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Copenhagen [Kindle Edition]

Michael Frayn
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.95
Kindle Price: $11.76
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

The Tony Award—winning play that soars at the intersection of science and art, Copenhagen is an explosive re-imagining of the mysterious wartime meeting between two Nobel laureates to discuss the atomic bomb.

In 1941 the German physicist Werner Heisenberg made a clandestine trip to Copenhagen to see his Danish counterpart and friend Niels Bohr. Their work together on quantum mechanics and the uncertainty principle had revolutionized atomic physics. But now the world had changed and the two men were on opposite sides in a world war. Why Heisenberg went to Copenhagen and what he wanted to say to Bohr are questions that have vexed historians ever since. In Michael Frayn’s ambitious, fiercely intelligent, and daring new play Heisenberg and Bohr meet once again to discuss the intricacies of physics and to ponder the metaphysical—the very essence of human motivation.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews Review

For most people, the principles of nuclear physics are not only incomprehensible but inhuman. The popular image of the men who made the bomb is of dispassionate intellects who number-crunched their way towards a weapon whose devastating power they could not even imagine. But in his Tony Award-winning play Copenhagen, Michael Frayn shows us that these men were passionate, philosophical, and all too human, even though one of the three historical figures in his drama, Werner Heisenberg, was the head of the Nazis' effort to develop a nuclear weapon. The play's other two characters, the Danish physicist Niels Bohr and his wife, Margrethe, are involved with Heisenberg in an after-death analysis of an actual meeting that has long puzzled historians. In 1941, the German scientist visited Bohr, his old mentor and long-time friend, in Copenhagen. After a brief discussion in the Bohrs' home, the two men went for a short walk. What they discussed on that walk, and its implications for both scientists, have long been a mystery, even though both scientists gave (conflicting) accounts in later years.

Frayn's cunning conceit is to use the scientific underpinnings of atomic physics, from Schrödinger's famous cat to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, to explore how an individual's point of view renders attempts to discover the ultimate truth of any human interaction fundamentally impossible. To Margrethe, Heisenberg was always an untrustworthy student, eager to steal from her husband's knowledge. To Bohr, Heisenberg was a brilliant if irresponsible foster son, whose lack of moral compass was part of his genius. As for Heisenberg, the man who could have built the bomb but somehow failed to, his dilemma is at the heart of the play's conflict. Frayn's clever dramatic structure, which returns repeatedly to particular scenes from different points of view, allows several possible theories as to what his motives could have been. This isn't the first play to successfully merge the worlds of science and theater (one is inevitably reminded of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia and Hapgood), but it's certainly one of the most dramatically successful. --John Longenbaugh


**** - Copenhagen is stunning on CD. -- Martin F. Kohn, Detroit Free Press, 4/15/01

Frayn's dense, elegant play is a logical and excellent choice... And Copenhagen works perfectly on disc. -- Ken Mandelbaum,, 11/13/00

Frayn's dense, elegant play is a logical and excellent choice... And Copenhagen works perfectly on disc. -- Ken Mandelbaum,, 11/13/00

Product Details

  • File Size: 1356 KB
  • Print Length: 145 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B00F7RN82I
  • Publisher: Anchor (July 22, 2010)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003E8AK8C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,579 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
80 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Copehagen:Theoretical Physics Packs with Human Drama March 26, 2000
By A Customer
Who would think that a play about two theoretical physicists, Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr would pack such dramatic interest for people with little background in nuclear physics? Yet Michael Frayn's Copenhagen provides both the human drama of the scientists involved in the nuclear weapons race between Nazi Germany and the Allied Forces ,and the ironic parallels between the Principle of Uncertainty in physics developed by these scientists and the unpredictability of outcomes involving human variables in their own lives. My rather "dry " summary of the content of this play, however, does not begin to convey the drama, irony and humour in the play . Three characters, Heisenberg, Bohr and his wife Margrethe met once again after their death to try to understand Heisenberg's "real " reason for his strange visit to Bohr in 1941 in occupied Copenhagen while Heisenberg was heading the German nuclear reactor program. Through the recollection of each from their points of view about the events of the past, the play reveals the personal and professional relationship between the two scientists and others in the elite scientifc community. The dialog is fast moving, sparkles with humor and dazzling description of the mind games of the brilliant and ideosycratic group of scientists. But in these exchanges between the characters, one understands how important and potentially deadly these "games" and the players can be for humanity. With the three perspectives of the same events provided by the three characters, the play reveals mulitple motives and meanings that conclude in the abrupt termination of the meeting between Heisenberg and Bohr in 1941 that might have been the reason that the Nazis failed to develop an atom bomb before the Allied Forces! Read more ›
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Art + Physics = Luminescent Fission February 9, 2001
By nkname
The basic story of Copenhagen--and the playwright's leap of imagination to create the conversation of the 3 principles--deserves any accolades that can be awarded: what if, within one fateful day, the leading scientist for the German nuclear development team had received the insight he needed to arm the Nazis? The ramifications are so huge, so mind-boggling, that it's all the more important that Frayn chose to shrink the scale of his dialogue, and make this play as much about the dynamics of how humans understand each other as how we, as a race, could possibly comprehend the worldwide impact of nuclear arms. This is play about the moral ramifications of decisions made within the supposedly "ethnical no-man's-land" of scientific discovery.

Other reviewers have talked about the life history of the scientists, so I'll just sketch out more details about the piece itself. First of all, what an important and revelatory decision Frayn made in including the character of Margrethe, Bohr's wife. In his play, she is the intellectual equal of the physicists, wryly commenting about how many versions of each position paper she spent time typing. Her character makes this play unlike so many science-based dramas before it, because she is a woman and an outsider. Her humor, her humanity and her anger towards Heisenberg's for his involvement with the Nazis...all these issues keep the play grounded in real life, make it palpable to modern audiences not necessarily schooled in the fundamentals of atomic theory. It also insures that the play isn't just the typical strutting, cocksure junk that movies like "Dr Strangelove" aptly mock.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read it BEFORE you see the play! April 21, 2000
By A Customer
Just saw Copenhagen on Broadway. I found it one of the most interesting evenings I have ever spent at the theater. Three people on the stage for 2.5 hours, discussing physics and personal issues sounds hard to take. Nevertheless, the experience was exhilarating, much like a Stoppard drama.
HOWEVER, the discussion can be difficult to follow at times, not just because of the science, of course, but also because the author covers a lot of the politics of 1920s physics and 1930s Europolitics. After a couple of hours. I wished that I had read the play before seeing it. I recommend that you consider doing the same. (Don't worry: You won't lose any of the "plot" line by reading ahead. In fact, a readahead may make the interchanges seems richer....)
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The play and a fascinating postscript February 10, 2004
This book contains the text of Michael Frayn's Tony Award-winning play (94 pages), a fascinating 38-page Postscript, and a two-page word sketch of the scientific and historical background to the play.
The play itself is brilliant (see my review of the PBS production directed by Howard Davies, starring Stephen Rea, Daniel Craig, and Francesca Annis available on DVD) and is the kind of play that can be fully appreciated simply by reading it. There are no stage directions, no mention of props or stage business. There is simply Frayn's extraordinary dialogue. A photo from the cover suggests how the play might be staged on a round table with the three characters, Danish physicist Niels Bohr, his wife Margrethe, and German physicist Werner Heisenberg, going slowly round and round as in an atom. This symbolism is intrinsic to the ideas of the play with Bohr seen as the stolid proton at the center and the younger Heisenberg the flighty electron that "circles." Margrethe who brings both common sense and objectivity to the interactions between the ever circling physicists, might be thought of as a neutron, or perhaps she is the photon that illuminates (and deflects ever so slightly) what it touches.
At the center of the play (and at the center of our understanding of the world through quantum mechanics) is a fundamental uncertainty. While Heisenberg and Bohr demonstrated to the world through the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics that there will always be something we cannot in principle know regardless of how fine our measurements, Frayn's play suggests that there will always be some uncertainty about what went on between the two great architects of QM during Heisenberg's celebrated and fateful visit to the Bohr household in occupied Denmark in 1941.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
This was for work of course.
Published 1 month ago by momof4inif
5.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling "Copenhagen"
Fascinating play about the "final core of uncertainty at the heart of things". Can we ever be sure of why we do things? Read more
Published 2 months ago by Gro Asland
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Absolutely brilliant
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars I'm sure the CD was fine, but I returned it because it wasn't what ...
I'm sure the CD was fine, but I returned it because it wasn't what I thought I was purchasing. When I typed in the original play, the screen brought up an accurate picture and... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Joyce Bergan
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Read
"Copenhagen" is a great play. It is extremely well-written and thoughtful. The characters are well-represented and realistic. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Tawni
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A stunning play; a mystery and an important piece of history.
Published 8 months ago by Edwin J. Hancock
5.0 out of 5 stars pretty much exactly as advertised
Well, it's a soft-cover printed version of the play, pretty much exactly as advertised. Only way I could be disappointed is if I didn't like the play. (I do like the play. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Kiff Scholl
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Amazing! This play won a Tony Award in 2000. How I wish I had been there!
Published 8 months ago by Readinginmytree
5.0 out of 5 stars A WWII Nuclear-Aged Riddle
Read it aloud, if possible with one or two friends. The question may not be answerable, but the issues raised... Read more
Published 12 months ago by M.E.Anderson
5.0 out of 5 stars Michael Frayn Is A Wonderful Writer
I'll never forget his novel =The Russian Interpreter=. Nor will I ever forget =Copenhagen=, which does a masterful job of melding human drama with physics. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Kelly Cherry
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More About the Author

Michael Frayn was born in London in 1933 and began his career as a journalist on the Guardian and the Observer. His novels include Towards the End of the Morning, The Trick of It and Landing on the Sun. Headlong (1999) was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, while his most recent novel, Spies (2002), won the Whitbread Novel Award. His fifteen plays range from Noises Off to Copenhagen and most recently Afterlife.

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