a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|Note: This work of mathematical fiction is recommended by Alex for math majors, math grad students (and maybe even math professors) and literati.|
It is almost unfair to call this a collection of short stories, since they are all tied together so nicely. The common themes of Judaism and mathematics run through most of them, but they are tied together in a more explicit way by the last story (Strange Attractors).
The mathematician that Voloch describes in his review above is Phoebe Saunders, grandchild of an actress from the experimental Yiddish theatre and daughter of a classics professor at Barnard.
The stories almost all focus on character rather than plot. We learn about the characters' thoughts, motivations and relationships. In "Rabbinical Eyes", the main character is the daughter of a Rabbinical scholar who is unable to keep a job as a congregational Rabbi in the US. The mathematics in this story is more elementary, but still possibly of interest to mathematicians/math educators. Here the mathematics is grade school mathematics, the subject in which she "competes" with the smartest kid in school.
In the title story, "Strange Attractors", we travel with Phoebe to IHES in Paris for a workshop run by the godlike Antoine Shahaza. She seems to have been invited as much for the novel ability to recite Shakespeare in Yiddish (learned from her grandmother) as for her mathematics. There we meet an interesting cast of characters, mathematicians and their relatives, who strike me at least as being very realistic. There is a bit of mathematical discussion when IHES resident genius Oren Glube helps her by suggesting a dynamic approach to the problem she is considering. (This is where the `strange attractor' of the title comes in.) Oddly, I think I would have liked the story better had this brief passage been left out because it is the only thing that makes me not believe in the characters...without this somewhat bogus sounding mathematics the characters seem entirely real to me.
I have begun to wonder whether the character of Oren Glube is based in any way on the mathematician Ofer Gabber. I know nothing about Ofer Gabber other than the little bit that is available online. In particular, I know that he is originally Israeli and started as a resident mathematician at IHES at about the same time that Oren Glube is said to have done so. That and the fact that they share the same initials are the basis for my conjecture that he is the inspiration for the fictional character. Does anyone reading this know if he shares any of Glube's unusual personality traits?
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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)