Albert Einstein (1879-1955). Autograph letter signed (‘Albert’) to Michele Besso, [Princeton], 8 August 1938.

In German, two pages, 278 x 215mm. Envelope.

Please note this is the property of a private consignor.
Published in Pierre Speziali (ed.) Albert Einstein. Michele Besso. Correspondance 1903-1955. Paris: Hermann, 1972. No. 126.1
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Lot Essay

The pleasures of life in America, the 'sentimental weakness' of the Jewish character, a new theory, and his incipient old age.

Einstein offers his advice for Besso's nephew, who hopes to find a university position in the US, offering his vision of America, and also of the Jewish character: 'The finer things are in general not much esteemed [in America], especially as the businessman is the national saint. I mean by this that a new garter has more weight than a novel philosophical theory. But I like it very much here, and you rarely find someone who would rather return to the greater refinements of Europe. I know that you have an incurable weakness for Italy, as most German Jews have for Germany. This sort of sentimental weakness can be traced back to our longing for a solid home on this unstable earth, in that we fall for the deceptive illusion that the goys have one and we are the only ones who don't ... A German lawyer, goy and married to a Jewish woman, had had great difficulty in getting established here: to the question whether he did not feel nostalgia for home ['Heimweh'] replied "I'm not Jewish, you know!". The man had understood'. In short, Einstein probably cannot be of much help to Besso's nephew, as in spite of his great fame he lives a retired life, with little human contact apart from an enormous correspondence.

Turning to scientific matters, Einstein reminds Besso that he has never believed in the essentially statistical foundations of physics, in spite of the success of quantum theory. 'Now this year, after twenty years of vain searching, I have at last found found a promising field theory, which is an entirely natural continuation of the relativistic theory of gravity ... I always work with one or two younger people, who spare me the hard work of calculations. My age is beginning to show...'. As for politics, he suspects that political bankruptcy will follow from moral bankruptcy in Europe, which looks more and more as if it is returning to the Dark Ages.

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Einstein: Letters to a Friend Part I
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