Apparently there are few in the blogosphere who list Michael Frayn’s Headlong as one of their favorite books. They’re missing out. Headlong is a masterful novel that exploits historical ambiguity surrounding some of the artist Breugel‘s work. Frayn brings the period to life, digging deep into the politics and complexities of the Dutch Revolt and Philip II‘s Grand Strategy.

One of Frayn’s strengths is identifying and using historical ambiguities as a stage to express his ideas. He has very insightfully examined our perception of ourselves and others through the lense of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in Copenhagen, a play with only three actors and one prop, that exploits the historical ambiguity in the meeting of Heisenberg and Niels Bohr in Copenhagen in 1941. On the backdrop of the charged political climate of occupied Denmark and a top German scientist shadowed by the Gestapo, Frayn reveals his philosophical take on the applicability of the Uncertainty Principle in human relationships. Essentially, Frayn suggests that, like particles in an atom whose location can only be determined through the interaction they have with other sub-atomic particles, we can only see ourselves through the eyes of those with whom we interact, or whose paths we cross. 

My wife and I saw Copenhagen in London in 2001. We got a lot out of it at the time and were very pleased to be able to see it performed recently at BYU in May 2004. It’s hard to beat London, but the BYU company held their own and the ideas came through very poignantly.

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