When we read Michele Alperin’s profile of Mort Zachter, author of the memoir, “Dough,” about inheriting millions of dollars from his supposedly poverty-stricken uncles, we had a sense of deja vu.

As Alperin explains on page 46 of this issue, Zachter’s new book shares “his anger at his uncles who forced his mother to work without pay at a wholesale bakery; his dismay at his own apparent entrapment in the workaholic ethic of his family; and, yes, even his guilt at the possibility of using the money that he eventually inherited to follow his own dream of becoming a writer.”

It turns out that Zachter’s dream had led him to U.S. 1 in 2001, when he submitted a short piece to the Summer Fiction issue. In “A Tale of Urban Renewal” Zachter wrote about how his uncle’s workaholic personality did not allow him to take time to testify against a robber who held up the bakery.

After 9/11, Zachter says, he came to his senses and began to tap his family’s inheritance so that he could quit working as an accountant and pursue a career as an author. He appears at the Princeton Public Library on Tuesday, October 9, at 7:30 p.m.

Einstein Question

Konstantinos Benas, a mathematician based in Greece, wrote to ask for help in tracing remarks that Albert Einstein is said to have made about Constantin Caratheodory, a mathematician. We referred him to the Princeton University Press and we also promised to include the request in this space:

Benas refers to an interview with Einstein in Scientific American in July, 1955. “Apparently that interview took place only two weeks before the great scientist passed away,” Benas writes. “It appears to have been given to I. Bernard Cohen, rather discreetly and without any publicity. Nevertheless, there is a rumor widely spread in Greece lately: That Einstein’s last interview was hailed with great publicity and that it took place a short time before his death, before a team of American journalists.

“The rumor also claims that, after a large number of questions were put to him, Einstein added, without being asked at all, that his teacher, the man ‘who had shown him the way to higher mathematical science, reasoning and research’ had been the ‘unsurpassable’ Greek mathematician to whom he personally (Einstein) ‘as well as mathematics, physics and 20th century’s wisdom in general, owed everything.’”

“For all I can see, though, no such words appear in I.B.Cohen’s ‘last interview.’ No reference whatsoever to Caratheodory is made, for that matter. Can you help me find out if Cohen’s interview was actually the last one given by Einstein? Did Einstein actually ever mention Caratheodory in any of his interviews? If yes, do you know what were his exact words about his Greek colleague? And where do they appear, if anywhere at all?

“I suspect that the Greek public has been bombarded with ‘urban legends’ about Einstein’s last interview and I would appreciate your help in clearing up that matter.”

Konstantinos Benas


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