Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Drakulic on Mileva Einstein: Theory of Sadness

A well chosen title, as a physicist I was immediately drawn to the book.
Unfortunately, what followed did not justify (my) expectation.

I write this 2 days after Einstein's Theory of Relativity finally
was awarded the Nobel Prize-in fact, its last experimental check.

Einstein himself was awarded the Nobel Prize for other contributions, though
the most important test of his theory of gravitation had already been made
at that time. However, Relativity did not seem attractive enough, Academia
establishment did not quite believe it.

Today they trust Einstein unconditionally, for everything that this little man has
predicted in equations, persisted. In fact, this last confirmation of gravity waves,
even himself would have troubles to swallow, because he thought the gravity waves
did not carry any energy, so they would not have any effect on the matter through
which they pass. A. Trautman, a Polish physicist, proved him wrong in a paper
stating that gravitational waves do carry energy and were, consequently,
measurable. But, stubborn as Einstein was, he never accepted it and in effect
hindered early development of that part of physics.

Similar stuborness costed his family and hinself a lot. But one is expecting
some trouble from a genius, no?

Einstein's biographies have passed a full circle of biographies of great
men: from the saintly idealization to the ugly muds of private life. I hoped
that S. Drakulic would do it the way I liked in eg. her writing about Dora
Maar. The task to present Albert's shadow/wife is a proper one
for this writer.

She started well, showing the beginning of a common life, somewhat similar
to Marie Curie biography. But shortly afterward, the three-dimensional character
loses its depth. In the end, only the two-dimensional picture with
the broken cover remains,

Maybe it was the problem with the available material, the letters? That would be
strange, the legacy behind Einstein should be big and enough to gather more
data than this mentioned in the book. Or some of it was destroyed? If so,
the author should find a way to describe the reasons for the lack of it in the
book. This would maybe explain a kind of plain feeling about characters.

Even so, it clarified to me how Einstein came to his theories, in discussions
with Mileva and other friends of their student circle. I could hardly
imagine him to do it any other way than in heated discussions. Also, I was
suspecting that Mileva helped greatly in writing, ordering the material in
articles.

In his family life with Mileva, Einstein did what even in theory would not hold
water, even less so in practice. It had tragic consequences. He was not
enough mature to think about person he has from the other side, a
potentially depressive and insecure person. He should support Mileva much
earlier to be on her own, not push her down. Then he would also have gained
more freedom of action, which obviously he needed.

Mileva's father commented well when the marriage finally came to an end,
that he respects Albert as a scientist and father of his grandchildren,
but that he noticed early that he was not good as a husband. And he was not,
as he did not show enough concern for either Mileva or the children.

Mileva had unrestrained support from her father in paying for her study, which
for that time, early 20th century, was not a small step for the Balkans.
Albert did not ignore her needs either, in the early days. She actually
was of a troubled psyche, with a strong tendency to depression. And
insufficient self-confidence.

And lack of luck, chronic lack of happiness.

Really a pity, with a bit more happiness, she could have been like
Marie Curie, she had the ability to be. It's sad to see someone's potential
crumbled under the pressure of everyday life.

A bit more information from documentation would not hurt in this book. Or a
description of why the author could not get to it. This way, there remains
a broken picture from the book cover:

Except if... maybe that's the only way possible? Mileva Maric was just that,
a broken existence?

 gf 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Svetlana Hramova: "My wrong You"

My Russian, learned at times when there was no money for
mathematics and physics textbooks from the West in Yugoslavia, with time is
expanding to literature reading. During the recent visit to St. Petersburg,
I bought a book of the currently popular author in Russia, Svetlana Hramova.

It is a new time for Russia, so we have to finally move to its new literature,
away from the Cvetaeva, Ahmatova, Dostoevsky, and alike Saviours of the Soul
of the World.

The book "My wrong you" would be good for a crime scenario. "Life
coach", a young woman with a bit of personal history on the subject of
love and life, finds happiness with a man with which she should not spend
a minute, regarding her own rules. Love is happening in a minute, sex too.
The book is +18, but still, the emphasis is on emotional, not physical.

This work would not be much more than a romantic novel, if the author would not
mix into the text many comments and quotes from Simone de Beauvoir.

Simone was an icon of the feminism. In her life she gave her unconditional
love to only one man: American writer Nelson Algren, who gave her first
orgasm in life, sometime in her late 30's, and remained a lifelong love.

But she could not live with him, because she was needed to J.P. Sartre.

Hramova consider the life story of Simone an ultimate failure, a lack of
courage to take action, love and be loved. Woman in a novel does not make
such a mistake: she surrenders completely, immediately.

I know almost nothing about Simone de Beauvoir, but this seems to me a good
way to learn, through the fragments of her letters. Already with it this
booklet fulfilled its role.

In addition, she also gave me insight into post-feminism in Russia. This is
interesting in itself, because in social realism women had a very ... real
role, even in the Soviet Orthodox environment, they were not left to be only
a decoration in men's world.

This cultural jump was too big for only the 20th century, so it has a
continuation today.

Also, it was worth for a little update of my Russian. Now I'm ready for
some other book in that language. Whenever I can, I read the original,
even if I would need 5 times more time. It's a very good brain massage.

Ha ... last month I brought from home a bilingual edition of Lu Xun's "Ah Qu",
let's see you now, maestro, when will you manage to read THAT in the
original version?!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Capote's "Breakfast at Tiffany's"

This book for quite some time escaped my attention, but finally I got hold
of English original.

I feel Raymond Carver coming here, in the Capote's style. Telling a story seems so
easy in his execution. I also feel Boris Vian here, probably because of the
lightness of being of a main character.

It is a woman, a young girl in most of the story, escaping definition. Being
orphaned early and married at 14 (not in India, but outback USA, we are
speaking period just before the WWII), and later sweeping the world with
unbearable, youth irresponsibility, it is a perfect character. Not a beauty,
but an attractive personality, she is the one who could capture imagination.
And so she does, for some people who met her, and follow her story as much
as it is possible to follow.

I will not be re-telling the story here, it is a short one and charming to
read. I will rather ask myself why it is that such a character would halt our
mind in admiration? Is it because it is a personification of youth? Freedom
itself wandering the world?

Is it? She did not, obviously, have an easy life. But she kept the
lightness... so, is it the vitality, which captivates us? Eternal longing
for child in us, re-discovering good in the world every day, and ignoring
the bad?

I will leave it to you to decide, book is a good read.

I will only add here that Capote's short stories, of which there was an
example in four stories added to the thin volume I had, also seem to be
worth attention. It was a pleasure to read them, little jewels.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Coetzee's Barbarians

Reading J.M. Coetzee's "Waiting for the Barbarians" one can not escape the
reverend precursors: Cavafy and Buzatti.

The first wrote a poem which imprinted the Barbarians for ever in the stone
of our culture. The second played magnificently with the waiting itself,
Barbarians lost the importance.

Coetzee bravely put his foot in the door, already closing, to down on us his notion
of the Barbarians. No, it is not the tribes who are to smithen us into the
dust of our cities. No, it is not the wind hurling through crumbling
pyramids, after the last of the defenders falls. Not the flames of
Alexandria Library. It is not even ourselves, barbarized and inflicting the
doom of the Empire onto ourselves.

Barbarian is the Time, Barbarian is the ossification of Evil in us,
Barbarian is the knowledge and skill, when abused. Barbarian is the
gluttony, the hedonistic, Ego of ours, fed by the blind ...stupidity. And
cruelty, born of the degeneration, brought by the luxuries of the Empire.

Through a Magistrate of the Empire outpost, a benign, slow administrator,
Coetzee shows the hopeless nature of Good when it meets the Evil. It is
overriden, raped, exorcised to the level of being laughable.

A Magistrate is not without his guilt, but he was, as all benign creatures,
just doing his job, more or less successful. He becomes problematic at the
times of trouble, when the sickly torturers of the Empire come to effect.

Coetzee's Magistrate fells prey to his humanity: he is imprisoned and
ridiculed to the death of his old himself.

There is nothing surprising in the fall of the Magistrate. Those who are
high, fall low. What is more surprising is Coetzee's creation of the
another tenure for the fallen administrator.

Was it because of his humanity, being closer to nature than stiff
brutality with which the Third Bureau treated the opponents, creating them
in the course of "investigation", rather than trying to understand them?
Brutal force never tries to understand, it seeks to break, destroy. Humanity might
fail, but if given chance, it creates hope, it does not destroy it.

What about the case when there is no chance, when humanity plainly does not
help? It is wrong to think this way: it might not help against outside enemy,
but it is in fact the last resort of a falling Empire, it establishes its
moral right.

Even if it would remain only the empty letter in a chronicle,
it is worth maintaining it. Probably it goes back to Kant's "moral law in
us", which, however ancient it might seem, still prevails. Until we get
eaten for breakfast by some senseless heptapedic cosmic travellers.

Coetzee created a valuable addition to the notion of Barbarians. It is a dense read,
and I am yet to see how it withstands the battering by time, but I am, indeed, impressed by his writing skills. A master.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Yan Pradeau: "Algèbre"

"Maths is fun!", often exclaims over-eager (usually young) teacher, and
people tend to shrug at her/him and turn to their infinitely more interesting
gossip or politics or trade-exchange pages.

But in France, mathematics is serious business since centuries, and French
school, by its personalities, certainly IS fun, indeed.

Recently I had pleasure to read Yan Pradeau's "Algèbre", a short booklet
about one of most controversial French mathematicians of the XX
century-Alexander Grothendieck. As it often goes, he was also one of the
best mathematical minds of XX ct.

About him even to say "French" is over-statement, as he
was barely French, acquiring the nationality only at older age (in 1980-ies,
and he was born in 1928, in then Prussia). Most of his life he was
stateless, as his documents were destroyed in 1945, and he was reluctant to
obtain the other nationality, because of conscription obligation.

Following his parents, he was of an anarchist and pacifist political
orientation. His father, A. Schapiro was of a Hassidic Jewish origin, from
the borders of Ukraina, Belarus and Russia, and mather was of a German
protestant origin (his surname is by her). Both were from a rather bourgeois
background, but were declared, and fighting, anarchists of the leftist colors.

Alexander was a mathematical autodidact, and he brought novel generalizations
in geometry and algebra after the WWII. One thing which is well exposed in
the book, and which I was not aware of before, is that in the world wars
expired whole generations of mathematicians, and there remained a profound
vacuum in moderinzation of the discipline in the XX ct. Works of people like
A.G., alone and through group Bourbaki which was organized to promote the
program of novelization of mathematics, were instrumental in this. A.G. was
a kind of celebrity in French mathematical world in 1960-ies and 1970-ies.

Genius had it's price here, A.G. became more and more controversial in
1970-ies, fighting against militarization of the society in the Cold War.
In 1980-ies he completely abandoned the society, secluding
himself in a mountain village of few ten inhabitants. But he was not idle,
he was productive in "philosophical" writing of dubious value.

There is lots in the story about Groethedieck which is new to me, and I will
try to learn more about group Bourbaki. I was not aware of the program they
pursued, and their achievements. And today in Physics we often use results
of their work.

It is a kind of irony that I was recently living in the place where was important
centre of this movement-in Orsay, near Paris, and nearby Burres-sur Yvette,
and I did not know anything about this part of the history of the place.
The very paths I was walking, running or biking, were taken by those people,
not so long time ago. It certainly added an additional spice to my reading, as
also the fact that it was my 2nd book read in French.

Definitely a good read, I warmly recommend it.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Myrna Zezza's "How to build a Lasting, Loving Relationship"

Reading self-development handbooks is not my usual treat. Well, sometimes
one has to give them a chance. Recommended by a good friend, who is a
therapeutist herself, I gave a chance to Myrna Mazzola Zezza's "How to build
a Lasting, Loving Relationship". Subtitled, totally appropriately,
"The blueprint you were never given".

True is that we learn a pile of knowledges in school, and in private life we
learn how to plant flowers, drive bicycle, motrocycle or a car, repair
engines, build houses etc., but we never get any significant instruction on
how to make a successful relationship. At most we get a life-instruction how
NOT to do it, by our parents or, through trial and error exercise,
ourselves.

Myrna Zezza gave a complete, step-by-step guide through the process.

I was drawn to a book, when checking about it online on recommendation of my
friend, by the model for relationship which was used: a house. Building a
house of love, writer teaches us about importance of fundament, walls and
roof. She does not forget about cement, glues and all what holds it
together, she even thinks of catastrophes, critters and insurance!

Building of self-esteem is also an important part of our relationship with
others.

Model is like this: foundation is Communication, walls are: Common purpose and
values, Trust, Appreciation and Clear agreements. Roof is Commitment.

Love is nails, screws, bolts and glue (obviously an American house in warmer
parts of USA-author herself lives in Hawaii), holding the house together.

Basements and interior spaces are also important, those are different
arrangements a couple makes in their daily life about work and spending free
time, still preserving the core of their relationship.

Termites and other critters can easily destroy even the best house if not
eradicated effectively, so any misunderstanding or trouble should also be fast and
effectively removed from an relationship.

Homeowners insurance is something what in relationship is given by a support
group like family, colleagues, friends... Author even finds, at the end, a
place foe House blessing, which might be a wedding, but can be any other
ritual a couple chooses. Most of us usually starts from this...but it is not
by chance, I believe, given at the end of this book. Life is a learning
process, all through.

When definitely too American that I would really like it, this book is a good
guide. I might comment away in my head some sentences as "eh, easy to write
this in California or Hawaii, come to Balkans!", but since the book is
addressed to a developing individual, not given as a school of thought or
perception of reality, we are free to take from it what we find useful. And
it is really a trove of useful points about each of us and relationships in
which we enter, often without really knowing what we want from it, or how to
achieve what we want.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Ph.K.Dick's "VALIS"

On my conquest of PKD's world, with reading of "The man in the high
castle", "Ubik" and "Do the androids dream of electric sheep", I took on his
"VALIS"=Vast Active Living Intelligence System.

It starts benign, a psychedelic world of 1960-ies, with only some glimpses
of danger, enrolled in weird names of the characters, like Horselover Fat or
Mother Goose.

Then it bores one immensely through almost Jehowah Witness-like boredom of
religious blobbering through hundred or more pages-here I almost threw it
away, really. I do not think I met the writer (or the editor) who would not
cut out such a ghastly nonsense, even if it would occur to anyone to
actually write such stuff down!

Luckily I was patient, as at the end of a tunnel, there came a light! And
patient I was, indeed! The writing seemed as if an adept of mish-mash of
Christianity, Buddhism and Gibbon did not succed to come up to digest the
Message for the lazy American reader. Such a reader would not dare to read
Caesar directly, but preferred to look, with some curiosity, at the vomit of
it after the painful burps of the afore-mentioned adept.

So, after nonsensical, psychopatologic religious bullshit of a pity character
bent after his feeling of guilt for not being able to help to his
energetic vampire friends to survive their psichological or body illness,
story started to be interesting.

That is, if we can consider actual waking up to the world in which the Christ
himself is alive and kickin' somewhere in California, and the cypher from
apostolic Christians from Roman times finds the audience in the time of
Vietnam war. The society is formed, which consists of four individuals, who
cram to the airplane to visit the Christ, and who just happen to gather unter
the motto "Fish can not use guns".

Oh ghosh. Just writing it on paper is ridiculous, no?

Well, obviously not completely, if it comes from a master writer like PKD.
I survived through reading it for (too) many a page, carried by a sheer hope
that scores of people who claimed it to be a good work, were not complete
idiots, or that it all was not just an internet scam of the bigot Jehowah
Witnesses.

Towards the end of the first volume of Valis, there is a beautiful story of
2 year old girl Sophia, who herself seems to be a voice of God. Not "seems",
she IS a voice of god, she knows things nobody else could now. PKD gives
some of his most hillarious lines here, pure joy to read!

Sophia eventually dies accidentally, or chose to die accidentally, but there
is a new child to be born, from the same parents-who are crazy weirdos, but
seem to have a place in the cosmic maze. The Rhipidon society is closely
following.

At the end of the book is a list of 50 premises of the World and definitions
which are supposedly put there to help, but they rather scared me. They are
obviously a make of crack-pot. No discussion. I am quite afraid to go to the
2nd book of Valis, but probably I will be persistent, as I usually am, to
fathom the depths of Horselover Fat.