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When We Cease to Understand the World
Cover of When We Cease to Understand the World
When We Cease to Understand the World
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When We Cease to Understand the World is a book about the complicated links between scientific and mathematical discovery, madness, and destruction. Fritz Haber, Alexander Grothendieck, Werner...
When We Cease to Understand the World is a book about the complicated links between scientific and mathematical discovery, madness, and destruction. Fritz Haber, Alexander Grothendieck, Werner...
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  • When We Cease to Understand the World is a book about the complicated links between scientific and mathematical discovery, madness, and destruction. Fritz Haber, Alexander Grothendieck, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger—these are some of the luminaries into whose troubled lives Benjamín Labatut thrusts the listener, showing us how they grappled with the most profound questions of existence. They have strokes of unparalleled genius, alienate friends and lovers, descend into isolation and insanity. Some of their discoveries reshape human life for the better; others pave the way to chaos and unimaginable suffering. The lines are never clear. At a breakneck pace and with a wealth of disturbing detail, Labatut uses the imaginative resources of fiction to tell the stories of the scientists and mathematicians who expanded our notions of the possible.
 

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About the Author-

  • Benjamín Labatut was born in Rotterdam in 1980 and grew up in The Hague, Buenos Aires, and Lima. He published two award-winning works of fiction prior to When We Cease to Understand the World, which is his first book to be translated into English. He lives with his family in Santiago, Chile.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 12, 2021
    Reading like an episodic digest, Chilean writer Labatut’s stylish English-language debut offers an embellished, heretical, and thoroughly engrossing account of the personalities and creative madness that gave rise to some of the 20th century’s greatest scientific discoveries. Labatut begins with Prussian blue, the first synthetic pigment, created by alchemist Johann Conrad Dippel, and links it to the evolution of modern industrial poisons and the life of WWI German chemist Fritz Haber. Labatut then follows Alexander Grothendieck, the reclusive French mathematician whose political and spiritual inclinations led him to a life of monklike sequestration, before dramatizing the long battle between Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrödinger over the future of quantum physics. Labatut, like his single-minded, sometimes nearly demented protagonists, is interested in the underlying nature of things; his subject is the all-consuming human drive to discover, and the danger therein, which he explores with literary but never pretentious prose, impressively translated by West (on Prussian blue: “something in the colour’s chemical structure invoked violence: a fault, a shadow, an existential stain passed down from those experiments in which the alchemist dismembered living animals to create it”). Hard to pin down and all the more enjoyable for it, this unique work is one to be savored. Agent: Constanza Martinez, Puentes Agency.

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    Dreamscape Media
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