NYRB: Benjamín Labatut presents "When We Cease to Understand the World," with Lawrence Weschler

October 21, 2021, 7:30 PM

Benjamín Labatut joins us to present his new novel When We Cease to Understand the World, in conversation with Lawrence Weschler. Community Bookstore is pleased to partner with Arts Letters & Numbers in presenting this public discussion as part of its series of Weschler-curated conversations in the Italian Virtual Pavilion of the current 17th Venice Architecture Biennale. This program, part of our ongoing virtual event series with New York Review Books will take place on Zoom. Register here:

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Shortlisted for the 2021 International Booker Prize

When We Cease to Understand the World is a book about the complicated links between scientific and mathematical discovery, madness, and destruction.

Fritz Haber, Alexander Grothendieck, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger—these are some of luminaries into whose troubled lives Benjamín Labatut thrusts the reader, showing us how they grappled with the most profound questions of existence. They have strokes of unparalleled genius, alienate friends and lovers, descend into isolation and insanity. Some of their discoveries reshape human life for the better; others pave the way to chaos and unimaginable suffering. The lines are never clear.

At a breakneck pace and with a wealth of disturbing detail, Labatut uses the imaginative resources of fiction to tell the stories of the scientists and mathematicians who expanded our notions of the possible.

Benjamín Labatut was born in Rotterdam in 1980 and grew up in The Hague, Buenos Aires, and Lima. He published two award-winning works of fiction prior to When We Cease to Understand the World, which is his first book to be translated into English. Labatut lives with his family in Santiago, Chile. (Author photo: Juana Gómez)

Lawrence Weschler, a veteran of twenty years at the New Yorker (1981-2001), where his work shuttled between political tragedies and cultural comedies, and then fourteen years directing the NY Institute for the Humanities at NYU, is the author of over twenty books, including Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees (his celebrated biography of artist Robert Irwin), Mr Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder (on LA's Museum of Jurassic Technology), And How Are You, Doctor Sacks (a biographical memoir of his thirty-five year friendship with the neurologist Oliver Sacks), and coming soon, A Trove of Zohars.