good morning everyone. you may be asking, what is this picture today? it is one, according to getty, of sheffield united playing against spurs at white hart lane. the date is from some time ago. Separately, i would like to note that today’s track is in honour of pharaoh sanders, who died this weekend.
Last week I had asked you all to provide book recommendations to me, as I was in need of a new book to read! I loved the book suggestions, and wrote a good number of them down. But your hoddler-in-chief neglected to note the genre or section in which they would be located, and so he was lost in the independent Alexandria, Virginia, store merchant that he had patronised on Sunday for the first time
After spending roughly 20 minutes in the bookstore (your HIC was hungry..) I put down this book with a goose on the cover for something from the fiction section: When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut.
I read the back of it and flipped through a few pages. The first four words, from the first chapter, that I saw were “Nuremberg Trials”, “fingers” and “toenails”. And so I bought it. Notably not one recommended to me, but I would like to point out John Banville’s opinion from The Guardian does appear on the back cover (h/t to the hoddler who rec’d him).
It’s quite alarming, this book. I’m only two chapters in but, after reading a couple reviews, I believe I could expect the lines between reality and fiction to be blended into each other with greater ambiguity in each chapter. Perhaps that is the point, if the point of the novel is to warn of the obsessiveness and madness of intelligence, mathematics and knowledge.
We are first introduced to Prussian Blue, a gorgeous pigment whose chemical compounds eventually morph from the beautiful into the grotesque compounds constituting mustards gas in the First World War and Zyklon B, used in the concentration camps.
Reading Chapter 2 provides an equally evocative sense of fear into findings of the deepest questions of the cosmos, as we begin to understand the absolute destruction and hellishness of black holes, as posited by Karl Scharzschild’s studies:
Karl Schwarzschild, in the second chapter, asks one of his colleagues, “Could a sufficient concentration of human will — millions of people exploited for a single end with their minds compressed into the same psychic space — unleash something comparable to the singularity?”.
Now, Schwarzschild, asked this question in the midst of World War I, in the age of mustard gas and fearful of the Germany’s psychiatric collective, unware of the horrors to come.
If reviews of this book are to be believed, then When We Cease to Understand the World will continue to blur the lines between fact and fiction the point where the two are indistinguishable from the other, and from when the facts are unimaginably horrific (such as Nazi Youths planting mulberry trees to raise silkworms).
I confess to being only two chapters into the piece of fiction, which, again, blends the real and unreal. Perhaps that is the point of the unreal. Where, somewhere, many of the most gifted minds of the previous centuries became obsessed - so obsessed that they lost all sense of their selves. And that their discoveries, their actions, their identities - it all became lost. That it lead to the destruction of millions of people. And that it foretold the unfathomable losses of billions.
Fitzie’s track of the day: Upper Egypt & Lower Egypt, by Pharaoh Sanders
And now for your links:
Alasdair Gold’s latest video on Spurs’ future with Antonio Conte, and more
Gareth Southgate says negativity is ‘not healthy’ for England national team
Wales relegated from Nations League top tier