3 9 0 D O C U M E N T 4 1 4 N O V E M B E R 1 9 2 6 414. From Eduard Einstein Zurich, 14 November [1926][1] Dear Papa, The intention to write to you came to me precisely as I was leafing through a book. The name of the book is Nachgelassene Schriften eines Frühvollendeten by Otto Braun.[2] (I mention this to gain some sort of starting point for my letter.) I remember having unearthed the same book in your library when I was staying in Berlin a year ago.[3] Then, as today, I read it only with fierce reluctance. You have perhaps also already noticed that next to being reproached by a less talented person for being talented, nothing is so embarrassing as when ¢one² a talented person states that one is not talented. It is doubly embarrassing when, as in this book, the one who says so is a child. I angrily put the book aside because I do not read in or- der to have unpleasant things said to me. The only consolation for me is the idea that it is not as important whether one is a somewhat more or somewhat less valu- able individual of what is at any rate a more than dubious species. Particularly if this value is judged ¢based on² from very strange and distorted points of view. There is, in fact, actually a desperately small difference between a genius and an idiot. I am, however, convinced that if I discovered only the most minute signs of the fact that I am a genius, I would turn this notion on its head. The opinion that the works of just anyone have great significance is totally twisted. A work of art, for example, has no value in itself whatsoever. The only thing that can be said in its favor is that, in that it satisfies certain instincts of human beings, it is able to provide a heightened sensation of pleasure and helps them through their terrible boredom. Science is even worse off, provided it is fairly ab- stract. It is totally useless. When Henri Poincaré asserts that the observation of the starry sky and the preoccupation with it makes humans more farsighted or the like,[4] those are, of course, miserable subterfuges. It is a serious affliction[5] of hu- man society that it showers honors upon and caters to the person who is possessed by our drive to get a grip on the phenomena of the natural world in terms of num- bers and patterns.— Conversely, there are books which give rise, when one reads them, to the feeling that one is very significant. This is an illusion however, I treasure it. I have this feeling, in particular, when I read Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, or Oscar Wilde.[6] Such authors write their works for their equals, but they are read by everyone. The result is that Everyman fancies himself as their equal and puffs himself up in the awareness of his importance. Basically, all of us who read books are crows that
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