease to Understand the World is doubly welcome: as a thrilling account of theories of physics, and as a series of highly-wrought imaginative extrapolations about the physicists who arrived at them - Geoff Dyer

I absolutely loved this. The writing crackles with energy. What a triumph. I hope it does really well and finds multitudinous readers - Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of 'The Last Act of Love'

A dazzling associative caper full of graceful arabesques linking continents and centuries and ideas - Sunday Times

Remind[s] us of fiction's power to take us to another world and expand our understanding of this one... When We Cease to Understand the World showcases the minds seeking to pierce the mysterious heart of mathematics - Guardian

Darkly dazzling... Given a fine, exacting translation from the Spanish by Adrian Nathan West, these pieces possess an insidiously persuasive power... this book-as haunting as it is erudite-stubbornly insists on connecting the wonders of scientific advancement to the atrocities of history - Wall Street Journal

The strangest and most original book I've read for years. It hovers in a state between fiction and non-fiction, or wave and particle, and makes an account of modern mathematics and science into something as eerie as a great ghost story - Philip Pullman, New Statesman, Books of the Year

A gripping meditation on knowledge and hubris... His prose is masterfully paced and vividly rendered in Adrian Nathan West's magnetic translation... With his slippery hybrid of fact and fiction, Labatut slyly applies the uncertainty principle to the human pursuit of knowledge itself - New York Times

It is a story about nature's fightback against human interference. In other words it is the story of the 21st century. In a literary industry obsessed with genres, it belongs to none - Paul Mason, New Statesman, Books of the Year

Compelling, startling and utterly original. This book about physics is a work of art - Christie Watson

[A]n exquisitely written and continuously fascinating hybrid work of fiction and history - Irish Times

It may be possible to actually feel your brain getting bigger as you read - Evening Standard

Tantalising... This is a truly thrilling work of imagination and chutzpah - Big Issue

The new Bolaño - Revistas Lecturas

Labatut shakes his readers and gifts them thought-provoking images, planting in them the necessity to read everything he's written and everything he writes as quickly as possible - La Tercera

Labatut penetrates into the heart of a reality that only few have seen before him - and no one has yet described. A book of terrifying beauty - Wolfram Eilenberger, author of Time of the Magicians

Remarkable... melodiously poetic, but precise... Due to the increasing space that Labatut grants to fiction, he succeeds in giving an aesthetic answer to the question of the limits of knowledge: where there is uncertainty, literature grows a special power to enable experience. In this way, fiction can preserve the enlightenment of the blind - Die Zeit

He meticulously describes the moods and experiences of his historical protagonists. With this fictional approach, Labatut creates a bewitching closeness and immediacy. And at best a deeper, almost poetic understanding of what Schwarzschild's singularity or Heisenberg's uncertainty principle actually mean for our reality - Deutschlandfunk Kultur

The limits of human knowledge: this is the territory in which Labatut, with great vigour and extraordinary intellectual rigour, enters in this admirable book - Expresso (Portugal)

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Hardback

“Brilliant, but has a blind spot”

The previous review written here is very comprehensive about the book's plot, so I won't elaborate with further description here. The book, in this exquisite translation, shines with excellence, especially... More

Paperback edition
Helpful? Upvote 19

“A simply outstanding novel”

This book was longlisted for the 2021 International Booker Prize, one of two books by Pushkin Press – who publish “the world’s best stories, to be read and read again.”

The book starts with a almost entirely... More

Hardback edition
2 similar books recommended
Helpful? Upvote 18

“You have to remember its a work of fiction”

Imagining of scientific breakthroughs and the characters that are involved through ,Einstein,Schrodinger and others.Focus is put upon each of them and it reads very much as a non fiction book and you have to remind... More

Paperback edition
Helpful? Upvote 10

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