… Jean-Claude Carrière comes with some serious mojo as a thinker and writer, having worked with the likes of Peter Brook and Luis Buñuel on films like “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” and “Belle du Jour.” He’s obviously worth risking a few hours with, and I’m happy to report that he far exceeded my meager expectations. Please, Mr. Einstein, unobtrusively translated from the French by John Brownjohn, isn’t so much a novel about physics as it is a novel about how people feel about physics — presumably Carrière, who gives his fictional Einstein all the best lines. Some, in fact, are like open doors you could wander through and never come out of: “Being distrustful of those who persistently deceived us, we developed the habit of also distrusting the night, which enshrouded us, or so we thought, in gloom and illusion. We put our faith in light alone.”
The New York Times
French screenwriter Carriere (he worked on Belle de Jour and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie) sets out to make the elegant beauty of Einstein's ideas manifest to lay readers in this thin, pleasant novel-dialogue. It is the early 21st century, and a young, nameless student intent on learning more about Einstein finds her way into a mysterious office that houses-Einstein himself, walking and talking, full of generosity and the urge to make his ideas plain. The expected thought-experiments (an elevator with no frame of reference, two trains moving side by side) cover the basics of relativity, but soon the young student presses Einstein, who thought deeply about such questions, to examine the morality of his achievements: could the world after Hiroshima truly be a better place? Carriere's Einstein, like the real one, is decidedly conflicted on the topic, and one of the novel's few dramatic moments comes when the smartest man in the world is unable to provide all the answers. The book offers the certain pleasure of knowing the world better, and, even more important to Carriere, of knowing oneself as one who can understand it. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
"The time travel that Einstein predicted in his revolutionary physics wonderfully harmonizes with the time travel Carriere delivers through fictional wizardry." Bryce Christensen
In an unnamed city at an undisclosed time, an anonymous girl walks into an unspecified building to interview Albert Einstein for unclear reasons. This fictional work by French screenwriter Carri re (The Secret Language of Film) then proceeds as a dialog between the girl and the noted scientist, during the course of which Einstein explains his theories and the girl prods him with questions. (In this respect, the book recalls the novelistic popularization of philosophy in Sophie's World.) Einstein muses about his life, including his pro-Semitic activities and his responsibility for the nuclear bomb, though not without first entertaining a lively debate with Sir Isaac Newton, the only other interlocutor in the book. Then, at the end, the whole scene vanishes: Was it only a dream, or a Twilight Zone episode involving time travel? This is less a novel than a simplified treatise on Einstein's works; readers unversed in physics will find it pretty roughgoing at times. Recommended for academic and public libraries as well as for those for whom fiction reading is synonymous with intellectual stimulation. Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Lib., Dublin, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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 Carriere (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 Bu-uel, Carriere 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.