MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Fermat's Last Tango (2000)
Joanne Sydney Lessner / Joshua Rosenblum
Highly Rated!

Contributed by Prerna Bihani, College of Charleston

Fermat's Last Tango is an intelligently written, hilarious fantasia based on Andrew Wiles' 1993 proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. The main plot consists of a love triangle between Daniel Keane (fictional character playing Wiles), his wife Anna Keane, and Fermat (and Mathematics). There are a few exaggerations, for example possibly in the portrayal of Anna's character (she is jealous of Keane's obsession with the proof and math, and incessantly begs him to instead spend intimate moments with her, which probably makes it somewhat hard to imagine that Nada Wiles has earned a doctorate in Microbiology.) However, the play marvelously captures the frustration and trauma that Keane experiences after Fermat discovers a “big, fat hole” in the original proof. After expressing much condescension for modern mathematics (and mathematicians), Fermat and other occupants of the heavenly `Aftermath': Newton, Pythagoras, Gauss, and Euclid, offer to let Keane enter this celestial ring after death, but only if he is able to mend his proof. Later on, these expired mathematicians try to catch up with twentieth century mathematics by scouring several books, but are unsuccessful, mostly because of their nostalgia for classical mathematics (for instance, Euclid is disheartened to learn about “Non-Euclidean” geometry and its extensive use!). Meanwhile, Keane miserably plunges in his desperate search of the unknown light that would resolve his proof. He even pleads Fermat to disclose his proof, but the legendary mathematician evades this imploration by echoing that he doesn't wish to lose his `precious immortality'. Finally, on Anna's birthday (though not on this day in reality; it actually takes around sixteen months for Wiles to fix his proof), when Keane is just about to resign from his endeavor and relieve his married life, a revelation strikes through, and Keane discovers his `success in a seed of [his] failure'! This musical is packed with humor, and despite some exaggerations for dramatic effects, it provides an approximate insight on Andrew Wiles' experience (as Wiles claims it does). Though light on mathematics, it is rather appealing on both a general and professional level.

To learn more about this Emmy award winning musical and read Wiles' thoughts on it, go to http://www.princeton.edu/~paw/web_exclusives/features/features_14.html.

Contributed by Anonymous

It's so bad, it's good. Very punny. The actress who played Anna stole the show with "Math Widow". I also liked how the piece was performed. I always like the players idea, having actors play mutliple roles. I also thought that having the mathematical equatons projected on the walls during Danny's song of confusion projected the confusion to the audience in a way that just the song couldn't. All in all, a very enjoyable show!

More information about this work can be found at www.maa.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 Fermat's Last Tango
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Partition by Ira Hauptman
  2. The Parrot's Theorem by Denis Guedj
  3. Lovesong of the Electric Bear by Snoo Wilson (playwright)
  4. Math Takes a Holiday by Paul Di Filippo
  5. Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
  6. The Devil and Simon Flagg by Arthur Porges
  7. Fermat's Best Theorem by Janet Kagan
  8. Delicious Rivers by Ellen Maddow
  9. Operation Chaos / Operation Changeling by Poul Anderson
  10. Slightly Perfect / Are you with it? by George Malcolm-Smith (Novel) / Sam Perrin (Script) / George Balzer (Script)
Ratings for Fermat's Last Tango:
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:
4.62/5 (8 votes)
..
Literary Quality:
4.56/5 (8 votes)
..

Categories:
GenreHistorical Fiction, Humorous, Fantasy,
MotifProving Theorems, Real Mathematicians, Newton,
TopicAlgebra/Arithmetic/Number Theory,
MediumPlays,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)