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Quim Larrea

Petites observations sur la lumière. M.L.7

Towards the end of 1922, in her small laboratory in Berne, the young esearcher Marie Lowersmitt made a discovery, almost accidentally, that she kept secret all her life. Marie had specialised in the transmission of light through solid bodies in her search for a way of transmitting light through a totally opaque body, something that would imply invisibility. During the course of her work she discovered that light from a source diffuses in a very special way through different sheets of material. That is to say, if a material is stratified, light shone from one side of the sheet to the other undergoes a process of expansion that is incomparably better than if the material is homogenous. This is due to the quantum of ions, of which light is formed, undergoing an expansion on impact with the micro-spaces produced in a stratified structure. If a zigzag geometry is added to this stratified structure—and remembering the wave quality of light—the transmission of light acquires an almost magical quality.

Marie never published her work on this since she considered it a minor discovery but she did write detailed notes in impeccable French in one of the notebooks she used for recording her enquiries. There was turmoil in central Europe during the 1930s and her family origins are obscure—there are historians who claim that Marie was, in fact, the lost daughter of Albert Einstein and his first wife Mileva Maric, in which case we would be talking about Lieserl Einstein. An essential clue is thought to be the similarity of Marie’s surname to that of Einstein’s second wife, Elsa Loewenthal, something that would create Freudian links between the supposed daughter and father, something, however, that does not concern us here. Whatever the case may have been, none of this information is sufficiently documented and so, bearing in mind the fact that she was a woman at a time when that was a disadvantage for someone like her, she disappears without trace, although some researchers now believe her to be one of Tamara Lempika’s lovers who appears in one of the artist’s paintings, or a silent film actress in the nascent Hollywood film industry. Once again, none of this can be rigorously demonstrated.

Many years would go by before one of the Lowersmitt’s notebooks would again see the light of day. Towards the end of 2001 a man, elegantly dressed in black, was idly browsing the second-hand books on the zinc stalls located behind Barcelona University in the Carrer Diputació. He would flip the pages of this and that book and enquire and quibble about the price and suddenly, amongst hundreds of publications, the spine of one of them focused all his attention. Written in the neat and painstaking handwriting of the day, he read, Petites Observations sur la Lumière. M.L.7. A few moments later, with no time devoted to haggling about the price, the notebook had changed hands.

“Size does matter”. The excessive and sardonic repetition of this phrase hides the importance of its meaning. Dr. Marcus Hagenbole, a Dutch psychologist who, curiously, emigrated to Brazil in the late 1940s, maintained that this affirmation was undeniable and that the small inevitably produced neurosis. He went on to claim that “what’s big is big even in the small” positing as an example the Amazon forest which is not only obviously much larger than the Black Forest but contains many more species per hectare than it due to its size. Dr. Hagenbole vehemently claimed that what is big transmits a kind of neuronal massage which enables a positive change of mood that generates wellbeing. There is a reason why outstanding people in our society are great men and women, meticulous and diligent tasks are large tasks and we could extend the list until it became enormously long. Being conscious of the importance of size Dr. Hagenbole decided to undertake an experiment with his own life and in March 1954 he decided that everything around him would be large scale, convinced that this would bring him happiness. In the state of Pará he bought a large expanse of land, hundreds of hectares of fertile terrain, and there he built a house of vast proportions with high ceilings, enormous rooms, wide corridors and high doors. Large windows afforded views over the garden with its enormous plants, giant flowers and robust trees amongst which were fountains the size of waterfalls. He replaced the horses in the stables with elephants, and replaced the motor cars with enormous limousines with several axles. A small railway ran around the outhouses in the garden and the stables, trundling away smoothly on rubber tracks. The rules were strict for the staff. All the domestic servants had to be more than two metres tall, have enormous feet with all their other features of matching proportions. Markus enjoyed many years of such happiness. He married a very tall woman, had no children and at the end of his days contracted a strange case of angina which weakened him and led to his death. It has never been established where he acquired such a large quantity of money to be able to live out his dream. The origin of his fortune, which disappeared after his death together with his wife, the elephants, the limousines and all the servants, was never discovered.

Although it is now abandoned and seriously encroached upon by the jungle, Dr. Markus’s house (it has never been established whether that was his real name) is frequently visited by curious tourists who can take a pleasant stroll around the area, having been taken there by an enormous driver in a small 4x4 which takes them back to the city at the end of their visit. It was in these surroundings that our man opened Lowersmitt’s notebook, sat on the sill of a large window and began to peruse it. And suddenly everything started to make sense...

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