A.J. Dunning

The Stuff of Dreams

Over de verbeelding van het ongeziene

A history of dreams, concepts and evolutions in a collection of lucid stories and reflections

Following on from his successful books about the limitations of medicine and extreme forms of human behaviour, A.J. Dunning’s most recent collection of travelling reflections goes a step further and enters the no-man’s-land between religion and science. A sympathetic outsider, Dunning is interested in the comfort of others’ beliefs. The Christian concept has, however, been superseded by modern natural science, which sees man as a transient and coincidental by-product of a cold and indifferent universe: in Dunning’s own words, ‘a magnificent accident we have to learn to live with’.

Well-read and thoughtful and with an aversion to jargon, the author considers the issues of evolution, molecular biology, the theory of relativity, and artificial intelligence. But science turns out to be unable to fulfil its promises of certainty and objectivity. What’s more, mankind can only tolerate a certain amount of reality before resorting to the creation of new images and myths to give meaning to existence.

Dunning always takes a concrete situation as his starting point, wherever he happens to be, whether it’s Lenin’s mausoleum in Moscow, a museum of prehistory in Nairobi, the tower of Montaigne in Dordogne, a temple in India, or an ordinary Dutch cemetery. During his wanderings he constantly discovers surprising new connections between his ‘heroes of the mind’: Augustine, Petrarch, Shakespeare, Pascal, Montaigne, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and Russell.

‘We are stuff, but with dreams and expectations, even if our limited existence is surrounded by sleep,’ Dunning finally concludes. Both religion and science try to explain man, the world and the future. They both have their own dogmas, rituals and revelations. Our dreams - the new images we design - cannot be seen divorced from the old images, and will in turn be replaced by others.

Dunning reveals himself to be an outstanding observer. This is a sensitive account of the meaning of suffering and evil, the tension between science and reality.

De Standaard

Dunning’s expositions are more than just skilful popularisations of complicated scientific problems (…) his opinions on mankind and his works are solid but never doctrinaire.

NRC Handelsblad

A.J. Dunning

A.J. Dunning (1930-2009) was Professor Emeritus of Cardiology at the University of Amsterdam. He wrote Broeder ezel (‘Brother Donkey’, 1981), about the limitations of medicine, and Uitersten (‘Extremes’, 1990), about extreme forms of human behaviour. The latter sold more…

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Stof van dromen. Over de verbeelding van het ongeziene (1997). Non-fiction, 224 pages.
Copies sold: 10,000


J.M. Meulenhoff

Herengracht 507
NL - 1017 BV Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 20 553 35 00
Fax: +31 20 625 11 35


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