… and probably won’t end up there either. But we are indebted to Andrew Crumey, physicist turned novelist, for an enlightening survey of its role in literature, in some cases prefiguring science by a long way, for example in Cicero’s Academica (106–43 BC):
Would you believe that there exist innumerable worlds… and that just as we are at this moment close to Bauli and are looking towards Puteoli, so there are countless persons in exactly similar spots with our names, our honours, our achievements, our minds, our shapes, our ages, discussing the very same subject?
When the American physicist Seth Lloyd met Borges at a Cambridge reception in 1983, he asked him if he was aware that this story eerily prefigured Hugh Everett’s concept of many worlds. Borges had never heard of it, but said that it didn’t surprise him that physics sometimes followed literature. After all, physicists are readers, too (of literature, and of history).
So how much is literature, how much is history, and how much is …