cover image Please, Mr. Einstein

Please, Mr. Einstein

Jean-Claude Carriere, . . Harcourt, $22 (185pp) ISBN 978-0-15-101422-4

French screenwriter Carrière (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? Carrière'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 Carrière, of knowing oneself as one who can understand it. (Nov.)