Saturday, April 02, 2011

A Literary Reference : Einstein's Dreams

Then there are those who think their bodies don't exist. They live by mechanical time. They rise at seven o'clock in the morning. They eat their lunch at noon and their supper at six. They arrive at their appointments on time, precisely by the clock. They make love between eight and ten at night. They work forty hours a week, read the Sunday paper on Sunday, play chess on Tuesday nights. When their stomach growls, they look at their watch to see if it is time to eat. When they begin to lose themselves in a concert, they look at the clock above the stage to see when it will be time to go home. They know that the body is not a thing of wild magic, but a collection of chemicals, tissues and nerve impulses. .... It is graduation day at Agassiz Gymnasium. One hundred twenty-nine boys in white shirts and brown ties stand on marble steps and fidget in the sun while the headmaster reads out their names. One the front lawn, parents and relatives listen halfheartedly, stare at the ground, doze in their chairs. The valedictorian delivers his address in a monotone. He smiles weakly when handed his medal and drops it in a bush after the ceremony. No one congratulates him. The boys, their mothers, fathers, sisters walk listlessly to houses on Amthausgasse and Aarstraase, or to the waiting benches near the Bahnhofplatz, sit after the noon meal, play cards to pass time, nap. Dress clothes are folded and put away for another occasion. At the end of the summer, some of the boys go to university in Berne or in Z├╝rich, some work in their fathers' businesses, some travel to Germany or France in search of a job. These passages take place indifferently, like the back-and-forth swing of a pendulum, like a chess game in which each move is forced. For in this world, the future is fixed.
Alan Lightman, Einstein's Dreams, Warner, 1994, p.25, p.158-9. (Original date of publication 1993.)
[A Literary Reference index]

[Thanks to Tom]


Martin Smith said...

A bit off topic, admittedly, but in today's The Independent Magazine, The Quiz asks: "Which surrealist artist's obsession with chess so distressed his wife that she glued his pieces to the board?"
Readers of the blog will know the the answer already.

Jonathan B said...

As indeed do the guests at the wedding of Tom and Sarah Condry Chivers.

Martin Smith said...

And today's The Observerreports that Jan Karski's 1944memoir The Story of a Secret Stateis to be published in the UK, and may be made into a film.