Bloodlands ~! By Timothy Snyder #2

Yes, I went ahead and read this again. I think it is really important to WWII history – and it extends into Cold War history and with Putin in play now – who knows?  

**********
Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin 
By Timothy Snyder 

2010 – 525 pages
Read by Ralph Cosham 19h 14m
Rating 10  / European history 
(Both read and listened
)
**********

Although I rated it a 10 last time, it was better reading the second time around because I wasn’t so shocked at the atrocities associated with that short-lived partnership before the outbreak of war between Germany and Russia.

Getting access to Soviet/Russian archives after the 1989 fall, plus giving the historians time to study and develop ideas led Snyder to write Bloodlands which was first published in 2011 to much acclaim, but some criticism.  

Now with Putin wanting Ukraine back in Russia’s hands the time is right to remember the history rereading it with complete – or more complete – information.  

Much is new, or was new in 2011. The Soviets were not completely reliable allies in WWII, but we knew that. They fought to expand all along their eastern border from the Black Sea to Finland (to Lithuania is considered the Bloodlands).   And we helped the USSR win. That was fine at the time because Hitler’s desire seemed to be to take all of Europe, including Russia, after their infamous pact was broken.  

And so it was that the Russians and the Germans both ravaged the Blood lands.  

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4th of July by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

(finished some time in late June)

I got this one from the library because I really needed something to escape with and I enjoy what I’ve read by Paetro. (I am NOT big on Patterson alone.) So I started this morning but something seemed very familiar.  Huh??? –  Have I read this? I checked my blog – nope – not there.  (See how handy it is?).  

The 4th of July 
by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
 
2005 (400 pp) 
Read by Carolyn McCormick 7h 35m
Rating: A- / thriller 
Women’s Murder Club #4 

Then I remembered. I’d borrowed it and started but only got a few chapters – maybe 2 chapters and put it down due to other books calling. Now I figured this was a better time anyway because the title is 4th of July and that’s only about a week away.  I do like reading seasonal books. I like seasonal foods. I like seasonal decorations. When I taught I did a lot of seasonal lessons and activities. So this is just natural and I’ve been doing it now for probably a couple decades although it’s expanded from Christmas mysteries to other holidays and with various genres coming up. The 4th of July is a new holiday but it’s a common thriller.  I’ll read history books at Thanksgiving if I have to, or St. Pat’s Day biographies.  

Anyway – this is only the 4th in the series of 22 books now.  I’ve read 7 and guess what – my first of the 7 was the 19th book, The 19th Christmas.   That’s the way it’s been with others, too.  

For openers, Lindsay Boxer shoots a teenage girl in self-defense, is arrested and goes to trial in spite of the fact she had life-threatening injuries, too.  Meanwhile, the girl’s brother, an accomplice, was also shot and is barely alive in the hospital. Also, Lindsay’s partner, Jacobi, is shot and survives. 

 I love legal thrillers and this is a pretty good one even if the legal aspect isn’t as accomplished or well developed as I’ve read. 

Meanwhile, over the years there have been too many strange serial-type murders in Half Moon Bay and Lindsay is unable to participate in the chase and arrest of the suspects. She’s badly wounded and also on leave of absence resting with her sister in that community  This takes on the role of second story in the novel and the stories are only very loosely integrated but better at the end.  I suspect that Patterson wrote one and Poetro the other and they put them together.  the second feels kind of anti-climactic, but after you get into it it’s also quite good.  I think most of Patterson’s co-authored books have two story-lines going 

Anyway, in 4th of July we follow Lindsay as she tries to get back to work with the murders continuing. She reads about them and discusses them with her “club” of Claire a medical examiner and Cindy who is a reporter. Jill was killed in an earlier book.  

We also follow the guys who are doing the murders – although there may be two or even more. In the story they are “the Seeker,” and “the Watcher.”  Lindsay is supposed to “relax and keep a low profile,” but she is super anxious to DO something. 

Yuki becomes Lindsay’s attorney and also a part of the Murder Club in this book. 

I love these mysteries and imo, Paetro is the talent behind the series.  This one is a thriller to the max, it has a compelling story-line and the 

The narrator is quite good but the musical accompaniment is annoying in places.  I may be something of a purist in this regard.  I like audio books to consist of a narrator reading a book to the listeners.  I don’t want a lot of over-dramatizing, I don’t want sound effects.  I don’t want a movie or radio or podcast experience.  I want the book to sound pretty much like it sounds when I read it silently.  

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All For Nothing ~ by Walter Kampowski

I didn’t realize it until half-way through Bloodlands,  but I read All For Nothing back in 2018. I thought it was longer ago than that and didn’t check my blog but there it is and gave it a 9.5 which is an anticipated 10 if I read it a second time.
https://mybecky.blog/2018/09/01/all-for-nothing-by-walter-kempowski/

All For Nothing
by Walter Kempowski

(translated by Althea Bell 2006)
Read by Grover Gardner – 11h 20m
First published 2003 / 352 pages
Rating: 10 historical fiction
(Read and listened.) 

I only read it on Kindle back then because it wasn’t available at Audible as it is now. My opinion hasn’t changed and I think the reader, one of my favorites, adds to the mood, the ambiance. I read and listened this time. 

What was added was my knowledge of what was going on around the von Globig family and with their Georgenhof mansion on the road between Russia and Berlin. So Germans are refugees from their homeland which Russia is taking over.  I knew very, very generally but just recently read (and studied actually)the excellent book Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder (see review).  

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No One Is Talking About This by: Patricia Lockwood

I started, I thought, This is stupid!  I continued anyway not understanding more than a hint and a glimmer of maybe some kind of setting and a character. Slowly a bit more setting set in and then another character.  Very odd but it’s very nicely written, funny in places and very well narrated, I guess, but what is it? There’s something here which is compelling.

So it took time and some curiosity and I persevered. It’s a good thing the book is only 200+ pages long. 

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
2021 / (207 pp)
read by Kristen Sieh 4h 43m
Rating: 9.75

And then it clicked. And it is totally timely. Almost too timely for comfort. And the tension in the last 1/3 or 1/4 of the book is way too high for me to go to bed.  

Our 3rd person female narrator (named 1 time as Linda) is browsing the internet (I think) and finds a wide variety of bizarity via “the portal.” There is natural scenery and politics and general harassment.  The Dictator, yes, they have one, is very funny to her.  She has no focus or concentration span.  Her profound thoughts are worse than ridiculous.  There is an Anonymous History Channel which shows footage of millions of people on the march. And the general feeling is that it’s “A great shame about all of it.”  This character, Linda?, sounds really stoned to me. 

She says that eavesdropping is a big problem. The women all have the same scar on their knee but it’s not the same because one white person is different. That one is whisked away. Maybe the portal caused the Dictator.  

No One Is Talking About This got many awards including a Short List spot on the Booker List.  And it got tons of rave reviews – check Amazon.
https://tinyurl.com/m6bd636y

I think you need to read this book. I should maybe read it again.

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Ghost Hero ~ by S.J. Rozan

I’m reading this one for a strange challenge in the 4-Mystery Addicts (4-MA) reading group

The challenge is to read one book from the on-going Top 100 authors list the group has compiled by vote over the years. The book would preferably be by an author you haven’t read. I’ve read book #s 1-25, so here we are into #s 26-50.

Ghost Hero
by S. J. Rozan / 2011 

Read by: Emily Woo Zeller 8h 57m
Rating:  B+ / mystery-detective
(Lydia Chin/Bill Smith #11

This is a straight detective novel with a private investigator and a bit of a thriller thrown in. There’s very little violence or romance which is nice. 

 American-Born Chinese PI Lydia Chin is a New York City PI of Chinese heritage. She gets a visit from Jeff Dunbar, an art collector who wants to know if a certain rumor is true.  It seems that quite suddenly there are rumors of new art works on the market, art works by Chau Chin.  If the rumors is true and if the paintings can be found and if they’re are authentic this is tremendously important and worth a lot of money. If not … well … it wouldn’t be surprising because Chau Chin, aka Ghost Hero, supposedly died at the Tiananmen Square uprising back in 1989.   

But Jack Lee, another PI, is also looking to find out about the paintings, and Lee is working for someone else who wants to find the paintings, if they exist. Jack is a professor at NYU. 

There could be any one of several reasons for these paintings to suddenly appear decades after their author is supposed to have died: 1. someone has been keeping them, 2, they’re forgeries, or 3, the artist, Chau Chun, is alive somewhere. He’s not called the Ghost Hero for nothing. 

The main characters are nicely developed. Bill Smith, Lydia’s partner in business and detecting, is multi-talented, enthusiastic, and knows a lot of people. Lydia’s mother doesn’t like him but that’s okay – Bill and Lydia don’t seem to be personally involved. I had to get used to the wise-cracking style but it was fine when I did.

The main problem I had was the narrator. The accidents were distracting and she was unable to differentiate between the male and female voices.  The best part was the ending, I’m glad I read it.

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Banned Books – ???

In the Washington Post of May 3, 2022:  

Teens fight for the right to read with ‘banned-book clubs’ and lawsuits
By Hannah Natanson

https://tinyurl.com/u2tt5nha
(Washington Post)

If you don’t get past the paywall at WaPo the gist of the article is that at a public high school in Austin,Texas (Leander School District) some of the students are working to get to read these books in spite of the school ban.  

I think it was back 20-25 years ago when Banned Book Week first came to my attention. Or maybe it was 30 years. It was started in 1982 by the American Library Association and I supported it generally, but imho it was nonsense.  Yes.  My problem was with the meaning of the word “banned.”  I knew Ulysses had been banned but that was lifted in 1933 or so.  Ulysses was banned as being” a novel which… might cause American readers to harbor “impure and lustful thoughts.”  But the ban was lifted. So in today’s world, what does “banned” mean? These are the books which were/are banned by the US government: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_books_banned_by_governments#United_States

Considering the problems in US schools and some fresh thinking, I’ve kind of changed my mind. But this country has changed too. In my days as a teacher (1987-2011) a few books were “banned” or challenged for being socialist or communist but that was it (that I knew of).  

And I think I may have read a few books in my Kindergarten classroom which were or had been banned somewhere. Leo Lionni was said to be a communist – well no – but he was close. I read lots and lots of his books – no one EVER complained.  
https://tinyurl.com/34w5psue (Publisher’s Weekly)

I was taking the term “banned” to mean by the government or something. The Post Office used to be big on this and the military still does it but that might be a different story.  So the “banned book list” included To Kill A Mockingbird and Grapes of Wrath and so on. Who cares?  I should read them now, in 1998, and get some kind of vicarious thrill out of thinking I’m being brave or liberal or whatever – avant garde? LOL!

At that point I didn’t count schools in my thinking because the kids or their parents could still get the books in lots and lots of places.  These books weren’t “banned” in any sense of the term with which I was familiar,  especially not after the advent of the internet. The old sales heading of “Banned in Boston” just didn’t cut it anymore. (I know – I’m showing my early Boomer-ness.)

** Fwiw,  I banned “All In the Family” in my home – my kids at ages 4 and 6 were not old enough to have a clue what satire was about.  I could just see them calling their little friends at school and in the neighborhood (a very inclusive area in San Jose) “jungle bunny” or something – I mean – it gets a laugh on TV.  In fact, I did overhear one child calling another child “black” whereupon my daughter said,  “He’s not black, he’s polka-dot!” And I thought to myself that I was probably doing a fair job.  🙂  ** 

Now?  I think this school text banning has gone a bit too far, but otoh, if parents want these books for their kids I strongly encourage them to go get them – they’re right there at Amazon – probably every single one of them and more.  Maybe even at the public library, who knows?  Because the American Library certainly supports freedom to read.  (You know this is the 1st amendment.) And just as a “note from teacher,” it would be super-helpful if parents read and discussed stuff with their kids anyway (all ages!)  

*When I was in school there were no Nancy Drew books in the school library. I was annoyed but my mom thought this “omission” was a good idea because Nancy Drew was not literature. So I never got Nancy Drew as a gift, or any book for that matter – not as long as there was a public library in town.  But, yay, the public library had them and my mom didn’t interfere with what I actually read. If I could get my hands on it I could read it.  LOL!   

*When I was in school there were no Nancy Drew books in the school library. I was annoyed but my mom thought this “omission” (not “banning”!)  was a good idea because Nancy Drew was “not literature.” I never received a Nancy Drew book as a gift, or any book for that matter, not as long as there was a public library in town.  

But, yay, the public library had them and my mom didn’t interfere with what I actually read. If I could get my hands on it I could read it.  LOL!   

“Although the books outperformed any other long-running literature series, they were banned by librarians and educators throughout the United States for “debauching and vitiating” a child’s imagination.  Considering the public’s overall admiration for and enjoyment of the mystery stories, perhaps the bad reviews may also be contributed to Stratemeyer’s cutting edge creation of a brave female detective.”

https://www.literarytraveler.com/articles/nancy-drew-a-stratemeyer-family-enigma/

At this point I do NOT approve of some self-selected bunch of right-wing probably Christian idiots storming the school board meeting and screaming at them and forcing the issue their way. The school board members are simply grabbing books as named, not as they’ve read! I hope the general public sorts this one out at the polls.  

And what did my precious innocent little students see on the playground before and after school?  A couple of moms holding hands and bringing the kid to school – maybe having a bit of a kiss between the adults as they waited. But none of the kiddos ever asked even one single question. (I would have said, “That’s a family question – you need to ask your family.”).

I’m wondering if some sex-police are going to be hired by the school district to keep propriety on the campuses. And I wonder about the head of ??? who was transexual. He changed from man to woman, back to man and then again to woman! We were advised early on NEVER to mention it in his presence – I think the powers-that-be feared the omnipresent lawsuit.  

My point is that this is REAL LIFE, folks. Situations like this might never have even been thought of, much less occurred, back in the 1950s where you were growing up in those simpler times, but it certainly does today – “right here in River City.” (I lived in a small town in California, population 50,000.)

Sorry for the length of this.  No, I don’t entirely trust teachers who seduce their 15-year old students. But I do trust the American Library Association and the school can go by that or the state curriculum or some other approved source.  

Right now, thanks to ebooks and subscriptions to services, schools are being supplied by huge networks of educational book suppliers and it’s kind of crazy to check ALL the books in the suppliers’ catalogues and/or for the supplier to manage their requests.  LOL!  Imagine some supplier dealing with both the Berkeley school district and a rural Iowa school district – or some rural school district in Michigan and a liberal school district in Texas (like Plano Texas).  – (Not meaning to put geography in on this.) 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banned_Books_Week

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Hamnet ~ by Maggie O’Farrell

This came out a few years ago but I dragged my feet so other books got in the way.  But it was available at the library the other day so I snatched it.  Yay me! I read and very much enjoyed this although I encountered some difficult parts.  It’s not a biography nor does it pretend to be.  O’Farrell did considerable research though and it was nominated for the 2021 Walter Scott award for historical fiction, among other prizes. 

Hamnet
by Maggie O’Farrell

2020 / (321 pages)
Read by Ell Potter 12h 42m
Rating 9 / historical fiction 

The tale is that of a family with 11-year old twins of which the boy dies during the time of the Black Plague in England. The whole title is, “Hamnet: A Novel of the Plague” and the Dedication reads “To Will.” Hamnet/Hamlet died in 1596.

In the 1580s a couple living in Stratford,  had 3 children including a set of twins.  The boy died in 1596 at age 11.  Four years later the father wrote a play called Hamlet which was staged by 1601. The names Hamnet and Hamlet were interchangeable in that day and place or so says Steven Greenblatt – renowned Shakespeare scholar (whose books I’ve actually read). Very little is known about Shakespeare and his family life, but his name does come up in the Stratford documents and that’s about all we really know.  O’Farrell pretty much invented the rest of the novel. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare.
I’ve read very different inventions of Shakespeare’s life.  

This story has three (or more) separate timelines plus backstories so it’s easy to get confused. It all comes together about 2/3 of the book.  

Above all, this is a story of deep grief. A beloved boy is dead and how do those who loved him get over that? The characters are wonderfully well developed, the setting is bucolic if not particularly atmospheric, and the plot, although slow, is compelling. It’s the writing which stands out. The language and the cadence are pitch perfect.  The narrator does it all justice.  

   

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About the following post –

I read the following this morning and agreed so much I had to repost. It’s from a blog I enjoy. I might just take to doing a few different things once in a great while. Maybe I’ll post a political comment, or a recipe or perhaps even a wee bit of personal gardening info. I do more stuff than read – (not a lot more but some wee bit more).

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It is better we found out now

musingsofanoldfart

A friend told me that regardless of the seditious actions and Big Lie of the former president, that even his better educated relatives and friends who voted for Donald J. Trump will do so again. As unbelievable as this sounds, too many think this way. Here was a note I forwarded to him that he could feel free to share.

As an independent and former Republican and Democrat, I understood why some voted for Trump in 2016, as his opponent, although very experienced and skilled, rubbed too many the wrong way. She was one of the most capable candidates that has ever run, yet Trump’s success was getting people not to vote at all or for one of the other three candidates due to her past.

After watching him for four years, I cannot believe people voted for him again as what I saw was overt deceitful and bullying actions…

View original post 323 more words

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Developmental Politics ~ by Steve McIntosh

This book is way over my head.  To me it sounds like someone from a post-grad (or post-doc) psych class went to City Hall and gave them a little Saturday “workshop” on how they can learn to agree and have productive discussions through value integration and agreement technology.  LOL!   

Developmental Politics
How America Can Grow Into a Better Version of Itself

by Steve McIntosh
2020
/ 248 pages
read by Josh Innerst
rating: 4 / Politics and Soc. Sciences
(both read and listened)

So after Chapter 1, I started over in an attempt to get my head sorted out starting with the vocabulary. I don’t think this is for newcomers to the work of McIntosh. I think he may mean something pretty specific when he uses words and phrases like Integral Philosophy.This book is outlining the political side of a spiritual issue which he developed in his 3 prior books. And McIntosh has a heavy background including creating a “think tank” with colleagues which is “dedicated to applying an emerging ‘developmental’ perspective to America’s political challenges.” (Loc 169 in Preface. (The think tank is called the Institute for Cultural Development and it’s at https://www.culturalevolution.org

After outlining the Institute’s brief history, McIntosh goes on to introduce the scope and sequence of the book. He’s very methodical -introduce, detail, conclude – so the book reads a bit like a textbook. The Chapters are divided into 2 main Parts – the first analyzes the current political culture and associated “worldviews” and “introducing a method for overcoming hyperpolarization.” He includes political philosophy and gives examples but he doesn’t get into specific issues because that “would only leave us bogged down in the stalemated duopoly we need to escape.” (oh.) So the prescription is to be beyond “left” or “right” or “center” and be “beyond.”

In Part II McIntire tells us that he is saying we need to “update our political philosophy to account for the radical social changes (of) the past fifty years.” and the ends the Preface with:

“As we will see, the evolution we require must include both the personal growth of a critical mass of our citizens, as well as the collective maturation of our culture as a whole. Fostering positive growth at both of these levels simultaneously is thus the mission of developmental politics.”

So that’s what he does. It reads like an earnest and masterfully well organized textbook. I had to start over again after Chapter 4 because I really wasn’t sure about some of the seemingly specialized terminology.

Bottom line, I certainly wish him and his group the very best of wishes. This book was written before Covid even came on the scene, much less the “stop the steal” conspiracies. Unfortunately, imo, those have been distractions and the polarization continues – maybe more fiercely. And climate disaster is looming. Lots of people will change their minds about Trump but they’ll all continues to be terrified of “liberals,” and will never (ever) vote for one. Where does that put Mr McIntosh’s ideas re “political development” and “evolution:” unless he puts the personal spiritual condition first and foremost (to get an “in”) in which case nothing will change. (That’s what the book sounded like to me.)

I could say a LOT more about this but I’ll hush.

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On Juneteenth ~ by Annette Gordon Reed

On Juneteenth has been on my Wish List at Audible since it was published last year.  I read a lot of African American lit anyway so I figured since it’s Juneteenth right now, just do it. I’m glad I did.

On Juneteenth
by Annette Gordon Reed

2021 / 
Read by Karen Chilton 3h 44m

Rating: 8/ memoir-US history  

It was quite shocking when I first learned about the events of Juneteenth and I thought that with this book I was going to get more about the history.  I knew Galveston and the landing of the US ship. Nope – the book is not about the origin of the holiday. And I knew how slaves got to Texas in spite of slavery being against the law in Mexico which at that time included Texas. 

But Reed was after a different story. She’s a native Texan and she’s Black with a family history going back in Texas more than a couple generations, so this is a natural book for her. And a lot of it is a memoir of Reed’s childhood in a small East Texas town of Conroe where White Supremacy reigned.  The town is 7 miles west of Montgomery, Alabama.  Reed was the first to integrate her elementary school at age 6 but other than that and family stories there’s not a lot of memoir material.

There’s more about racial issues in Texas in general. Much of this is really interesting to me because the closest I ever came to living in a slave state was when I lived in Brownsville, Texas between 1978 and 1980. But in Texas, after Reconstruction, there were Jim Crow laws as well as “extra-legal violence.”  The city of Conroe was a particularly harsh town for Black people,

The book is a compilation of 6 essays which don’t have to be well joined. But they seem to wander around.be looking for meaningful substance. The writing is wonderful though and the subject matter is interesting so I’m very glad I read it.   

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When We Cease To Understand The World ~ by Benjamín Labatut

First – I finished the book at a reasonable time last night and then stayed awake until 3 am even with a couple of Tylenol PM at 11 pm – whatever –  I watched the interview (below) this morning.  

When We Cease to Understand
the World
by Benjamín Labatut

Translated by Adrian Nathan West
2020 – 
Rating – 10 – historical fiction
(read and listened)

First –  I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!!!  

“An extraordinary ‘non-fiction novel’ weaves a web of associations between the founders of quantum mechanics and the evils of two world wars.”
(From the publishers, but “non-fiction novel” was originally from John Banville in the Guardian  – the whole quote is found in several “reviews. And at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjam%C3%ADn_Labatut

And Labatut said “…it is a book made up by an essay (which is not chemically pure), two stories that try not to be stories, a short novel, and a semi-biographical prose piece.” 
(Ibid)

 I’ve never quite known what to think about “nonfiction novels” since I first heard that in connection with Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” (1966) which I read when it came to my library’s Recently Released shelves. There are a quite a number of mixed genre books like  this though and Capote’s was by no means the first.   

Labatut addresses this seeming contradiction in a very educational and entertaining interview with Lawrence Weschler at: 
https://tinyurl.com/3atvpdat
https://www.nyrb.com/products/when-we-cease-to-understand-the-world?variant=37890166784168 ) 
I think they used Zoom and the backgrounds for the two speakers are outstanding – each man is in his nest surrounded by books  

And it is a superb interview – one of the best I’ve ever seen.  Labatut is a hunk and they’re both pretty smart and funny. I was as glued as I get these days. 

Imo, about fiction/nonfiction, we have the former which is pretty much all imagined.  Then we have the latter which is either verifiable info via reliable sources or it’s some good critical thinking stuff.  In between we have “based on the real story” and “creative non-fiction” and finally the “non-fiction novel” in the order of how much imagination is involved.  I’ve read all those kinds plus memoirs which are often a blend and there are probably more – . 

So imo, “When We Cease To Understand The World” is indeed a non-fiction novel.
It’s a “novel” in that the stories are pretty much in chronological order from 1868 through today (2020) with some overlap. The work has integrity. It has balance. It has a story arc with increasing tension as you get further along in it.  

Also because although it’s indirect and over space and time, the characters do affect each other. And finally there is a plot – The overarching plot is the development of scientific/mathematical concepts from almost purely material, observable and measurable to almost purely abstract.  I’d say the main theme is “what happens when “We Cease to Understand the World.”  

The basics in the story line (and that’s probably 90-95% of the book) are all verifiable, but there are important parts which were imagined by Labatut. 

Story 1 PRUSSIAN BLUE involves Fritz Haber (1868-1934) who was involved in the extraction of nitrogen from the air and the mass production of artificial nitrogen and Zyklon B a pesticide used in the death camps of Germany). Also mentioned here are Johann Conrad Dipple (1673-1734), Carl Wilhelm Scheele (1742-1786) who used Prussic acid to accidentally discover/create cyanide (1782),  “Adi” (Adolf Hitler- 1889-1945) of Landsberg prison and 

Story 2 – SCHWARZSCHILD’S SINGULARITY is primarily about Karl Schwarzschild (1873-1916)  who polished Einstein’s theory of relativity with an exact solution to some questions. 

Story 3 THE HEART OF THE HEART is about the early math behind a lot of this – Shinichi Mochizuki plays a part but it’s mostly about Alexander Grothendiek (1928-2014), one of the most important mathematicians of the 20th century. He wanted to find and understand the foundations of mathematics. There’s a nice but abbreviated biography of him here. He followed mathematic abstraction as far as he could (near insanity) and then, after witnessing US bombing in Vietnam, believed scientists would destroy the earth so he forcefully turned to the environmental issues of our day living out his life as a very eccentric recluse. 

And WHEN WE CEASE TO UNDERSTAND THE WORLD is the novella. The names here are Erwin Schrodinger (1887-1961) and Werner Karl Heisenberg (1901-1976). And now there was a battle in the quantum world. Were elementary particles  waves (Shrodinger) or  “something dark at the heart of things.” (Heisenberg).  Prince Louis-Victor Pierre Raymond and his elder brother, Maurice de Broglie, a physicist come into the picture. And this is where Einstein comes in for a minute and when he says his now famous words, “God does not play dice with the universe.”   He also brought along with 

And the last story, THE NIGHT GARDENER, skips up to today and the 1st person may be Labatut himself having his own experiences.  
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjam%C3%ADn_Labatut

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