a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|The three separate stories that comprise this book are tied together by common themes of romance, death and volcanism. It is because of the second story, entitled "Harmony of the Spheres", that I am including the book in this database of mathematical fiction.
The story is a fictional biography of the mathematician AEH Love who did fundamental mathematical research on both elasticity and waves. His work most notably found application in geology where it aided in the understanding of phenomena such as tides and earthquakes. In fact, the waves that people feel during Earthquakes are called Love Waves.
In the story, young Edward Love is the sort of mathematical nerd who recites mathematical sequences to stay calm and is so shocked when he realizes that some of the books he has read are not true that he vows never to read fiction again. He is presented as being a horrible teacher. In his first meeting with a class on the application of mathematics to nature he asks the students to prove Fermat's Last Theorem. Then, when returning their assignments (which, of course, are all unsuccessful), he becomes obsessed with an idea for a proof that he works out on the board while ignoring the class.
A great deal of the story focuses on his relationship with his wife from whom he learns about music (especially "the music of the spheres") and about life in general. After her untimely death, Love's antisocial tendencies become so extreme that strangers avoid him on the street, and it is while he is living in this state that he completes his great work A treatise on the mathematical theory of elasticity.
As a work of art, this is a very moving portrayal, and its links to the other two stories (one about the survivor of a volcanic explosion and the other entitled Love Waves features another man named Love who reads about geology getting to know a woman in modern Montréal) also add to its literary merit. However, because of my goals in maintaining this Website, I have to point out that it bothers me that the character of Edward Love here is more like the mathematician characters in other works of fiction than he is like the real EAH Love. In fact, as non-fictional biographies suggest and the author essentially admits, the Edward Love portrayed here bears no resemblance to the historical figure. I appreciate that this beautiful book may allow its readers to think about love and death, and even to appreciate the fact that math has applications in geology, but wish that it had been able to do so without reinforcing negative and false stereotypes of mathematicians that appear far too frequently in literature.
Originally written in French by a Quebecois author, the book was translated into English in 2014 by Sheila Fischman and published under the title "Wonder".
|Buy this work of mathematical fiction and read reviews at amazon.com.|
|(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)|
(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)