I have always gone back to this book. Read and reread it and this time I was rereading it for the fifth time or so. It was recommended to me a long time ago, when I was in college, by my mother’s friend and I cannot thank her enough for this. Every time I read this book, I feel something new with great fondness for the writing and the book’s plot. There are very few books one can go back to again and again and this for me is one of them. It is about time and human beings in it, whether we like to be in it or not, we are right there, at the core of time and its existence.
“Einstein’s Dreams” as the title suggests is about Einstein and his dreams pertaining to time. The book is written in the form of his dreams – all about time and the different aspects and the overall nature of time and the role it plays in our lives. Time is the hero of this collection of dreams. The different ways in which it can evade into people’s lives and change the way they are, the way they see the world and the way they see themselves. The dreamer of these dreams: But of course Einstein. The book is about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, but the way Lightman does it is beyond superlative. It is about his ideas and dreams and how he shares them with his friend Besso. That bond is also very well done in the book. The dreams are almost like fables – magical, surreal, almost something that makes the reader want to live in those different time spans, experience all of it. I for sure felt that way every time I read the book.
The beauty of the book is that there is just going on and on continuous chapters on time and the people around it in Berne, Switzerland, where Einstein worked as a clerk while working on the theory of relativity. Lightman’s language is lyrical and beautiful to no end. Lightman does not spoon feed his readers and neither is he too vague about what he wants to say. It is as clear and yet as complex. It is not a book about science alone. It is a book if I can say, mixed, both with the right amount of science and the right amount of emotion which is much needed. To use the barest of plots and no specific technique, Alan Lightman has created a marvel of a book – the one which constantly takes you by surprise and is a jaw-dropper for sure. I highly recommend this book and hope that you are as fascinated by it as I was.
Here is a little something from the book for you:
“Consider a world in which cause and effect are erratic,” writes Lightman. “Scientists turn reckless and mutter like gamblers who cannot stop betting…. In this world, artists are joyous.” In another dream, time slows with altitude, causing rich folks to build stilt homes on mountaintops, seeking eternal youth and scorning the swiftly aging poor folk below. Forgetting eventually how they got there and why they subsist on “all but the most gossamer food,” the higher-ups at length “become thin like the air, bony, old before their time.”