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Copenhagen

Copenhagen


Copenhagen

ratings:
4.5/5 (19 ratings)
Length:
2 hours
Released:
May 1, 2012
ISBN:
9781580818834
Format:
Audiobook

Description

How different would the world have looked had the Nazis been the first to build an atomic bomb? Werner Heisenberg, one of Hitler's lead nuclear scientists, famously and mysteriously met in Copenhagen with his colleague and mentor, Niels Bohr, one of the founders of the Manhattan Project. Michael Frayn's Tony Award-winning drama imagines their reunion. Joined by Niels' wife, Margrethe, these three brilliant minds converge for an encounter of atomic proportions.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring:
Alfred Molina as Niels Bohr
Shannon Cochran as Margrethe Bohr
David Krumholtz as Werner Heisenberg

Directed by Martin Jarvis. Recorded before a live audience at the James Bridges Theater at UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television in November, 2011.

Copenhagen is part of L.A. Theatre Works’ Relativity Series featuring science-themed plays. Major funding for the Relativity Series is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to enhance public understanding of science and technology in the modern world.
Released:
May 1, 2012
ISBN:
9781580818834
Format:
Audiobook

About the author

Michael Frayn was born in London in 1933 and began his career as a journalist on the Guardian and the Observer. He has written seventeen plays, including Noises Off, Copenhagen, and Democracy, translated Chekhov's last four plays, and adapted his first as Wild Honey. His screenplays include Clockwise, starring John Cleese, and among his eleven novels are The Tin Men, Towards the End of the Morning, Headlong, Spies, and Skios. Collections of articles include Collected Columns, Stage Directions, and Travels with a Typewriter. He has also published two philosophical works, Constructions and The Human Touch, and a memoir, My Father's Fortune. His most recent publications are three collections of short entertainments, Matchbox Theatre, Pocket Playhouse, and Magic Mobile. He is married to the writer Claire Tomalin.


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Reviews

What people think about Copenhagen

4.7
19 ratings / 14 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (5/5)
    In the afterlife, Werner Heisenberg meets again with his former mentor Niels Bohr and Bohr's wife Margrethe to discuss why the two physicists met in Copenhagen during World War II when they were on opposite sides of the war -- and each contributing to the building of an atomic bomb for their side.This play is obviously fictional but rooted in history and science. There is plenty that is factual within it, but then it moves on from there to suggest feelings and motivations, particularly Heisenberg's during his infamous Copenhagen meeting with Bohr -- one of history's great mysteries as no one knows what happened then or what the two discussed.As it's so heavily steeped in science, this book can be a bit dense at times (especially the author's afterword that goes greater into detail about the factual elements) but I think it flows well and is fairly accessible even for the non-scientific (e.g., me). The human drama is what ultimately matters in this work. Overall, I found it a very compelling read and recommend it for those who enjoy messy feelings, muddy motivations, and/or historical drama.
  • (4/5)
    Speculative fiction exploring possibilities of what occurred in the meeting between Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg in 1941 Copenhagen. The author presents two scenarios, one of which explores the possibility of Heisenberg not being able to create the nuclear bomb Hitler wanted, the other with Heisenberg deliberately stalling the process to prevent the production of the bomb. Discussions of physics and relationships, war and atrocities, ethics and responsibilities drive this work. It is minimalist, but has a great deal of depth. In the end, though, it still makes the mistake of putting the entire responsibility for nuclear weapons on the heads of science, merely touching on the other realities that were operating in the world, and the pressures felt by the scientists. This is better than most, as it does at least acknowledge the world surrounding the scientists, but the chief question of the day is still a simplification of the complex world in which the bomb was born.
  • (5/5)
    Mesmerizing.
  • (4/5)
    Speculative fiction exploring possibilities of what occurred in the meeting between Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg in 1941 Copenhagen. The author presents two scenarios, one of which explores the possibility of Heisenberg not being able to create the nuclear bomb Hitler wanted, the other with Heisenberg deliberately stalling the process to prevent the production of the bomb. Discussions of physics and relationships, war and atrocities, ethics and responsibilities drive this work. It is minimalist, but has a great deal of depth. In the end, though, it still makes the mistake of putting the entire responsibility for nuclear weapons on the heads of science, merely touching on the other realities that were operating in the world, and the pressures felt by the scientists. This is better than most, as it does at least acknowledge the world surrounding the scientists, but the chief question of the day is still a simplification of the complex world in which the bomb was born.
  • (4/5)
    I didn't love this as much as I wanted to. This play centers around two meetings between Bohr and Heisenberg in Copenhagen. The first in 1941, during the war, where the play conveys the 'uncertainty' (get it...) about what Heisenberg's intentions were, what happened at ...the meeting -- was Heisenberg warning Bohr about the German bomb project, deliberately sabotaging it, seeking help on it, looking for someone to spy on the Americans, etc. The second is in 1947 in which they try, unsuccessfully, to resolve that uncertainty. All of the story told in the form of dialogue between the two of them and Bohr's wife after they all have died.

    It is well done, there is lots of thought-provoking dialogue and thoughts, and you can't blame Frayn for the lack of anything resembling clear resolution.

    But somehow something was still missing.
  • (5/5)
    I love this play. I love the visiting and revisiting of why we do what we do, turning things over and over from different people's point of view. I love the power of the background of the birth of quantum physics and the war in Europe. I love the interplay of the personal, the political and the scientific. There are heart-breaking moments, Heisenberg crouched in a hole in the ruins of Europe still clutching his reactor, and joy filled moments, the grandeur of Bohr's tour of Europe, walking and talking and discovering the fundamental structure of the universe. (It's better watched than read though, I think)
  • (4/5)
    Theatre and Physics: "Copenhagen" by Michael Frayn Published August 8th 2000.

    Why do I go to the theatre? The question bears the same gravitas as the one regarding books. Much like books, the theatre allows me to experience something different. Not like books or movies though, the theatre often feels more real since I share the same space as the actors. While books can help me enter the world of the story, and temporarily leave my own life, being a theatre buff can also bring meaning into my life as well. Maybe the play shows me a different perspective of the world that I did not notice before. Often, plays give me that something extra, be it the love, the strength, or the determination that I need to move forward in my life.

    What about “Copenhagen”? Bottom-line. It’s a Hamlet play. It’s also about the fallibility of memory, human relationships, and being at a crossroad in life:

    "Now we’re all dead and gone, yes, and there are only two things the world remembers about me. One is the uncertainty principle, and the other is my mysterious visit to Niels Bohr in Copenhagen in 1941. Everyone understands uncertainty. Or thinks he does. No one understands my trip to Copenhagen. Time and time again I’ve explained it. To Bohr himself, and Margrethe. To interrogators and intelligence officers, to journalists and historians. The more I’ve explained, the deeper the uncertainty has become. Well, I shall be happy to make one more attempt. Now we’re all dead and gone. Now no one can be hurt, now no one can be betrayed."

    (Act One)

    The rest of this review can be found elsewhere.
  • (4/5)
    No one from the liberal arts side particularly cared about the “The Two Cultures” until the discovery and application of nuclear fission. It hadn’t started that way; Leonardo Da Vinci and Christopher Wren (just for example) were equally at home on both sides. But sometime around the middle of the 19th century it became increasingly unfashionable for “intellectuals” to take an interest in science or engineering. (There might have been some class consciousness here – many of the leading lights of science and technology – Faraday, Edison, Curie, Einstein – came from middle or lower class backgrounds). With Hiroshima that all changed. Physics and science in general were suddenly very important indeed, and there was a second paradigm shift with the start of the space race. Scientists and engineers weren’t invited to cocktail parties, of course – nobody wanted to go that far – but at least people talked about these things.
    There were sour grapes on both sides. C. P. Snow’s watershed essay provoked an incredibly hostile reaction when he suggested that the question “Do you know the laws of thermodynamics?” was the equivalent of “Have you read a work by Shakespeare?” Isaac Asimov complained that it was OK to portray Jupiter as a bearded man on a throne who molested little boys, but not as a planet with a hurricane bigger than the Earth and enough core pressure to convert hydrogen to a metal.
    There just might be some meeting of the minds here and there. More popular media is portraying scientists as something other than clueless geeks or inhuman fanatics. Little of this has been particularly successful, but at least there’s some attempt to understand why a mathematical proof or a bridge design can be as creative as a painting or symphony.
    Which brings us to Copenhagen, the 2000 Tony award winner. It is, alas, not really about quantum physics or the uncertainty principle – although it’s still a very good play indeed.
    In 1941 Werner Heisenberg visited his old mentor, Niels Bohr, one evening in occupied Copenhagen. After the war, they had different memories about what they talked about. Heisenberg may or may not have pumped Bohr for any information he might have about the Allied nuclear weapon program. If he did, he might have been doing this to determine if he should press ahead with the German effort or if he should deliberately stall. Maybe he did deliberately stall, by intentionally miscalculating the amount of U235 it would take for a chain reaction. Or maybe he just made a mistake. The whole thing was, and still is – uncertain. That’s the catch, of course – the first culture is too willing to jump on “The Uncertainty Principle” and turn it into an analogy for the human condition. Heisenberg and Bohr don’t actually talk about physics in the play (although it is probably the only work of literature where someone mentions numbers in scientific notation). They talk about morals and ethics and what to do when you are not sure what to do or where your loyalties are. Those, of course, are pretty timeless questions, whether they concern Heisenberg or Hamlet. Thus, well worth reading.
  • (4/5)
    This is a play about the epistemology of chance. It is a masterly fusion of ideas and a thrilling read. I feel, however, that Frayn has let his concerns with structure and theme overwhelm his characters to the point that they vanish inside the precious filigree of the whole. This is really one to see performed.
  • (5/5)
    We saw this performed. Very impressive. The way the scene is replayed and replayed with variations on how this meeting might have been fits with the physics.
  • (4/5)
    I didn't love this as much as I wanted to. This play centers around two meetings between Bohr and Heisenberg in Copenhagen. The first in 1941, during the war, where the play conveys the 'uncertainty' (get it...) about what Heisenberg's intentions were, what happened at ...the meeting -- was Heisenberg warning Bohr about the German bomb project, deliberately sabotaging it, seeking help on it, looking for someone to spy on the Americans, etc. The second is in 1947 in which they try, unsuccessfully, to resolve that uncertainty. All of the story told in the form of dialogue between the two of them and Bohr's wife after they all have died.It is well done, there is lots of thought-provoking dialogue and thoughts, and you can't blame Frayn for the lack of anything resembling clear resolution.But somehow something was still missing.
  • (5/5)
    A play about Werner Heisenberg's 1941 visit to Niels Bohr in occupied Denmark and what they discussed then. Frayn uses the relevant physics about uncertainty, complementarity, and fission as conceits in the play to remarkable effect. Ultimately not really about the development of atomic weapons at all but about friendship, memory, and personal paradox. Frayn's postscript about the history and science he used in the play is a lovely overview of the subject as well. Recommended.
  • (5/5)
    Incredibly powerful play that asks some important questions about responsibility to one's country or responsibility to humankind. While fictional, the play builds on an actual meeting in 1941 between Danish physicist Niels Bohr and German physicist Werner Heisenberg -- a meeting that could have changed the outcome of World War II.
  • (4/5)
    I saw the play performed live before buying the book; both are extremely powerful, especially if you have interest in the history of physics or the people who influenced the outcome of World War II.