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Die Vermessung der Welt. by Daniel Kehlmann
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Die Vermessung der Welt. (original 2005; edition 2008)

by Daniel Kehlmann, Daniel Kehlmann (Author)

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2,341962,695 (3.79)109
Member:kalafudra
Title:Die Vermessung der Welt.
Authors:Daniel Kehlmann
Other authors:Daniel Kehlmann (Author)
Info:Rowohlt (2008), Broschiert, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:fiction, biography

Work details

Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann (2005)

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» See also 109 mentions

English (59)  German (16)  French (4)  Swedish (4)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (3)  Danish (2)  Italian (2)  English (1)  Norwegian (1)  English (95)
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
This charming little novel entices the reader into the lives of two contemporary geniuses, each an eccentric in his own way. First, Alexander von Humboldt, the celibate explorer, remembered in our time for his discovery of the Humboldt Current. Then there is Gauss, the mathematician with a mind and manners as sharp as a tack. The clunky translation from German to English with glaring grammatical errors and the odd bit of historical inaccuracy added for titillation in lieu of edification (Cook was killed in the Hawaiian Islands but not eaten by cannibals) do not detract from the overall enticement of the book. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
An enjoyable novel about Gauss and Humbolt ( )
  M_Clark | Apr 24, 2016 |
While I was reading the excellent [The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World] by Andrea Wulf, I thought it would be a good idea to reread Daniel Kehlmann’s fictional take on Humboldt and Carl Friedrich Gauss, [Measuring the World], which was one of my top books of 2009. So, as soon as I had finished Wulf’s book, I dove in.

This was a mistake.

[Measuring the World] took as its genesis a meeting between the great scientist and explorer Humboldt and the great mathematician Gauss at a convention in Berlin, and then looks back at their early years of genius and discovery and forward at their supposed interactions from that point. Humboldt travels the world to take its measure, while Gauss’s measurements are all done from the tight radius of his homeland. The first time I read it, I was completely taken with both the dreamlike style and the entertaining take on the work of these two geniuses.

This time, however, having just read about Humboldt, I could not recognize him or those near and dear to him in this book. Kehlmann’s Humboldt has terrible relationships that in real life were close and loving. His Humboldt encourages “the settlement of colonies,” “the conquest of nature,” and “an orderly exploitation of the earth’s deep treasures,” laments the “selfish interests of the workers,” insults natives by desecrating burial sites and stealing bodies, and mocks the idea of evolution. He is the anti-Humboldt, and I couldn’t get over my disappointment.

It’s likely that this was all deliberate. At one point, Kehlmann has Humboldt say, in a discussion of literature and theater:

Artists were too quick to forget their task, which was to depict reality. Artists held deviation to be a strength, but invention confused people, stylization falsified the world. Take stage sets, which didn’t even try to disguise the fact that they were made of cardboard, English paintings, with backgrounds swimming in an oily soup, novels that wandered off into lying fables because the author tied his fake inventions to the names of real historical personages.

However, since Humboldt is not well known today, at least outside of Germany (in large part because of anti-German sentiment after WWI), his character is sure to be taken at face value.

So, if you’re going to read this book, please look at the characters as fictional, and not as real historical personages.
  cabegley | Feb 4, 2016 |
4.5 stars, rounded down to 4.

Carl Friedrich Gauss, one of the greatest mathematicians of all time, and Alexander von Humboldt, explorer and "measurer" extraordinaire, meet near the beginning of this book which then looks back over their separate lives from boyhood to their geriatric years, following them in two separate close third person POVs. This is a work of fiction, yet delves into many facts of their lives as well.

The best part of this book for me was how Kehlmann captured the POV of someone like Gauss whose young mind moved so much faster than that of anyone else he met, even other brilliant minds of the age. The reason this book belongs on the 1001 Books list, IMO, is because it's about two men whose work made a significant impact (One of Humboldt's achievements was to take enough measurements in enough places to prove that the earth's core is hotter as you get closer to it).

I don't have a lot to say about this book, and am glad I didn't read anyone else's reviews too closely before reading it, because the journey of discovery as you read it is perhaps the best part about the book. I didn't like to the point where I was up all night reading it, so I didn't give it 5 stars (but then, rarely give those out). Plus, this translation has no quotation marks, one of my pet peeves, but I'm glad I kept reading. This is one time when I am glad I didn't read the ending first (after all, I can find out what happened to those men with just a quick google), so I highly recommend avoiding that if it's something you also have a habit of doing.

A couple of quotes:

If anyone asked the professor about his early memories, he was told that such things didn't exist. Memories, unlike engravings or letters, were undated. One came upon things in one's memory which one sometimes was able, on reflection, to arrange in the right order. later (this is re: Gauss' childhood) Most of his later memories were of slowness. For a long time he had believed that people were acting or following some ritual that always obliged them to pause before they spoke or did something. Sometimes he managed to accommodate himself to them, but then it became unendurable again. Only gradually did he come to understand that they needed these pauses. Why did they think so slowly, so laboriously and hard? As if their thoughts were issuing from some machine that had first to be cranked and then put into gear, instead of being living things that moved of their own accord. He noticed that people got angry when he didn't stop himself. he did his best, but often it didn't work. ( )
  Karin7 | Jan 20, 2016 |
I found this book to be rather charming. It's a double biography of two not very well known scientists, Alexander von Humboldt and Carl Friedrich Gauss. It is an adventure tale as Humboldt did a lot of travel while measuring the world. Gauss believed that "a man alone at his desk" represented the real scientist. There is a lot of inside German jokes which adds some humor to the book. I would highly recommend this book to those who love science and love to travel. ( )
  EadieB | Jan 19, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
En mesterlig bog om videnskabens begrænsninger og et must for alle, der vil underholdes på højt niveau.
added by 2810michael | editKristeligt Dagblad, Moritz Schramm
 
Han er som sine romanfigurer selv en lille smule genial, hvad kritikken i Tyskland for længst har bemærket. Man overgiver sig til denne romans makrokosmiske kortlægning med dens generøse blanding af løsagtighed og præcision. Og er mere end godt underholdt.
added by 2810michael | editInformation, Thomas Thurah
 
En million tyskere kan sagtens tage fejl. Men det gjorde de ikke, da de købte Daniel Kehlmanns drilske geniroman Opmålingen af verden (...) Kehlmann gør det fermt, sjovt og afsindig lærd.
added by 2810michael | editWeekendavisen, Joakim Jakobsen
 
I enhver henseende er bogen en storslået kunstnerisk og filosofisk bedrift af den kun 32-årige forfatter.
added by 2810michael | editJyllands-Posten, Johs. H Christensen
 

» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kehlmann, Danielprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Freij, Lars W.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Janeway, Carol BrownTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Olivieri, PaolaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vogelaar, JacqTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Im September 1828 verließ der größte Mathematiker des Landes zum ersten Mal seit Jahren seine Heimatstadt, um am Deutschen Naturforscherkongreß in Berlin teilzunehmen.
In September, 1828, the greatest mathematician in the country left his hometown for the first time in years, to attend the German Scientific Congress in Berlin.
Quotations
Ein Hügel, von dem man nicht wisse, wie hoch er sei, beleidige die Vernunft und mache ihn unruhig. Ohne stetig die eigene Position zu bestimmen, könne ein Mensch sich nicht fortbewegen. Ein Rätsel, wie klein auch immer, lasse man nicht am Wegesrand.
Der Pastor Blickte ihn streng an. Stolz sei eine Todsünde!
(...)
Warum?
Der Pastor bat um Verzeihung. Er habe wohl falsch verstanden.
(...)Er meine es rein teologisch, sagte Gauß. Gott habe einen geschaffen, wie man sei, dann aber solle man sich ständig bei ihm dafür entschuldigen. Logisch sei das nicht.
Der Pastor äußerte die Vermutung, daß etwas mit seinen Ohren nicht stimme.
Gefragt, was er hier tue, erklärte er nervös die Technik der Triangulation.
(...)
Ein Dreieck, sagte sie, habe nur auf einer Fläche hundertachzig Grad Winkelsumme, auf einer Kugel aber nicht. Damit stehe und falle doch alles.
Er musterte sie, als sähe sie erst jetzt. Mit hochgezogenen Brauen erwiderte sie seinen Blick. Ja, sagte er. So. Um das auszugleichen, müsse man Dreiecke gewissermassen nach der Messung zu unendlich kleiner Größe schrumpfen lassen. Grundsätzlich eine einfache Differentialoperation. Allerdings in dieser Form .... (...) In dieser Form , murmelte er, whärend er zu notieren begann, habe das noch keiner durchgeführt. Als er aufsah, war er allein.
Als Humboldt kurz darauf seine Instrumente einpackte, wußte er, daß die Sonne am Tag des Solstitiums von der Chaussee aus gesehen genau über ser Spitze der größten Pyramide auf- und durch die Spitze der zweitgrößten unterging. Diese ganze Stadt war ein Kalender! Wer hatte das erdacht? Wie gut hatten die Menschen die Sterne gekannt, und was hatten sie mitteilen wollen? Seit über tausend Jahren war er der erste, der ihre Botschaft lesen konnte.
Writing a novel, said Humboldt, seemed to him the perfect way to capture the most fleeting essence of the present for the future. (pg 20)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307277399, Paperback)

Measuring the World marks the debut of a glorious new talent on the international scene. Young Austrian writer Daniel Kehlmann’s brilliant comic novel revolves around the meeting of two colossal geniuses of the Enlightenment.Late in the eighteenth century, two young Germans set out to measure the world. One of them, the aristocratic naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, negotiates jungles, voyages down the Orinoco River, tastes poisons, climbs the highest mountain known to man, counts head lice, and explores and measures every cave and hill he comes across. The other, the reclusive and barely socialized mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss, can prove that space is curved without leaving his home. Terrifyingly famous and wildly eccentric, these two polar opposites finally meet in Berlin in 1828, and are immediately embroiled in the turmoil of the post-Napolean world.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:29 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

At the end of the eighteenth century, two young Germans set out to measure the world, as Alexander von Humboldt journeys to unexplored regions of the planet, and Carl Friedrich Gauss uses his mathematical skills to solve some of the greatest puzzles of his age.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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