Short Review : Einstein’s Betrayal by Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt

Written by: Mohsen Ebrahimizadeh Ghahrood

Emmanuel Schmitt studied philosophy in his early career. In his works, he always tried to incorporate the philosophical concepts he was interested in so that his writings would not be merely meaningless texts only meant for entertainment. In this play, similar to his other works (The Uninvited Guest)- which also featured a nameless character representing Freud- this time he puts Einstein under scrutiny. There are even various debates suggesting that Freud himself, or someone representing Freud’s thoughts, is present in this play, Einstein’s Betrayal.

Now, let’s move on to a content analysis of the play (in this writing, the focus is solely on the play Einstein’s Betrayal, and since some readers may not have read the play The Uninvited Guest, I will try to also refer to that play as well).

Einstein was a prominent physicist of the 20th century. He was a German and a Jew who made significant contributions to physics. Einstein’s views on religion were complex. He did not believe in a personal God, but he often spoke of a sense of wonder and awe at the universe, which some interpret as a form of spirituality. He made statements that can be interpreted in various ways, but he was clear about rejecting organized religion and the concept of a personal deity

Before World War II, when Germany still had poor relations with America, Einstein fled from Germany to America. He constantly tried to find a way to prevent the continuation of the war. When the Germans announced they had an atomic bomb and intended to use it, Einstein thought that if America also had this bomb and tested it in a desert to prove its power, it might prevent the atomic war. For this reason, he was advocating for the research to begin because of fears that Nazi Germany might develop the bomb first. However, the Americans tested the bomb in Hiroshima, killing thousands of people.

The play features three characters: Einstein, a vagrant, and Enol. Einstein is a character very similar to the physicist Einstein, while the vagrant is someone Einstein meets by a lake with whom he forms a lasting friendship. Enol is an American officer who constantly monitors Einstein and extracts information from the vagrant about his conversations with Einstein.

The vagrant is someone with Freudian views. Einstein meets the vagrant one day while sailing his boat; the vagrant is a man who lost his son in the war, turned to alcohol, and became homeless. They see each other several times, and Einstein confides in him. Many debates between them challenge each other’s knowledge and science (the vagrant represents Freud).

The play is short but very powerful. Just as in The Uninvited Guest, where the Nazi officers, the stranger, and his daughter each symbolized a layer of society, in this play, the vagrant represents those who accepted Freud’s views, and even in some cases, Freud himself conversed with Einstein. Enol symbolizes many Americans of that time who were suspicious of Einstein and only realized how much he had helped them after he died.

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