Book of the week, 7th June 2021

Benjamin Labatut: When we cease to understand the world. Paperback, £8.99

***International Booker Prize Shortlist Nominee***

This book is not just one of our shortlist favourites, it is going to be an all time favourite too.

Benjamin Labatut: When we cease to understand the world.
Translated by Adrian Nathan West.

Labatut was born in Holland and now lives in Chile. His nonfiction novel is a different take on books of popular science. Instead of solely celebrating the achievements of mathematics, physics, chemistry and cosmology, he weaves a web of historical figures and facts about scientific discovery, ethics and unsettled distinction between genius and madness.

We are reading about Albert Einstein receiving a letter from the Eastern Front of the Great War with the exact solution to the equations of general relativity. The author takes us back to the time when the mathematician Alexander Grothendieck cuts all ties with the world as he is terrified of the horror his discoveries might cause. Later on we learn about the battle between Erwin Schrödinger and Werner Heisenberg, the fight over the soul of physics. Until the last story in this fantastic book we are hooked to these moments from history of science, defining an era and our life beyond that time.

Caught between fact and fiction, progress and destruction, this nonfiction novel has us thinking about the catastrophic site of human inventions and progress as well as what these achievements mean for our future.