In the Matter of Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla was born in 1856 in Serbia and died in 1943 in New York. Those are the bookend dates for a remarkable life, that of a genius who lived only partly within the bounds of what the rest of us humble creatures call “reality.” To write a work of fiction about a man this far out on the bell curve is a tall order. I was unsure what to expect, especially after reading the back cover blurb with its emphasis on Tesla’s Muse, Katrina. Although this mysterious inspirational force appears off and on throughout, she never devolves into the unseemly, into the sentimental or romantic. This is especially important because the real Tesla believed his insights derived (in part) from his celibacy. He lived his life as a self-described “monk of science,” and the author delivers him to us exactly that way.
Flacco does an admirable job of showing us a man who was sometimes the brilliant, prescient Master – the man with an eidetic memory – and sometimes the helpless dupe of lesser, venial men – and in this I include Edison, Westinghouse and many other “famous household names.” Tesla spent much of his life fighting off these intellectual jackals. Eventually, inevitably, he lost, making this a story of heartbreak and loneliness. Tesla was a man so far “out of time” that modern science still hasn’t managed to understand all the marvels he proposed and dreamed about. A beautifully crafted handling of a difficult – and not always sympathetic – subject.