MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Book of Sand (1975)
Jorge Luis Borges
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Note: This work of mathematical fiction is recommended by Alex for literati.

Contributed by Alejandro Satz

(quoted from The Book of Sand)

"The line is made up of an infinite number of points; the plane of an infinite number of lines; the volume of an infinite number of planes; the hypervolume of an infinite number of volumes. . . . No, unquestionably this is not--more geometric--the best way of beginning my story. To claim that is it true is nowadays the convention of every made-up story. Mine, however, is true."

Thus begins this story. An old librarian comes to the narrator's house and shows him The Book of Sand, a thick book with very thin pages covered in a strage language. He claims that the book is infinite "like the sands" and that it is impossible to open it twice in the same page. The narrator offers him an old and valuable Bible in exchange for the book, and the offer is accepted. However, after some time the narratir come to be obsessed with the book and afraid of it, and finally leaves it in the basement of a public library, hoping to never find it again. The description of the book makes it clear that its pages are supposed to be densely packed together, in the same way as the real numbers are. There is no last page.

Contributed by Ryan Wetherell

I read this story a few years ago. Although not intensely math-related, it does bring up some interesting thoughts about infinity and the persistence of numbers. And of course, it is a very well-crafted story that tempts one to look around in the dark corners of their own local library for any hastily-stashed mysterious books.

Contributed by Carolina

Borges' works are truly something, and even though there isn't much math discussion going on explicitly, there's lots of labyrinths and doubles and other fun puzzles to try, so don't stop at the book of sand: there's so much more in this fantastic writer's work!

Contributed by ennyman

A wonderful story that ought to be more widely read.

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(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 The Book of Sand
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges
  2. The Pre-Persons by Philip K. Dick
  3. The Last Answer by Isaac Asimov
  4. Ripples in the Dirac Sea by Geoffrey A. Landis
  5. Mirror Image by Isaac Asimov
  6. The Extraordinary Hotel or the Thousand and First Journey of Ion the Quiet by Stanislaw Lem
  7. The Maxwell Equations by Anatoly Dnieprov
  8. Ker-Plop by Ted Reynolds
  9. The Phantom of Kansas by John Varley
  10. The Non-Statistical Man by Raymond F. Jones
Ratings for The Book of Sand:
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:
2.75/5 (8 votes)
..
Literary Quality:
4.25/5 (8 votes)
..

Categories:
GenreScience Fiction,
Motif
TopicInfinity,
MediumShort Stories,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)