Imagining a Lost Letter

Mileva Maric was a brilliant, disciplined student.  Unlike Einstein, she actually attended class, took notes, studied all night.  Her roommates, other female Eastern European students who also lived at 50 Pattenstrasse, reported that her light would go out briefly for about an hour in the early morning before she got up to attend her lectures.  Yet, after she and Einstein got cozy, she followed him to the coffee house where they read the new physicists whom Einstein deemed should be being taught at the Polytechnic.  What then, did her father say to her in the letter, now lost, which he sent after she failed her final exams and was not granted her degree?  He had been her champion, the one who, when women were not admitted to classes in math and physics in any Serbian gymnasium (high school), pulled all the strings to enable her to be the first woman ever to sit with the boys and learn math and physics.  We know that her response to the letter was extreme depression–an early episode of a malady she was later to suffer–for she wrote to Einstein: 

“I received a letter from home today that has made me lose all desire, not only for having fun, but for life itself.  I’m going to lock myself up and work hard, because it seems I can have nothing without being punished.” 

We also know that her father opposed her relationship to Einstein.  If you were the parent of such a young woman, would you say?  Now imagine it’s 1901, you are a retired army officer and work in the Serbian justice system.


About Nancy Pinard

Professionally-speaking, Nancy Pinard is an author-educator who spends her days writing, teaching, reading, and researching for her writing and teaching. She is the author of two published novels, Shadow Dancing and Butterfly Soup, and numerous short stories. She has taught the craft of fiction writing in many venues including Sinclair Community College, University of Dayton Life-Long Learning Institute, Antioch Writers' Workshop, Mad Anthony Writers' Workshop, and Molasses Pond Writers' Workshop. Personally, her faith is what sustains, inspires, and motivates her to continue to explore meaning through literature. "You are right in demanding that an artist approach his work consciously, but you are confusing two concepts: the solution of a problem and the correct formulation of a problem. Only the second is required of the artist." — Anton Chekov to Alexei Suvorin, October 27, 1888
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