Shortlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2021. Benjamín Labatut’s extraordinary imagination digs deep into the territory between fact and fiction, progress and destruction, genius and madness. Translated by Adrian Nathan West.

Albert Einstein opens a letter sent to him from the Eastern Front during the First World War. Inside, he finds the first exact solution to the equations of general relativity. The genius mathematician Alexander Grothendieck tries to cut all ties with the world, terrified of the horror his discoveries might cause…The mesmerising When We Cease to Understand the World uses a blend of fiction and historical fact to explore the stories of the great minds who expanded our notions of the possible.

The 2021 International Booker Prize
Published by
Pushkin Press
Publication date
Benjamín Labatut

Benjamín Labatut

About the Author

Benjamín Labatut was born in Rotterdam in 1980 and grew up in The Hague, Buenos Aires and Lima.
More about Benjamín Labatut
Adrian Nathan West

Adrian Nathan West

About the Translator

Adrian Nathan West is the translator of more than 20 books from Spanish, Catalan and German.
More about Adrian Nathan West

Fiona Shaw reads from 'When We Cease To Understand the World' by Benjamin Labatut


Actor Fiona Shaw reads an extract from When We Cease To Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut, translated by Adrian Nathan West and shortlisted for the 2021 International Booker Prize.  

This video was created for Edinburgh International Book Festival in partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and directed by Blanche McIntyre.

When We Cease to Understand the World

This is a book about the limits of science and the borders of thought, a strange book, neither a novel, nor a short story collection, nor an essay