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On the Red Carpet

David Thomson, 7 March 2024

... believe the skipper was in the dark, I recommend a novel from last year, The Maniac, by Benjamín Labatut (Pushkin, £20), which is an astonishing scenario of the Hungarian mathematician John von Neumann. He was a helpless genius, who laid down principles that were vital in the development of computers, game theory and our understanding of evolution (he was a ...

Quantum Influencers

Adam Mars-Jones, 7 April 2022

When We Cease to Understand the World 
by Benjamin Labatut, translated by Adrian Nathan West.
Pushkin, 192 pp., £8.99, May 2021, 978 1 78227 614 2
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... Benjamin Labatut​ ’s When We Cease to Understand the World is a skein of non-fiction stories or narrative essays unified by their subject matter, the mostly 20th-century breakthroughs in physics and chemistry that shook both those disciplines and the wider world. (The judges of last year’s International Booker Prize, who shortlisted the book, must have concluded that the fictional element predominates, though it amounts to embroidery in the gaps between facts ...


Jeremy Harding: Arthur Rimbaud, 30 July 1998

Somebody Else: Arthur Rimbaud in Africa 1880-91 
by Charles Nicholl.
Vintage, 336 pp., £7.99, May 1998, 0 09 976771 6
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A Season in Hell and Illuminations 
by Arthur Rimbaud, translated by Mark Treharne.
Dent, 167 pp., £18.99, June 1998, 0 460 87958 8
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... the hoof, however, everything begins to ease up and move with him, in the manner of the city that Benjamin envisaged for Baudelaire. Rimbaud was not a flâneur. There’s too much of the forced march, and the habits of the robust boy from the sticks, in the way he gets from A to B. But in the Illuminations, the effects of parallax and the sense of landscape ...

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