Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Fine Day in August 1913

The wonderful opening paragraph of The Man Without Qualities:

"A barometric low hung over the Atlantic. It moved eastward toward a high-pressure area over Russia without as yet showing any inclination to bypass this high in a northerly direction. The isotherms and isotheres were functioning as they should. The air temperature was appropriate relative to the annual mean temperature and to the aperiodic monthly fluctuations of the temperature. The rising and the setting of the sun, the moon, the phases of the moon, of Venus, of the rings of Saturn, and many other significant phenomena were all in accordance with the forecasts in the astronomical yearbooks. The water vapour in the air was at its maximal state of tension, while the humidity was minimal. In a word that characterizes the facts fairly accurately, even if it is a bit old-fashioned: It was a fine day in August 1913."

By satirizing the doctrines of positivism, it brilliantly summarizes one of the main ideas of the book -- what would it mean to live life with a scientific and analytic mind? Is the idea of "a fine day" just an illusion? Once you look closer everything breaks apart... It is also interesting that after this opening onslaught, the book never again tackles weather!

Anyway, I actually wanted to link to this nice podcast (link to mp3) about the book. Taken from here. Enjoy!

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