\"Einstein\'s Dreams\" was written by Alan Lightman, who was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1948 and was educated at Princeton and at the California Institute of Technology. He has written for Granta, Harper\'s, The New Yorker, and The New York Review of Books.
His previous books include \"Time Travel and Papa Joe\'s Pipe \", \"A Modern-Day Yankee in a Connecticut Court \", \"Origins \", \"Ancient Light \", \"Great Ideas in Physics \", and \"Time for the Stars \".
\"Einstein\'s Dreams \" is his first work of fiction. He teaches physics and writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and currently directs the MIT programme in writing and humanistic studies.
It´s a Sceptre Book, published by Hodder and Stoughton in Great Britain in 1994. It was first published in Great Britain in 1993 by Hodder and Stoughton, a division of Hodder Headline PLC.
Type of book:
It is a fiction book, endearingly short, airy and irrational, in simple and beautiful language. It is an accomplished first novel and a beautiful book. The science is gentle and it is cast in language to bring the flush of envy to any one of the many famous writers alive today who have coaxed themselves into the delusion that scientists cannot write. \"Einstein\'s Dreams \" is the sort of book to be read many times and hored and treasured for bleak times and empty spaces.
\" A joy to read. It is a celebration of a world in which time does not march brutally through people\'s lives, but rather skips and gambols, forever quirky and unpredictable\" - The Times
\"Original, beautifully written... light, amusing, fresh... a bit of scintillating intellectual daring\" - The Observer
\"Lightman is exploring fiction\'s deep space, taking us further than we are used to being taken. It is payful, poignant, intimate... cool, languid, intelligent and quotable.Lightman writes movingly and with great precision\"-The Sunday Times
The setting of the story is located in Bern in Switzerland.
In this book Alan Lightman describes the dreams of Albert Einstein, a young patent clerk, which he had between 14th April 1905 and 28th June 1905. Although the characters and situations in this book are entirely imaginary and bear no relation to any real person or actual happening, it is a breathtaking synthesis of science and imagination.
One witnesses Einstein\'s dreams of new worlds: extraordinary visions of the effect on people\'s lives when the direction and the flow of time changes to circular or flows backwards, slows down or takes the form of a nightingale.
The whole book is a flashback that starts after Einstein has finished his work. He reflects back on his time of creating the new theory of time. This ends two hours later. In those two hours Einstein reflects on the past several months, where he had many dreams about time. Most of the dreams take place in Berne, where Einstein lives, while he is dreaming. So in each dream a typical situation out of everyday life of the dream persons, is described. The book describes some of the dreams and tells the reader that those have taken hold of his research.
Out of many possible natures of time, imagined in as many nights, one seems compelling. Not that the others are impossible. The others might exist in other worlds.
The most important persons:
Einstein: a young, 26 years old patent clerk in Berne, dreaming about time while he is discovers a new theory of time. Already this year, he has completed his Ph.D. thesis, finished one paper on photons and another on Brownian motion. The current project actually began as an investigation of electricity and magnetism, which, Einstein suddenly announced one day, would require a reconception of time.
Besso: a close friend to Einstein. They have known each other since their student days in Zürich, and still meet to talk and dine. He is married.
a typist: she has already typed several of his personal papers for him in her spare time. She likes Einstein.
It is six o\'clock in the morning and Einstein has finished with his new theory of time, which he will mail to the German journal of physics that day. It cost him a lot of strength and energy, but now he has finished. But not completely. While he waits for the typist in the patent office in Berne he works in, he begins to reflect on the dreams he had.
14th April 1905
Suppose time is a circle, bending back on itself. The world repeats itself precisely, endlessly. Every movement and thought, every flapping of a butterfly\'s wing, each touch, each smile, every kiss, every birth and every word will be repeated an infinite number of times. But how would humans living in such a world know that nothing is temporary, that everything happened and is going to happen again and again?
There are some few people in every town, who, in their dreams, are vaguely aware that all has occurred in the past. These are the people with unhappy lives who fill up the vacant streets with their moans at night. They are unable to rest because they have the knowledge that they cannot change a simple action or mistake they or anyone else has made.
16th April 1905
In this world time is like a flow of water. Now and then, some cosmic disturbance will cause a rivulet of time to turn away from the mainstream, to make connection backstream.
When this happens, birds, soil, people caught in the branching tributary find themselves suddenly carried to the past. Persons who have been transported back in time are easy to identify because of their fear that any change they make in the past, could have drastic consequences for the future.
There is an example given, of such a traveller from the future. She huddles in a corner, creeps across the street and cowers in another darkened spot. For if she makes the slightest alteration in anything, she may destroy the future. Like kicking up dust while she crossed the street just as Peter Klausen is making his way to the apothecary in Berne on Spitalgasse this afternoon of 16th April 1905. Klausen hates to have his clothes sullied. If dust messes his clothes, he will stop and brush them off, regardless of waiting appointments. If Klausen is sufficiently delayed, he may not buy the ointment for his wife, who has been complaining of leg aches for weeks. In that case, Klausen´s wife, in a bad humour, may decide not to make the trip to Lake Geneva .
And if she does not go to Lake Geneva on June 23rd, 1905, she won´t meet a Catherine d\'Épinay walking on the jetty of the east shore and will not introduce Mlle. d\'Épinay to her son Richard. In turn, Richard and Catherine will not marry on 17th December 1908, will not give birth to Friedrich on 8th July 1912. Friedrich Klausen will not be father to Hans Klausen on 22nd August 1938, and without Hans Klausen the European Union of 1979 will never occur.
The woman from the future knows the Klausen story and a thousand other stories, waiting to unfold, dependent on the birth of children and the movement if people in the streets.
19th April 1905
In this world time has three dimensions, like space.
Just as an object may move in three perpendicular directions, corresponding to horizontal, vertical, and longitudinal, so an object may participate in three perpendicular futures. Each future moves in a different direction of time.
Each future is a real one. At every point of decision the world splits into three worlds, each with the same people but with different fates for these people. In time, there are an infinity of worlds.
24th April 1905
There are two times at the same time. There is a mechanical time and there is a body time. The first is like a pendulum that swings back and forth, regularly and without anything disturbing it. The second wriggles like a bluefish in a bay. It makes up its mind as it goes along.
All people who are convinced that mechanical time does not exist, never look at a clock. They eat when they are hungry, sleep, whenever they want and go to their jobs, whenever they wake from their sleep. The others live like machines, they think their bodies don´t exist. They rise at seven a.m., eat their lunch at noon, supper at six, and make love between eight and ten at night.
You can live in either time, but not in both times. Each time is true, but the truths are not the same.
26th April 1905
This is an odd world. Everybody lives on Dome, the Matterhorn, Monte Rosa, and other high ground. No one would buy or build a home elsewhere.
And all this because some time in the past, scientists discovered that time flows more slowly the further from the centre of the earth. The effect, produced by the rotation of the earth , is minuscule, but it can be measured with extremely sensitive instruments. Once the phenomenon was known, the people got anxious to stay young and moved to the mountains. To get the maximum effect, they have constructed their houses on stilts.
Height has become status. In time people have forgotten the reason why higher is better. Nevertheless, they continue to live on the mountains. They tolerate cold, thin air and discomfort for staying younger.
28th April 1905
Time is visible in all places. Clock towers, wristwatches, church bells divide years into months, months into days, days into hours, hours into seconds, each increment of time marching after the other imperfect succession.
In this world a second, is a second. Time is equal for all, it´s an infinite ruler.
Time is absolute. A world in which time is absolute, is a world of consolation. For while the movements of people are unpredictable, the movement of time is predictable.
3rd May 1905
Consider a world in which cause and effect are erratic.
Sometimes the first precedes the second, sometimes the second the first.
Or perhaps cause lies forever in the past while effect in the future, but future and past are entwined.
It is a world of impulse. It´s a world of sincerity. It´s a world in which every word spoken speaks just to that moment, every glance given, has only one meaning, each touch has no past or no future, each kiss is a kiss of immediacy.
4th May 1905
In this world, time does pass, but little happens. Just a s little happens from year to year, little happens from month to month, day to day.
If time and the passage of events are the same, then time moves barely at all. If time and events are not the same, then it is only people who barely move. If a person holds no ambitions in this world, he suffers unknowingly. If a person holds ambitions, he suffers knowingly, but very slowly.
8th May 1905
The world will end on 26th September 1907. Everyone knows it. In Berne, it is just as in all cities and towns. One year before the end, schools close their doors. Why learn for the future, with so brief a future?
One month before the end, businesses close. What need is there for commerce and industry with so little time left? People are not afraid . They sit and sip coffee and talk easily of their lives. What is there to fear now?
One day before the end the streets swirl in laughter. Neighbours who have never spoken greet each other as friends. What do their past stations matter? In a world of one day they are equal.
One minute before the end of the world everyone in Bern gathers on the grounds of the Kunstmuseum. No one moves. No one speaks.
In the last seconds, it is as if everyone has leaped off Topaz Peak, holding hands. The end approaches like approaching ground. Cool air rushes buy, bodies are weightless. The silent horizon yawns for miles. And below, the vast blanket of snow hurtles nearer and nearer to envelope this circle of pinkness and life.
There are a lot more dreams described, and in each dream time has a completely different character and behaviour.
Here are some other examples:
Each village is fastened to a different time and this is because the texture of time is not smooth but it happens to be sticky.
In another dream the passage of time brings increasing order. If time is an arrow, that arrow points toward order.
This book is about the things in life, life, and the humans living in the world. But not only a simple description of their places , behaviours or themselves, it is a description of what happens to them if time has another appearance as we know it.
If there is a world with a centre of time, the time would stand still in the centre. The further one moves away, the faster time goes by. Or imagine a world without any time at all. There would be only images.
A world without memory, as a world in which time flows not evenly but fitfully also occurs in Einstein\'s dreams. As a consequence of the fitful flow of time, the people receive fitful glimpses of their future.
In another dream all the buildings are built on wheels and race through the cities. Instead of standing still they move fast. Everybody is fixed on speed and this only because some time in the past scientists discovered that time passes more slowly for people in motion. Thus everyone travels at a high velocity, to gain time.
In other worlds the time runs backwards, or the lifetime is compressed to the space of one turn of the earth on its axis, or that time is a sense some people have, and some not.
There are some interludes between these chronologically ordered dreams in which the real time and though Einstein\'s actions in real live, like meetings with his best friend Besso are described. In such meetings they talk about Einstein\'s progress with his work, but the reader also gets a glimpse of Einstein\'s lifestyle in Berne.
Other dreams are about worlds where people live forever, or that time is not a quantity but a quality so that it exists but cannot be measured, or about a world without future where no person can imagine the future.
In another dream, time is a visible dimension which everybody is able to use like all the other dimensions in space, or in another world, time is not continuos, its a local phenomenon. This world is split up in zones of time.
In another dream there is a world where every moment of time is determined.
Other examples of the behaviour of time in the worlds of Einstein\'s dreams are a world in which time is like the light between two mirrors, a world of countless copies, or a world in which time is a nightingale. For everyone who catches a nightingale, time stands still.
This was the last dream of Einstein before he finished his \"Special Theory of Relativity\".
Ideas, opinions and comments:
This is my favourite book. As I read the book the first time, I was able to understand the meaning of everything what was written, but as I read it the second time, I could enter the plot and really live in the thoughts of Einstein. It was such a fantastic and extraordinary experience, to be relaxed and excited the same time while reading this book. I truly can recommend this book to any person who want\'s to get a short but deep insight in the thoughts of a genius. It will be an enlarging experience.