But the point is that Ulrich has survived. And his hope is that the price paid by him and his generation will be sufficient to prevent the same agonies being felt in the future. As he considers his daydream 'children':
"None of them is the child I thought I’d have, he reflects. But what else could I expect? A confounded man, living through such a mess, I couldn’t hope to father well. They’ll have a better life than I did and things will smoothen out. Their children will be better than they and in a couple of generations they’ll give birth to angels - and nothing will be left to show what bad times we sprang from. (p346)
Well, if only... it seems as naïvely optimistic a hope as his early passion for chemistry. History has constantly reminded us that we don't learn from history. But this is, above all, a humane book "-- filled with compassion and sensitivity — and so we can't help but sympathise with Ulrich's forlorn hope.
Rana Dasgupta has written a profound, poignant and remarkable book — which breathes life into the uncertainties, confusion and questioning of the postmodern age. It is thus a triumph. It rightly exposes the absurdities and horrors that the great 20th Century metanarratives wrought — and in common with so many in the 21st Century, struggles to find anything to replace them, apart from the sheer determination for survival. It lays down the gauntlet, however. For will we do better? Is there a metanarrative that is able to sustain someone through such trials. I, for one, believe that there is... but that, of course, is another story.