Einstein’s Dreams

Posted: November 10, 2010 in books
Tags: ,

Forgive the long period of absence once again. In the weeks leading up to a big event, I don’t get much reading time. Under such circumstances, I would also need a book that doesn’t require me to work my brain cells into double overtime. The brain cells work overtime during regular working hours, so it’s nice to unwind with a book that, for lack of a better description, hum a lullaby in those few minutes before I sleep.

Einstein’s Dreams is one of those books.

It’s one of those reads that lull you to sleep, not because the writing is so bad. Quite the opposite, actually. Alan Lightman, the first professor at MIT to receive a joint appointment in the sciences and humanities, creates sheer poetry in this series of vignettes that imagine what a young Einstein must have dreamed of as he was crafting the Theory of Relativity. In such dreams, which make up most of the book, Lightman explores the various natures of time, yet not as how we know it. Imagine a world where time is circular, or a world where time just flows with no direct relation between cause and effect, or even a world where time is not quantifiable, or a world where time is limitless. These make for some interesting scenarios, which Lightman writes with such masterful brevity—poetic, ephemeral, and yes, with such effectiveness to make you reflect on the nature of time itself.

I must admit, this book was sitting on my shelf for years. I got a copy when my blockmates were raving about it in their Comm I class (I took Advanced Placement in English prior to the start of my freshman year in U.P., so I was taking Comm II in my first semester, missing out on an otherwise fantastic Comm I), and I wanted to understand what the deal was over the book. Finally, I understood it over nine years later.

Then again, that’s one thing you could think of when it comes to time. It may be a bit late, but hey, it will always be perfect when it brings you something to discover at the moment you most need it. (In any case, here’s an academic guide to the novel.)

  1. artseblis says:

    I loved this book! The stories leave me hanging, though, as if each story was only the beginning of a greater universe. The imagination that could have crafted them… Amazing.

    • Mika says:

      I read criticism of the book that the stories don’t have definite endings. I think it was intentional and adds more whimsicality to the dream-like nature of the vignettes. Alan Lightman is a genius.

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