a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|This short story, published in the literary magazine Crazyhorse concerns the boring and lonely Mr. Digby who was the downstairs neighbor of Karovsky, the brilliant (but of course, seriously insane) mathematician whose funeral is the venue. Digby looks through Karovsky's things, taking pages of equations and photos of Karovsky and his beautiful girlfriend Ariel, and winds up being responsible for Karovsky's ex-girlfriend from Romania who speaks to him in French. The point of the story has to do with life and how it can be lived heroically. The story is well written and this point comes across well. However, my interest here is only in the subtext: once again we learn from literature that mathematicians are schizophrenic and suicidal. I believe the implication of the story is that Karovsky committed suicide after Wiles' proof of FLT out of disappointment that he did not prove it himself. (Just for the record, I feel that the stereotype relating mathematics and insanity is unjustified. It is perpetuated by a few well known examples of mathematicians who also happened to have mental disorders, and tons and tons of fictional mathematicians who do as well. Please do keep in mind that the vast majority of mathematicians are as sane as anyone else. Moreover, I am not aware of any suicides inspired by the 1994 proof of Fermat's Last Theorem!)
Dear Dr. Kasman:
I'm honored that you found my story, "Belonging to Karovsky" interesting
enough to include on your website. What a lot of mathematical fiction
there is in the world.
I had no idea, when I wrote the story in 1997, that there were so many
insane fictional mathematicians - perhaps because I haven't made a study
of mathematical fiction, as you have. I don't blame you for being
annoyed. My husband is a mathematician and wasn't troubled over it, but
he hasn't read all that stereotyping fiction, either.
I disagree with you, though, that the story implies Karovsky committed
suicide over Fermat's Last Theorem. He was estranged from a woman he
loved, he'd lost his job and his family would have nothing to do with
him. There was a lot more on his mind than theorems.
|More information about this work can be found at crazyhorse.cofc.edu.|
|(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.)|
May 2016: I am experimenting with a new feature which will print a picture of the cover and a link to the Amazon.com page for a work of mathematical fiction when it is available. I hope you find this useful and convenient. In any case, please write to let me know if it is because I would be happy to either get rid of it or improve it if that would be better for you. Thanks! -Alex
(Maintained by Alex Kasman,
College of Charleston)