A Memoir of Father and Son
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 The son of a Nobel laureate and Manhattan Project collaborator meditates on the inspirations and disappointments of a difficult relationship. As a small boy, Segrä (History/ Univ. of Texas, Austin; Italo Balbo: A Fascist Life, 1987) realized Los Alamos was an unusual place to live, but it was not until the bombing of Hiroshima that he connected his father to the world-shaping work such a weapon must have required. Emilio Segrä had fled fascist Italy in 1938 and soon made his way to Los Alamos, joining the best physicists in the world, including Enrico Fermi, Niels Bohr, and Richard Feynman. In 1959, now at Berkeley, he shared the Nobel Prize for his work on antimatter. But fatherhood isn't as precise a science as physics, and young Claudio mixed pride in his father's ``superman'' achievements with frustration and rage at the impossible standards and criticisms that so outweighed the occasional moment of affection between them. In Stockholm to watch his father receive his prize, Claudio imagined himself a member of the intellectual nobility, the firstborn son of an anointed king. But nothing in his own life seemed to measure up; not even a strong marriage, healthy children, and a tenured professorship felt like the success his father had achieved and expected from his son. Would the younger Segrä ever win membership in the gänte colta, the cosmopolitan literati who were his father's peers? Segrä's memoir of an immigrant childhood is often poignant, but his long accounts of filial pain can seem forced, self-pitying, and stiffly written. It may be hard for readers to feel sympathy for this privileged son in his struggle to find himself. Veers close to the category of family memoir as public therapy, but at bottom a thoughtful account of life with a father who found the behavior of atomic particles far easier to comprehend than the emotional life of his son. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-670-86307-6
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1995