MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Nagel im Himmel (2020)
Patrick Hofmann
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The protagonist in this novel grows up in a loveless, dysfunctional family, but finds refuge and success in mathematics until he is "saved" by a physicist.

Since I do not read German, my knowledge of this book comes only from a brief e-mail from Thomas Riepe who kindly wrote to bring it to my attention and Google's translations of some Webpages about it. So, my description above may not be completely correct. There are certainly some literary critics who have positive things to say about it like:

Contributed by Google Translation of a review by physicist Harald Lesch

If you really want to immerse yourself in the madness of mathematics and how terrific it is to understand something about it, "Nagel im Himmel" is an absolute must.

It sounds to me like this is another one of many works of literature in which the field of mathematics is portrayed as if it were a psychological disorder like depression or paranoia. That is so far from how I perceive it, I suspect that I would have difficulty enjoying this book no matter how well it is written nor how much it is able to say about the mysteries of prime numbers. But, I hope that I am mistaken and that someday in the future I can update this posting to say that this is one of my favorite works of mathematical fiction. If you have had a chance to read this novel and can provide more information about the plot and especially about its portrayal of mathematics and mathematicians, please drop me an e-mail to let me know.

(I'm curious about the title. It translates to "Nagel in Heaven" if the first word is a proper name, perhaps referring to the philosopher Thomas Nagel. Or, it could also be "Nail in Heaven".)

More information about this work can be found at www.randomhouse.de.
(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 Nagel im Himmel
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin
  2. The Wild Numbers by Philibert Schogt
  3. Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby
  4. Stay Close, Little Ghost by Oliver Serang
  5. The Arnold Proof by Jessica Francis Kane
  6. Orpheus Lost: A Novel by Janette Turner Hospital
  7. The Mathematics of Friedrich Gauss by D.W. Wilson
  8. Diary of a Bad Year by John Maxwell Coetzee
  9. My Heart Belongs to Bertie by Helen DeWitt
  10. The Solitude of Prime Numbers [La Solitudine dei Numeri Primi] by Paolo Giordano
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Categories:
Genre
MotifAnti-social Mathematicians, Insanity, Academia,
TopicAlgebra/Arithmetic/Number Theory,
MediumNovels,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)