‘When We Cease to Understand the World’
Labatut, a Chilean novelist born in 1980 in the Netherlands, casts the flickering light of Gothic fiction on 20th-century science. The mix of fact and fiction is in itself common, but Labatut's formula is unusual. According to Labatut, that chapter contains only a single paragraph of fiction. The hallucination in which the German naturalist and polymath Goethe fellates the lifeless body of Hafez, the 14th-century Sufi poet whose verses had inspired his Divan, is all Labatut's. In Labatut's telling, Heisenberg then comes to recognize that the parameters of any given quantum object can never be identified with certainty. With his slippery hybrid of fact and fiction, Labatut slyly applies the uncertainty principle to the human pursuit of knowledge itself. As Labatut puts it, in words he ascribes to Schwarzschild: "Only a vision of the whole, like that of a saint, a madman or a mystic, will permit us to decipher the true organizing principles of the universe."