Message from Flatland

I call our world Flatland, not because we call it so, but to make its nature clearer to you, my happy readers, who are privileged to live in Space.

Some time back I lost my tiny copy of the classic Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott to a friend. Now Oxford has republished it, albeit in a size more suited to an overcoat pocket than a fob-watch pocket. The upside is that the original line drawings are now readable. And it's wonderful to have this comforting little oddity back in the house.

Odd because the main character is a square who discusses hyperspace in terms of pencils, coins, a visitation from an angelic Sphere, and a once-glimpsed vision of a Cube.

Comforting, because when the Square attempts to explain the third dimension to Flatlanders, he finds it excruciatingly difficult. The work was written in 1884, and is as fresh and engaging as anything I have read this century.

The social satire of Flatland now seems a little, er, flat. But the intellectual and philosophical gymnastics are as vigorous and 'dimensional' as ever.

I'm remembering the way people used to describe the internet in metaphysical and quantum-physical terms. People called it the noosphere or the fourth dimension as we struggled to wrap our heads around this quasi-magical, everyday phenomenon.

Flatland. A Romance in Many Dimensions. Edwin A. Abbott.

 


Rachel McAlpine
Rachel McAlpine

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