the last years of Albert Einstein's life, he amused himself by
telling jokes to his parrot, and avoided visitors by feigning
illness, according to a newly discovered diary written by the
woman as his last girlfriend.
While Einstein also talked about the travails
of his continuing work in physics, most of Johanna Fantova's diary
recalls his views on world politics and his personal life.
"The writings are an unvarnished
portrait of Einstein struggling bravely with the manifold
inconveniences of sickness and old age," said Freeman Dyson,
a mathematician at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
The 62-page diary, written in German, was discovered in February
in Fantova's personnel files at Princeton University's Firestone
Library, where she had worked as a curator.
The manuscript is the subject of an article to be published next
month in The Princeton University Library Journal.
According to the article, the new manuscript
is the only one kept by someone close to Einstein in the final
years of his life.
Fantova wrote that she recorded her time with the renowned physicist
to "cast some additional light on our understanding of Einstein,
not on the great man who became a legend in his lifetime, not
on Einstein the renowned scientist, but on Einstein the humanitarian."
Fantova was 22 years younger than Einstein. Although the two
spent considerable time together starting in the 1940s, her journal
only records their relationship from October 1953 until his death
in April 1955 at age 76. She died in 1981 at age 80.
The diary also recounts how, on his 75th birthday, Einstein received
a parrot as gift. After deciding the bird was depressed, Einstein
tried alter its mood by telling bad jokes.
At times, Einstein would pretend to be sick in bed so he would
not have to pose with visitors who wanted photographs. Einstein
still enjoyed himself even when real illness did take hold.
Einstein also wrote Fantova poems, some of which are in the diary.
Einstein, with his second wife Elsa, had arrived in Princeton
in 1933 at the newly formed Institute for Advanced Study. Elsa
died three years later.
Fantova first met Einstein in 1929 in Berlin. She arrived in
the United States alone in 1939 and, at Einstein's urging, attended
library school at the University of North Carolina.