MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Kazohinia [A Voyage to Kazohinia] (1941)
Sándor Szathmári
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This novel features a Gulliver-like character (coincidentally named "Gulliver") who washes ashore in a strange land after a shipwreck. He first stays with the extremely logical Hins, who are always sensible but unemotional. When he tires of them, he goes to live with their enemies, the Behins who live an irrational and random existence.

The intended meaning of these parables is controversial. (For instance, some argue that it is an example of Marxist literature while others argue that it is anti-communist literature.) In an article published in the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics in January 2019, Susan Siggelakis argues that the story is "an exercise" in Platonism, and that its portrayal of mathematics is essential.

I am not convinced that either Platonism or mathematics are of great importance to this work, but math certainly shows up in a few examples. The Hins use the truth of statements like "1+1=2" and the falsehood of "1+1=5" to explain to Gulliver that illogical things simply do not exist. (In their view, the Behins themselves do not exist.) And, in contrast, the wacky Behins insist on proclaiming mathematical falsehoods as truths. One example is that the Behins say that a circle has two foci and that the sum of the radii is a constant. Gulliver tries to point out that this is false, because that is the description of an ellipse rather than a circle. (Note: I would not say it is false. In the sense that a circle is a special kind of ellipse with equal semi-major and semi-minor axes, it is also true of circles.) Similarly, the Behins forbid anyone from claiming that the points on a circle are equidistant from the center.

Kazohinia was first written in Hungarian and later translated into Esperanto and English. Thanks to Allan Goldberg for bringing this work of mathematical fiction to my attention.

BTW As I mentioned above, there are many interpretations of this work. Christopher Badcock wrote to me about a modern psychological interpretation he presents in his Psychology Today blog: "the Hins look very much as if they collectively suffer from high functioning autism spectrum disorder (ASD); while the Behins are afflicted with diametrically opposite psychotic spectrum disorder (PSD)".

More information about this work can be found at en.wikipedia.org.
(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.)

Works Similar to Kazohinia [A Voyage to Kazohinia]
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
  2. Gulliver's Posthumous Travels to Riemann's Land and Lobachevskia by William Pepperell Montague
  3. An Angel of Obedience by John Giessmann
  4. The Princess Hoppy or the Tale of Labrador by Jacques Roubaud
  5. Incomplete Proofs by John Chu
  6. Matrices by Steven Nightingale
  7. Math Takes a Holiday by Paul Di Filippo
  8. The Devil and the Lady by Alfred Tennyson
  9. Back to Methuselah by George Bernard Shaw
  10. The Mathematics of Magic by L. Sprague de Camp / Fletcher Pratt
Ratings for Kazohinia [A Voyage to Kazohinia]:
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)
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Literary Quality:
2/5 (1 votes)
..

Categories:
GenreHumorous, Fantasy,
MotifAnti-social Mathematicians, Math as Cold/Dry/Useless,
Topic
MediumNovels,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)