Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann

Measuring the World

Daniel Kehlmann

Chapter and chapter about for the stories of Carl Gauss and Alexander Humboldt, German prodigies of the late eighteenth century who set out to analyse all knowledge through rational thought (Gauss) or empirical observation (Humboldt). Sounds boring? Well believe me, it's one the most gripping reads of the century as well as being full of dry humour. A must read - and you can lower the difficulty/unexpected scores if you are already familiar with either or both of the main characters.

Extract

It was true he hadn't read a newspaper for weeks. Bartels hoarded everything. He went to his house and seated himself in front of a stack of old journals. Grimly he leaved past a report of Alexander von Humboldt's about the highlands of Caxamarca. Was there any damned place the fellow hadn't been? But just as he reached the war reports, he was interrupted by the crunching wheels of a column of wagons ... the duke was lying in one of the coaches, shot at Jena, bleeding like an ox and dying. Everything was lost.
Gauss folded the newspaper. In that case he could go home.

Parallels
  • This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson
  • Nine Nights by Bernardo Carvalho
  • The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas