The Cosmic Comedy

Frank Westerman

The Cosmic Comedy

Stargazing, driven by wonder, has changed our view of the heavens, while space travel, driven by rivalry, has changed our view of the earth.

The Cosmic Comedy is a philosophical meditation on the longing for a better world – beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. Whether with a telescope or a rocket, humanity continues to direct its desire to the cosmos. Is this born of a sense of loss? What do we expect to find on the Moon or Mars that we lack on Earth?

Starting out from the Westerbork Observatory on the site of a former Nazi transit camp in northeastern Holland, which constantly scans the skies with its powerful array of radio telescopes, in sparkling prose Frank Westerman travels from Venice to Florence and Turin on a journey through time in the footsteps of Galileo to examine our ever-shifting vision of the heavens, with or without God. For if, like Galileo, you knock the earth from the centre of the universe for good, where else are we to look for paradise, or for hell?

From the Ancients to Copernicus, through Herschel and Hubble to Big Bang Theory and from the Sputnik and Apollo launches and the Shuttle–Mir and International Space Station programmes to the billionaire space race between Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk and the first ‘female’ robot in space, The Cosmic Comedy is science non-fiction at its most infectious.

‘Frank Westerman takes the reader on a colourful journey through important milestones in the development of astronomy and space travel. With a fine eye for symbolism, the book also gives seasoned space enthusiasts a new perspective.’ New Scientist

‘A gem of literary non-fiction. So eloquent it is difficult to put the book down. The Cosmic Comedy continues to fascinate and challenge. Westerman is an excellent observer and an original thinker.’ De Ingenieur

‘A lyrical account with a rich theme that Westerman treats with verve in a fabric of reportage, childhood memories, essay, historical treatise and philosophical reflection… a wonderful book about man, the cosmos and the human desire to reach for the impossible.’ NRC Handelsblad

‘In a journey through astronomy and space travel, Frank Westerman shows how reaching for the stars exposes human shortcomings. The Cosmic Comedy is a joy to read. [The] added value lies in the connections he makes between telescopes and rockets, heaven and hell, observatory and transit camp. I followed his path, fascinated.’ Trouw

‘A dizzying story about the bond between heaven and hell. Order this book!’ Het Parool

The Cosmic Comedy is full of delightful observations that keep ringing in your head. Westerman writes enchantingly.’ De Volkskrant

‘One of the most exciting books of the moment. The very best there is to read.’ De Morgen

 ‘Frank Westerman is the star in the firmament of literary non-fiction.’ Nieuwe Koers


  • Querido Fosfor, Netherlands
  • Iperborea, Italy
  • Ripol, Russia

Material: Finished copies and pdf of the Dutch edition (320pp), other editions