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Mobius Dick / Magic Mountain

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  • Mobius Dick / Magic Mountain

    I've just finished reading Andrew Crumey's 'Mobius Dick' and then spotted the thread on here about The Magic Mountain, to which the book is somewhat connected.

    Anyway, I'd have to say that Mobius Dick is the first book I've read in quite a while that has really stuck in my mind afterwards. It starts out as if it's going to be a light satire and ends up somewhere else, if it can be said to have an ending (it gives nothing away to say that the narrative is a mobius strip).

    There's an awful lot going on, for a book that is stylistically light reading. On an SF level, it's a story of alternate worlds, with the usual background in quantum mechanics and the many worlds theory - there's touches of PKD and Vonnegut. Again, I don't think it gives away more than you could guess from the cover but the characters in each of the alternate worlds are writing the story of the other.

    On a literary level, it's stuffed full of allusions - from the weak pun of the title itself (which in the novel is made by a literary theorist in a lecture), to the fact that one section of the book is 'Professor Faust' by Heinrich Benring (an alternative Mann) - about a scientist called Schrodinger staying at a TB clinic on the Swiss/German border, where he makes his discovery of wave functions (all a fictional invention of Benring). This section largely consists of philosophical dinner parties, and of course at one point they mention travelling over the mountain and having met a writer and his wife. Benring's world in inevitably one without Hitler.

    There are other allusions throughout - 'an obscure Argentinian writer' in a book about stories that write themselves? The section set in Scotland, with it's strange institutes and underground machinery reminded me of Lanark (and Crumey is a Scottish novelist) - which is also a novel of alternative worlds in it's way.

    The book seems steeped in German culture - literary, musical and of course physics - and one of themes I got from the book is to what extent the former shaped the latter - it's made explicit at one point, that when people talk about the similarities of quantum mechanics and Eastern religion, they forget that it was in there from the start - i.e. that German philosophy had been influenced by Eastern concepts, and that Schrodinger had grown up in that philosophy. So have we ended up with a physics that has interpreted the evidence within that philosophy?
    (Although it's not mentioned in the book, many 'laws' in physics can be represented by more than one equivalent equation, and interpreted in two different (physically equivalent) ways - i.e.refraction can be restated that light tends to take the quickest path, rather than the effect of a material)

    So far, so clever. What that doesn't get is why it will stick with you - that's the art bit.

    Anyway, must dash. Read it, it's good.