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From the profound to the mundane -- diary provides a slice of life

From "Conversations With Einstein" by Johanna Fantova; summaries and translation by Alice Calaprice

Oct. 15. Received a nonsensical manuscript for evaluation. Einstein says that he just seems to attract every lunatic on earth, but tries to respond to them in some way because he feels sorry for them. A woman also wrote, asking for seven autographs to leave to her children because she has nothing else to leave them -- he will send them to her even though he doesn't believe her story.


Einstein wrote a message to Fantova on the back of this undated postcard of himself on the Empire State Building.


Feb. 13. Received a group from a Jewish health organization; they stayed for an hour. Laments that, as usual, he can't remember their names. Even during his schooldays a teacher told him that his memory is like a sieve.

March 3. Physicists call him a mathematician and mathematicians call him a physicist. Feels he is isolated and though everyone "knows" him, there are very few who really know him.

March 24. Spoke with Fantova about music and violin playing. He no longer plays the violin because playing it is too strenuous, but he still plays the piano every day -- it's much easier to improvise on it.

Sept. 21. He's making some progress with what was at first only a theory but is now looking good. But he still has to think about it more -- he even enjoys just the process of thinking.


Jan. 20. Einstein and Fantova discussed final exams, which were under way at the university. Einstein says he does not believe in giving exams, that they distract from the students' interest, and students should not have more than two tests during their years in college. He would just give seminars, and if the students seem interested and listen, he would give them their diplomas.

Jan. 21. Fantova was going to the observatory, and Einstein remarked that all of us are together on this small Earth, yet each person thinks that he's at the center of it.

April 10 [eight days before Einstein's death]. He tried all day to compose a radio message on behalf of Israel and did not succeed in finishing it. He claims he is totally stupid -- that he has always thought so, and that only once in a while was he able to accomplish something.

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