Is the particle there? Schrödinger in Clontarf…

Hilary Mantel reviews A Game with Sharpened Knives by Neil Belton, in the London Review of Books:

BefoschroedingerNeil Belton’s account of one year of Schrödinger’s life is bleak, judicious, thickly atmospheric. No kind of weather suits this latitude: winter is a raw season of privation – cold bathwater and rationing – and summer leaves the clerks and shop assistants ‘stunned and listless’ in their shirtsleeves on Stephen’s Green, while the smell of the river envelops the Georgian slums with their gaping doors and shattered fanlights. The city, censored and self-censoring, is constantly listening into itself, and testing the power of silence. Ireland’s citizens, like the physicists of the time, need to accommodate themselves to duality, coexist with paradox. Schrödinger is an honest and searching observer, but his role is limited; it is a brutal physical fact that he is losing his sight. His work does not progress. His home life is miserable; Hilde, for whose sake he endured sweating and chancy interviews with the Irish authorities, has become both emotionally and physically disengaged from him. He feels Ireland to be a sort of Limbo; Limbo, his unhappy wife points out, lies close to Hell.

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