Carlo Rovelli

The joy and suffering of writing a book

Spring is coming. There was snow in the garden till last week, here in Canada, where I have been spending this strange winter. But today the sky is shining blue and the sunshine is soft and warm. I guess this is what Easter is really about. Rebirth. I have spent months without going farther than the corner food shop. Zoom winter. I have never been in the same few rooms for so long. And yet I have never been so much in touch with colleagues and friends from everywhere. I feel I have partially migrated into a semi-virtual reality. It is not too bad. It is relaxing.

This week is crazy. My new book, Helgoland — about understanding quantum reality — has just been published and, because I have the best promotion person in the galaxy, I am submerged by journalists. What will I tell them? I never know what to answer to the question: ‘What is your book about?’ There is an impolite part of me that would like to answer: ‘Well, read it.’ I know it makes no sense: people are curious, they want to know whether they might be interested. That’s reasonable. But a book is exhausting. One puts all one’s life and heart and thoughts and doubts into it. Every line of writing has been joy and suffering. So, what should I answer? There is what I think about reality. There is what I think about knowledge. There is what I think about thinking. There is what I think we do not know. But these are not good answers. They are incomprehensible. So I try to tame my own book, I ask it in a low voice to pardon me, and I talk about it in a gentle, reasonable manner: hiding the truth. But I feel like Lucifer: using kind words to lure people into the hell of the deep confusion about what is real.

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