a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|The penultimate collection of short stories from Nobel laureate Alice Munro features a title story about the final days of Sonia Kovalevskaya. The main source of tension in the story is her love affair with Maxim Kovalevsky, the Russian playboy who just happened to have the same last name as her late husband, which was also the focus of the film A Hill on the Dark Side of the Moon. In addition, this story also contains "flashbacks" to the earlier period covered by Beyond the Limit.
Of course, the writing is beautiful. Mathematics is not the central focus of the story, but neither is it avoided (as in the film) nor is it presented inaccurately. An appearance by Poincare discussing his prize, many mentions of Weierstrass (her thesis advisor), and technical terms such as `theta functions' or `partial differential equations' are used well in this character study of a woman living at a time when her skills and interests were not fully appreciated by the rest of society:
An author's note explains that Munro ran across an entry on "Kovalevsky" while searching for something else in the encyclopedia and became enthralled. She suggests that "Little Sparrow: A Portrait of Sophia Kovalevsky" was a primary source. I am assuming, therefore, that it is historically accurate and well researched (at least as historical fiction goes). However, I am not sufficiently expert to be able to say this definitively. In any case, it is certainly believable.
In addition to appearing in the collection, this story was also published in Harper's Magazine (August 2009).
Update: In 2013, Alice Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for her short stories. This story in particular does not seem to be cited as being among those that resulted in her selection for the prize, but I do find that many of the news stories announcing it were themselves entitled "Too Much Happiness".
|Buy this work of mathematical fiction and read reviews at amazon.com.|
|(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)