Ce roman devrait réjouir tout les admirateurs de science-fiction et de physique. Ecrit à la fin du XIXè siècle, il raconte l'histoire d'un carré qui évolue dans un espace à deux dimensions et qui va être amené après avoir eu des visions, à reconsidérer l'espace à deux dimensions dans lequel il est piégé. Tous les protagonistes de ce roman sont des figures géométriques, ce qui en fait un livre complètement original et atypique. De plus pour tous ceux qui ont du mal avec la physique, la lecture de Flatland pourrait les aider à comprendre la différence entre un monde à 0, 1, 2 ou 3 dimensions. La possibilité d'une 4ème dimension est même évoquée.
Il est dommage que le roman soit presque totalement dépourvu d'intrigue mis à part les voyages de ce carré dans les autres dimensions. En effet, la majeure partie du livre est consacrée à décrire la hiérarchie de la société ou le moyen de reconnaissance des autres figures géométriques dans Flatland. De plus le livre est très court (moins de 100 pages).
Ce roman serait aussi une critique déguisée de la société Victorienne du XIXè siècle.
Donc 4 étoiles pour l'originalité du livre sur un sujet qui aurait pu être totalement ennuyeux mais avec Abbot on ne s'ennuie pas une seconde, on regrette même que le livre ait été si court.
le 22 juin 2016
Edward A. Abbott was a 19th century theologian and schoolmaster. He published this work in 1884. Based in part on the number of Amazon reviews, it remains well-read today. I first learned about this book when I was in school, a half century ago, and regret it has taken this long to have finally read it. The work is “multidimensional” as it were. It not only pushes the reader’s imagination to envision the concept of four or five dimensions by positing a world in which people live in one dimension LESS than the 3-dimensional world in which we are most familiar with, that is a 2-dimensional world known as flatland. It also is a social satire on the social customs of the day, including hierarchical relationships, in-group / out-group fads, and the role of women in society.
Shape is destiny! The more sides one has, the better. Women, alas, aren’t even 2-dimensional. They are a simple one-dimensional line. Men are the only ones that have breadth. The simplest are isosceles triangles, low on the societal pecking order. Equilateral triangles a bit higher, squares higher still, then pentagons… and on, to ones that have so many sides they approximate a circle, who effectively are the High Priests. And the ones that are irregular shapes: they are the outcasts.
Abbott pushes the reader’s imagination by examining the question of how various entities recognize each other in 2-dimensions, when, on first glance, everyone should appear as a line. He posits that the fog in northern climates provides a mechanism for recognizing if an object is more than a line, since the brightness of the line would fall off in the fog. With careful training, how fast the brightness falls off would denote shape and societal status, not much different, I suppose, from how clothes labels do today. One could imagine Abbott chuckling to himself when he proposed that there was a movement called the “Chromatistes” who felt that shape recognition could be enhanced by simply requiring each shape to have a standard color. There was a conflict on this issue, and the “lines” (the women) and the “circles” (the high priests) were aligned against all other shapes on the issue of the “Universal Color Bill.”
Other dimensions are visited… both below, that is, 1-dimensional space, and no dimensional space (periods), as well as above, 3-dimensional and beyond. Each dimension has grave difficulties envisioning any other world, much like we do in our own. In fact, those who advocate recognition of worlds with different structural dimensions are subject to criminal prosecution. Abbott does recognize a serious flaw in his “flatland” model in that in true 2-dimensions, no shape could really see another, so he fudges the issue a bit by indicating that each shape does have an intrinsic height, and fudges it more by calling it “brightness.” Oh well, all too many paradigms contain their own contradictions.
Overall, a stimulating read, which paved the way for the “space-time continuum” universe of four dimensions. Still, there is the flaw in his 2-dimensional world of “brightness,” the status of women, and some archaic prose. 4-stars.