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The Copenhagen Papers: An Intrigue Hardcover – May 2, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While Frayn's play Copenhagen won three Tony awards in 2000 (including best play), and the London playwright has Noises Off and the Booker Prize finalist Headlong to his credit, he doesn't enjoy the same name recognition here as does, say, a native like David Mamet. Interest in this Copenhagen spinoff project may thus depend on readers' willingness to delve into the arcana of physics and history, and into the working lives of the playwright and of Burke, a leading player in the London run of Copenhagen. The play itself concerns a mysterious 1941 meeting in the Nazi-occupied Danish capital between Werner Heisenberg, head of the covert Nazi nuclear program, and Niels Bohr (played by Burke), his former mentor. After the war, Heisenberg was interned by the British for six months at an estate called Farm Hall so the Allies might learn how far the German program had gotten events also covered in the play. This book concerns a mysterious package Frayn received during the play's London run, from "Celia Rhys-Evans," saying that she had seen the play, and that during a stay at Farm Hall in the '60s she had found some papers written in German that must be relevant. The crumpled papers appeared to make a joke about Ping-Pong and uranium 235. In true British style, it turned out to be a hoax perpetrated by Burke, revealed by a third person just as Frayn was about to go to the papers. Still with us? Most American readers won't be, though as Frayn and Burke trade chapters and it becomes clear who knew what when, there are plenty of verbal and intellectual pleasures to be had.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This series of monologs in two acts is a collaboration between Frayn, the celebrated British author and playwright, and Burke, an actor in Frayn's Tony Award-winning play Copenhagen. This comic and intriguing drama grew out of Burke's skillful hoax about a mysterious package of manuscripts found at Farm Hill near London, where German nuclear physicists were interned after World War II. Because of his intense curiosity and the possible historic relevance of these incomprehensible German and Russian documents to his play, Frayn became the target of Burke's tricks. The plot thickens as more people become involved in the prankster's deception and the victim's search for truth. Finally, a conscientious second actor of the original cast exposes Burke's forgeries. For resolution, Frayn and Burke devised this ingenious book about human gullibility and the incomprehensibility of one's own behavior. Recommended for academic and public libraries as a companion to the original play. Ming-ming Shen Kuo, Ball State Univ., Muncie, IN
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; 1st edition (May 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805067523
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805067521
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,452,530 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John Kwok HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on February 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a marvellous entertainment - I'm not sure whether I should correctly describe it as either a memoir or novelette - which explores the nature of reality. It's not really a sequel to Michael Frayn's splendid play "Copenhagen", but does delve into some of the same terrain as the play. Instead, it is a witty exchange of thoughts and letters sent between Michael Frayn and actor David Burke (He portrayed physicist Niels Bohr during the play's original London production) about a set of manuscripts which allegedly date from the internment of German physicist Werner Heisenberg and his colleagues at Farm Hall immediately after the end of World War II. What follows is a terse, spellbinding mystery which is well told by both writers, replete with ample doses of English humor.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By James E. Beckman on September 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I thought COPENHAGEN was a great play, and I picked up this
book thinking it was background for the play (the bookjacket
gives some hints that that isn't the case, but I didn't bother
to read that. Anyway, it turns out to be less than that, and
also much more. I was sucked into the mystery along with
Michael Frayn, and read it in one sitting (it's short). I
highly recommend it for pure entertainment.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Catherine Skidmore on July 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved the play Copenhagen - saw it four times, and it re-sparked my interest in physics, which I read about as a hobby. I know, weird, but whatever, I'm a smart chick.
Anyway, this book isn't about the play at all, really, it's about an exchange of letters between the author and one of the actors in the London production of Copenhagen. And it's well-crafted, I think anyone who enjoys a good mystery, and a bit of the backstage goings-on would enjoy the book. It certainly captivated me and both Michael Frayn and David Burke write well and with a good deal of dry British humor.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This delightful book should be required reading for anyone who has seen or read Michael Frayn's play "Copenhagen." The actor David Burke (who starred in the play) and playwright Frayn describe their reactions to a baffling set of German papers that seem to have been written during Werner Heisenberg's stay at a British estate after World War II. Although I am not going to give away the truth as it unfolds in this story (the editorial reviews above do that), I will say that the point of the book is not so much whether the papers were geniune or a hoax as it is the depths to which talented, bright, curious people such as Frayn and Burke will go as they wrestle with fascinating ideas. These two men bring to vivid life the dramas behind the dramas.
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