After discovering the Frenchman’s radio broadcasts on science, Werner and Jutta make every effort to listen to them. Over time, the siblings learn about magnets, the North Pole, eclipses, and the electromagnetic spectrum. They wonder who the Frenchman is, and suspect that he’s a rich, bored man who gives broadcasts on science because he has nothing better to do with his time.
Doerr makes an important point here: inquisitiveness can be a way of trying to connect with other people. Even as he ponders the mysteries of science, Werner also thinks about the individual who’s broadcasting this information, and has a strong desire to meet this man and talk to him. Later in the book, we will learn that the Frenchman is in fact Marie-Laure’s grandfather, Henri LeBlanc.
Every time Werner listens to the Frenchman on the radio, he has the strange sense that the man’s voice is getting a little quieter, as if he’s moving away from Werner very, very slowly. At night, inspired by the Frenchman’s words, Werner goes outside and stares up at the sky, filled with wonder.
We’re not yet aware what Doerr means when he writes that the man seems to be drifting away from Werner, but the image is an apt one for the novel—it suggests that relationships between people, like everything else, are subject to the unshakeable laws of entropy and decay. Werner feels a connection to the Frenchman, but it is a fragile one, and seems to be growing ever weaker.