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A GUARDIAN FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR
'A monstrous and brilliant book' Philip Pullman
'Wholly mesmerising and revelatory... Completely fascinating' William Boyd
A fast-paced, mind-expanding literary work about scientific discovery, ethics and the unsettled distinction between genius and madness.
Albert Einstein opens a letter sent to him from the Eastern Front of World War I. Inside, he finds the first exact solution to the equations of general relativity, unaware that it contains a monster that could destroy his life's work.
The great mathematician Alexander Grothendieck tunnels so deeply into abstraction that he tries to cut all ties with the world, terrified of the horror his discoveries might cause.
Erwin Schrödinger and Werner Heisenberg battle over the soul of physics after creating two equivalent yet opposed versions of quantum mechanics. Their fight will tear the very fabric of reality, revealing a world stranger than they could have ever imagined.
Using extraordinary, epoch-defining moments from the history of science, Benjamín Labatut plunges us into exhilarating territory between fact and fiction, progress and destruction, genius and madness.
'We may be familiar with such things as Schrödinger's cat and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle... but the sheer audacity, the utter insanity of the ideas and the thinkers who discovered these ideas has never, in my experience, been so vividly and terrifyingly conveyed as in this short, monstrous, and brilliant book' -- Philip Pullman
'Absolutely brilliant. I was utterly gripped and wolfed it down. It feels as if he has invented an entirely new genre' -- Mark Haddon, author of The Porpoise and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
'A wholly mesmerising and revelatory book. A blend of limpid scientific exposition and bravura fictional gloss. Completely fascinating' -- William Boyd
''Double physics!' Nothing in the school time-table was as unwelcome as those two words. Benjamín Labatut's When We Cease to Understand the World is doubly welcome: as a thrilling account of theories of physics, and as a series of highly-wrought imaginative extrapolations about the physicists who arrived at them' -- Geoff Dyer
'I absolutely loved this. The writing crackles with energy. What a triumph' -- Cathy Rentzenbrink
''Compelling, startling and utterly original. This book about physics is a work of art' -- Christie Watson
''[A] chilling, gripping, intelligent, deeply humane book' -- Spectator
'Ingenious, intricate and deeply disturbing' -- John Banville, Guardian
'When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut is the strangest and most original book I've read for years. It hovers in a state between fiction and non-fiction, or wave and particle, and makes an account of modern mathematics and science into something as eerie as a great ghost story' -- Philip Pullman, New Statesman, Books of the Year
'A dazzling associative caper full of graceful arabesques linking continents and centuries and ideas' -- Sunday Times Culture
'It is a story about nature's fightback against human interference. In other words it is the story of the 21st century. In a literary industry obsessed with genres, it belongs to none' -- New Statesman, Books of the Year
'An exquisitely written and continuously fascinating hybrid work of fiction and history' -- Irish Times
'Remind[s] us of fiction's power to take us to another world and expand our understanding of this one... When We Cease to Understand the World showcases the minds seeking to pierce the mysterious heart of mathematics' -- Guardian, Big Books of Autumn
'It may be possible to actually feel your brain getting bigger as you read' -- Evening Standard
'Labatut uses fiction to crack open the stories of scientists and mathematicians whose expanded our notions of the possible, while also presenting them as human, all too human'-- Dazed