three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
27-Mar-Apr-2007
user_rating: 
0

A-Please Mr. EinsteinWhen a young student wanders into an apartment in an unnamed central European city, there is no telling what might happen. Her watch stops working, she meets Isaac Newton in a waiting room, and an assistant whisks her to a meeting with Albert Einstein. Even Einstein does not fully understand why he is (or where he is) in the present, though he happily converses, in layman’s terms, on the key concepts that have kept him in our consciousness more than half a century after his death. Pressed to answer for the ethical implications of his theories (the bomb, for one), he has no answers. But who wouldn’t be charmed by an Einstein who admits to wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with his likeness?
Harcourt. 185 pages. $22. ISBN: 0151014221

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Jean-Claude Carrière comes with some serious mojo as a thinker and writer. … In its uncounted hours of conversation, Please, Mr. Einstein touches down lightly and charmingly on some of the thorniest philosophical consequences of Einstein’s genius and, by extension, the scientific preoccupations of the 20th century—the nature of reality, the fate of causality, the comprehensibility of nature, the limits of the mind." Dennis Overbye

Philadelphia Inquirer 4 of 5 Stars
"If you can rattle off the principles of string theory from memory, if you consider yourself one of the ‘people like us’ Einstein wrote about—heck, if you even know who Niels Bohr was—this book might be too simple a discussion of Einstein’s life for you. But, as a work of fiction, Please, Mr. Einstein is an accessible, entertaining and thought-provoking read." Jen A. Miller

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"This book is not merely Quantum Physics for Dummies, nor is it one of those You Are There productions of the sort that Steve Allen used to televise. … Fearless in questioning, famous yet humble, Carrière’s Einstein is a character the reader comes to love." Reagan Upshaw

Times [UK] 3 of 5 Stars
"The most urgent questions that our youthful Everywoman has are profound moral ones: was Einstein able to predict the military uses to which his theory would be put; does he consider himself responsible for Hiroshima and Nagasaki? … In Carrière’s story, apparently, undecidability and doubt have leached out of science and into ethics." Lisa Jardine

Independent on Sunday [UK] 1 of 5 Stars
"It probably goes without saying that Einstein did a better job of explaining his theories in his own popular science book, Relativity. … The imposition of Carrière’s words on Einstein is a strange form of ghostwriting, in which the subject’s authentic words are replaced by a fantasy, a phantasm, reanimated for no discernible purpose." Scarlett Thomas

Critical Summary

Best known for his work on the French films Belle du Jour and the Academy Award–winning social satire The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, screenwriter, actor, and author Jean-Claude Carrière deftly examines the influence of Albert Einstein and his work on today’s society. Reviewers, some of whom came to the slim volume with few expectations, find themselves drawn not only to Carrière’s lucid explanations for some of Einstein’s most difficult concepts, but to Einstein himself. The author renders him as a humble, kind, self-effacing soul who views with continuing curiosity a world always teetering on the brink of annihilation. British critics, however, were less impressed. The Independent even suggested that die-hard physics buffs should read Einstein’s writings instead.