Part III – Sorting Ideas – tells about Humboldt’s return to Europe, where he is received as a hero. At the same time, tho, Europe is in the middle of drastic changes brought on by the Napoleonic Wars.
Also on a personal level, Humboldt has to make adjustments as he is basically broke and needs to take on “a real job”.
I must say I really like how Wulf contrasts this part of the book with the previous part that was all about the big adventure. In this part, we can literally feel how Humboldt is slowly suffocated by the demands of living in a society that has so many demands on him.
He’s trying to spread knowledge of his discoveries and further his cause (to learn more about the world and then share it with the scientific community) but politics are now a major stumbling block.
He was just too far ahead, too egalitarian, and too liberal for his time!
Who’d have guessed Humboldt fell out with Napoleon???
Who’d have guessed Humboldt’s reputation as a rebel would deny him access to India?
Who’d have guessed Humboldt was considered a rebel?
That part can’t have been that easy for his brother to deal with, either, seeing that he was a Prussian diplomat.
What is most impressive and even whiplash inducing to just read about, tho, is how crazy busy Humboldt kept himself. He was like a squirrel on speed running from one appointment to the next, always on the go, attending up to five different salons per night on several days of the week.
By the end of this part of the book, I can understand why he was longing to travel again. It seems that his mind is more focused and he is more at ease when he is off exploring.