#AtoZChallenge: April 5, 2013 ~ Euler and “e”

Euler and e

Leonhard Euler Leonhard Euler is a towering  figure of Mathematics and Physics in the 18th century, and one of the greatest mathematicians of all times.  Born in 15 April 1707 in Basel (Schweiz, Switzerland) Euler’s legacy includes “e” the Euler number, with pi one of the fundamental constants of mathematics, and volumes on infinitesimal calculus, geometry, algebra and number theory. Euler lived in Saint-Petersburg, where he died on 18 September 1783, and in Berlin.  Students of mathematics the world over owe him the Euler’s Identity:

euler described as “the most beautiful mathematical formula ever”.

#AtoZChallenge: April 2, 2013 – Berlin

Über den Dächern von Berlin

There is no theme to these posts, other than perhaps geography, as in places, landscapes and people – and of course writing, books, authors and you, reader.  Some cities are more propitious to certain books, whether as one travels to them (those long journeys on fast trains across Europe), or in the new surroundings, as one discovers streets, buildings, history and faces.

Berlin has a special place in this writer’s heart and mind.  The capital of reunited Germany,  her intellectual and youth capital as well as the political one, may well become one day the capital of an enlarged European Federation – from the Atlantic to the Urals, to paraphrase Charles De Gaulle – but this is in a future as yet undeclared.  The city covers just under 900 sqkm, and her boundaries are 234 km long.  The length of her main river, the Spree, is 45 km.  Her population at the end of 2012 was 3,513,026.

Berlin is one city on the long list of the world’s martyr cities of the 20th century: together with many other German cities incinerated by the “Allies”, Dresden, Hamburg, Bremen, Stuttgart, together with Coventry, Leningrad, Stalingrad, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki… and many others.  In Germany’s year zero – 1945 – the city was split, occupied, a hostage in a divided country in ruins.

Berlin has not forgotten anything from her history, from her early development as a medieval trading centre, through becoming the royal capital of the Prussian kingdom, the napoleonic occupation, her transformation into the imperial capital of the German Reich, the cosmopolitan city of the ill-fated Weimar Republic, the destruction of 1945, to the fall of the “Wall”, and now her position in a powerful country at the centre of the European Union.

Reichstag Some of her buildings and squares have more than iconic values: there are for us places of pilgrimage: the Reichstag, burnt by the Nazis, now seat again of the modern legislature – “Dem Deutschen Volke” – shrapnels and bullets marked, the Tiergarten, the Spree, Museumsinsel, the place near Humboldt Universität where the Nazis burnt books, Checkpoint Charlie…

And what book?  It has to be Alfred Döblin’s “Berlin Alexanderplatz”, written in 1929.  Berlin’s literature is rich, varied and well worth exploring… Perhaps see you there!

Dem Deutschen Voke

Links to the city and her past:

Jewish Museum

Liane Berkowitz

The Guardian’s City Guide

Joerg Von Stein

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#FiveSentenceFiction: Abandoned

 It was night and it was winter, but I wanted to see the place, our place, once again.

So, alone, I followed the long road, lined with so many memories of you, of us, of time past, of dreams lost.

I found the old house, the air was frosty, there was no sound as I open the door, no ghost to welcome me.

I looked up, and through the mists of time I tried to see you, as you came down those stairs, a last time, so beautiful you were, and how close the war was to us then…

But I only see the ruins, the faded colours, and the faded halo of the gas light: there are replacing the street lamps in Berlin.


#AtoZChallenge: April 19 – Q is for “Q”


The smoke rises from the pile of books. They’re picking up armfuls of the volumes loaded on the backs of the carts, and throwing them into the bonfire; a column of fire rises until it licks at the sky, to attract the angels with the smoke of Peter Lombard, Augustine, Tacitus, Caesar, Aristotle…

(“Q”, Dance of Death, by Luther Bisset, 2000)

“Q” the novel, which was followed by “Manituana”, in 2009, by the same authors (now under the collective pen name of Wu Ming) traces the origins of modern times through the Reformation and the tribulations in Europe of a member of the sect of the Anabaptists. The descriptions of medieval (but this was the 16th century!) tortures, executions and of the auto-dafes are excruciating. The novel consists of plots within plots. What struck me from reading Q and other novels, and of course historical accounts, is the rage to destroy books, from the bonfires of the Spanish Inquisition, the Wartburg Festival, and on to the Nazis’ day of cleansing, in Berlin, in 1933.

Those who are wrong, and who know they are, are enraged by books, as books may tell truths they cannot contemplate.

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