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Michael Frayn


In 1941 the german physicist Werner Heisenberg made a strange trip to Copenhagen to see his Danish counterpart, Niels Bohr. They were old friends and close colleagues, and they had revolutionised atomic physics in the 1920′s with their work together on quantum mechanics and the uncertainty principle. But now the world had changed, and the two men were on opposite sides in a world war. The meeting was fraught with danger and embarrassment, and ended in disaster.


Why Heisenberg went to Copenhagen and what he wanted to say to Bohr are questions which have exercised historians ever since. In Michel Frayn’s profound play Heisenberg meets Bohr and his wife Margrethe once again to look for the answers, and to work out, just as they had once worked out the internal functioning of the atom, how we can ever know why we do what we do.

Methuen Drama – Bloomsbury Publishing (Collection: Modern Classics)


Michael Frayn

Playwright, novelist, and translator, Michael Frayn was born in London on September 8th, 1933.


After two years of National Service, during which he learned Russian, he read Philosophy at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He then worked as a reporter and columnist for The Guardian and The Observer, publishing several novels including “The Tin Men” (1965), winner of a Somerset Maugham Award, “The Russian Interpreter” (1966), which won the Hawthornden Prize, and “Towards the End of the Morning” (1967). More recent novels include “A Landing on the Sun” (1991), which won the Sunday Express Book of the Year; “Headlong” (1999); and “Spies” (2002), which won the 2002 Whitbread Novel Award and the 2003 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Eurasia region, Best Book), and “Skios” (2012). Michael Frayn is also the recipient of the 2002 Heywood Hill Literary Prize.


His plays include “Alphabetical Order” (1975), “Clouds” (1976), “Donkeys’ Years” (1977), “Make or Break” (1980), “Noises Off” (1982), and “Benefactors” (1984). “Copenhagen” (1998), about the 1941 meeting between German physicist Werner Heisenberg and his Danish counterpart Niels Bohr, first staged at the Royal National Theatre in London, won the 1998 Evening Standard Award for Best Play of the Year and the 2000 Tony Award for Best Play (USA). His play “Democracy” (2003) is set in 1960s Berlin. His latest play for the Royal National Theatre is “Afterlife” (2008).


Recent books include “Stage Directions: Writing on Theatre 1970-2008” (2008) and “Travels with a Typewriter” (2009). A book of memoir, “My Father’s Fortune: A Life”, was published in 2010 and won the 2011 PEN/Ackerley Prize.


He has also translated various works from Russian, including plays by Chekhov and Tolstoy. His films for television include “First and Last” (1989), for which he won an Emmy, and an adaptation of his 1991 novel “A Landing on the Sun”. He also wrote the screenplay for the film “Clockwise” (1986).


Michael Frayn is married to biographer and critic Claire Tomalin.

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