Copenhagen (book review) Michael Frayn

201209 third reading: my father (physical chemist) died 2 March and since then i keep discovering things i would talk to him about, this play is an example. i read it yet again, want to see production sometime, and remember how generally dismissive he usually was about artistic 'takes' on complex physics/chemistry etc though i do not know if i talked to him about this play. his Alzheimer's is fairly degenerate by the time i read it and intellectual abstractions are becoming lost by then. and on the other, my knowledge even of undergrad chemistry is nowhere. on the other other, i have always been curious about, willing to understand, reading some science, listening to some sources, but the key is always to me how the project of science is honourable and durable and never as contingent as my arts...


or so i tell myself. because, of course, science is essentially a human project, with all the usual human qualities and failings, but for me there is always something beautiful that pure ideas- theoretical, disinterested, abstract- can be so fascinating for all one's life. my father always mentioned that the true great innovations leading to Nobels etc came to younger physicists, and he felt he is just never up to that, never as dedicated, so i think of him, when pressed on his career, suggesting 'i think i proved some things...' which may be all enough any scientist can reasonably ask for...


in this play, on the other, the characters investigated are famous and revered physicists, and maybe this is all that artists can do to represent science- as no less than magic, as personalities rather than ideas, as interpersonal conflicts, even with buried generational conflicts between the protagonists (the wife is sort of a chorus)... but reading the notes at the end of the play, extensive, intriguing: does make me wonder more and more how the author is able to even fashion this concise, fascinating, beautiful play...


240318: much later addition: i read this again with somewhat more educated stance, at least in philosophy, and i am again so impressed. this is a memory play, the characters heisenberg, bohr, bohr's wife margarethe, as if recounting this true incident as ghosts, forever trying to understand the other, in thoughts, in acts, but best resolved in metaphoric terms of the 'copenhagen interpretation' of quantum physics and the uncertainty principle and relativity... i have grown up and seen my scientist father and colleagues endeavour to communicate, share, dispute, abstruse physics and can easily imagine these characters doing exactly as they are portrayed. for me this play ranks with 'waiting for godot'...


??? 2000s. first review: now i want to see it produced: tv movie dvd where are you...


second review: i read a critical complaint that the character of heisenberg, musing on the horrors of war inflicted on germany, was rationally convincing himself that this was reason enough to help the nazis and build an atom bomb- and the reviewer was outraged this was not balanced by the horrors the nazis were responsible for, and she castigated the writer frayn for this! but i would argue, this would have been entirely consistent for heisenberg, this could have been his thoughts, which are not those of the writer. this suggests how real the characters become in this excellent play...

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if you like this review, i now have website: www.michaelkamakana.com 220611: this is probably the most academically accurate of the translations I have read of this book, but still prefer commentary o