Einstein made (relatively) simple.
There’s always a market for a layperson’s slim guide to modern science—not to mention Albert Einstein—and this novel by veteran screenwriter Carrière (The Secret Language of Film, 1994) has a few entertaining quirks that set it apart. For one thing, it is indeed fiction, and has a plot: A young woman discovers a building somewhere in central Europe that contains the office of the late theoretical-physicist, who’s still hard at work more than 60 years after his death. Einstein’s waiting room is stuffed with people eager to consult with him about some theory, business proposal or complaint, among them cranky and insecure Sir Isaac Newton, who’s baffled by this business of the space-time continuum, relativity and his successor’s heretical notion that God is absent from the universe. The office has numerous doors that open to reveal various pivotal ideas or points of time in Einstein’s life. Much of the discussion between Einstein and the young woman takes on the subject of his role in the creation of the nuclear bomb, both passively (by moving science into the realm of the atom) and actively (by helping to draft the letter to President Roosevelt about the Nazis’ work on nuclear fission that led to the Manhattan Project). Those conversations occasionally read like dutiful catechisms designed to explain Einstein’s key ideas, but more often than not, they bring to life a genuinely charming man. The genius scientist comes across here as genially self-effacing about his celebrity and deeply concerned that he helped engineer humanity’s destruction. Best known for his impressionistic scripts for Luis Buñuel, Carrière here sticks to precise, straightforward prose.
A playful yet carefully engineered pop-physics excursion, with a host considerably livelier than most narrators on the Discovery Channel.