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The Chosen (1967)
Chaim Potok
Note: This work of mathematical fiction is recommended by Alex for literati.

In Chaim Potok's classic novel about two Jewish teenagers growing up in New York City at the end of World War II, one of the two boys expresses an interest in symbolic logic:

(quoted from The Chosen)

'What kind of mathematics are you interested in?' Danny asked…

'I'm really interested in logic. Mathematical logic.'

He looked puzzled.

'Some people call it symbolic logic,' I said.

'I never even heard of it,' he confessed.

'It's really very new. A lot of it began with Russell and Whitehead and a book they wrote called Principia Mathematica.'

'Bertrand Russell?'

'That's right.'

'I didn't know he was a mathematician.'

'Oh, sure. He's a great mathematician. And a logician, too.'

'I'm very bad at mathematics. What's it all about? Mathematical logic, I mean.'

'Well, they try to deduce all of mathematics from simple logical principles and show that mathematics is really based on logic. It's pretty complicated stuff. But I enjoy it.'

'You have a course in that in your schoo!?'

'No. You're not the only person who reads a lot.'

For a moment he looked at me in astonishment. Then he laughed.

'I don't read seven or eight books a week, though, like you,' I said. 'Only about three or four.'

He laughed again. Then he got to his feet and stood facing me.

His eyes were bright and alive with excitement.

'I never even heard of symbolic logic,' he said. 'It sounds fascinating. And you want to be a rabbi? How do they do it? I mean, how can you deduce arithmetic from logic? I don't see -!

He stopped and looked at me. 'What's the matter?' he asked.

'There's my father,' I said, and got quickly to my feet.

I am ashamed to admit this I did not remember this, despite having read the book as a Jewish teenager in New York City myself. I am grateful to Michele Benzi (of Emory University) for reminding me of it when he wrote to say:

Contributed by Michele Benzi

While mathematics is not the central topic of the book, it plays an important role. There is also a movie (with Rod Steiger) based on the novel, and a theatric piece that is still staged around the US. The main core of the book is about religion and friendship.

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Works Similar to The Chosen
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti
  2. Continuums by Robert Carr
  3. Sebastian by David Greene (director)
  4. The Art Student's War by Brad Leithauser
  5. A Disappearing Number by Simon McBurney
  6. Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman
  7. Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal
  8. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
  9. The Library Paradox by Catherine Shaw
  10. Turbulence by Giles Foden
Ratings for The Chosen:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
1/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
5/5 (1 votes)

GenreHistorical Fiction,
MotifWar, Religion,
TopicLogic/Set Theory,
MediumPlays, Novels, Films,

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