Fair warning, guys. Look at the title of this post. It’s not a joke. Click through here and there be spoilers.
If you haven’t read my review on The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict, you can check it out here.
So Mileva is a saint. Or maybe she’s not, but I don’t care. Obviously with the novel being written from her point of view, I’m going to be biased toward her, but wow. I wasn’t expecting for The Other Einstein to draw out such potent feelings from me. I mean, I was so mad. I saw the warning signs and I had an idea of what was going to happen, but I’m still angry. Actually, angry isn’t strong enough. I am
While I was reading, my inner monologue ended up being something along the lines of “Screw You, Einstein. You selfish ass. This is your child too, you prick, and you’re just going to leave her to die?”
The anger didn’t stop either. It ended up being fairly constant for the rest of the novel. I couldn’t believe him. The scientific hero that we were all supposed to look up to, but he cheated on his wife and then divorced her. Whatever the truth about her authorship of papers, there is definitely a letter he wrote to her which is heinous.
And don’t get me wrong, there is some dispute in the scientific community over whether or not Mileva had any effect on the theory of relativity. I believe she did, but you would be within your rights (with the evidence right now) to believe that she didn’t. It’s hard to say for sure when it all happened so long ago.
But even without the theft of her work, even if you take all of that out, there’s no denying that Einstein was a jerk to his wife. I don’t know what happens behind closed doors, but he didn’t treat her like he should have. Even if he didn’t like her as a wife, he could have at least treated her like she was a human being. Maybe it was like that earlier in the relationship, but by the end of it? He was setting rules for their cohabitation that basically turned her into a servant.
The Other Einstein deals with this conundrum well, not going too far to demonize Einstein, but letting the reader know that his behaviour shouldn’t be acceptable to us.
One argument I’ve seen floating around which I’m gonna take a moment to debunk right now is that Mileva couldn’t have helped because “she never published anything”. Well, kids, it was a man’s world then and for a woman to be taken seriously, she would probably have had to use a man’s name or let her work go under a man’s name. The fact that Mileva never finished her university degree would also have stopped her from being able to publish anything. There were hurdles there, ones that Einstein would have had to deal with since he was a man and that Mileva had to fight against from the very start.
I’m not saying that she would have published anything today if she were alive, but automatically dismissing her because of her lack of publication when it was hard for women to even get into university at that time… It assumes an equality and an ease of access that wasn’t available to Mileva.
Have you read The Other Einstein? What did you think about it? Please comment below and let me know.