Saturday, September 04, 2021


Great News

Niccolo Tucci, "The Great Foreigner," The New Yorker (November 22, 1947), on a visit to Albert Einstein, who is the first speaker in the following exchange (I = Tucci, he = Einstein):
“But now tell me another thing. What do you give to your children in the way of good news about the world?”

“Plenty,” I said. “For example, I tell them about Socrates, who was killed by the greatest democracy on earth for standing at the corner drugstore and asking questions that made the politicians feel uncomfortable.”

“That’s not a cheerful story, either,” he said, “but if they were able to absorb some of the spirit of the Greeks, that would serve them a great deal later on in life. The more I read the Greeks, the more I realize that nothing like them has ever appeared in the world since.”

“You read the Greeks?” I said.

“But of course,” he replied, slightly surprised at my amazement. And so I heard, partly from him and partly from Miss Dukas, that he reads the Greeks to Maja every night for an hour or so, even if he has had a very tiring day. Empedocles, Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Thucydides receive the tribute of the most advanced and abstract modern science every night, in the calm voice of this affectionate brother who keeps his sister company.

“You know,” I said, “that is great news. Young Americans, who have an idea of the pure scientist worthy of the comics, should be told that Einstein reads the Greeks. All those who relish the idiotic and dangerous myth of the scientist as a kind of Superman, free from all bonds of responsibility, should know this and draw their conclusions from it. Many people in our day go back to the Greeks out of sheer despair. So you too, Herr Professor, have gone back to the Greeks.”

He seemed a little hurt. “But I have never gone away from them,” he said. “How can an educated person stay away from the Greeks? I have always been far more interested in them than in science.”
Hat tip: Kevin Muse.

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