Der Tag ohne Abend/The Day without Evening is a short story which
alludes to the life of Evariste Galois and to Augustine's theology.
Perutz' protagonist is called Georges Durval, he lives at the
beginning of the 20th century in Vienna as a dandy. Not before he is
challenged to a duel he recognizes that he is destined to do
mathematics and starts working obsessively on a specific mathematical
problem. At the day of the duel, he finishes his solution, right
before he is shot to death. Quoting Augustine's "Confessions" the
narrators states: This day had no evening, and he adds a somehow
surprising hypothesis concerning the meaning of the story:
"The story of George Durval had to be told. Sometimes it seems to me
as if it gives in insight into the economy of the world. It is
questionable whether the early deceased of the sciences, of art and of
literature, Puschkin for example or Lassalle or Lord Byron, would have
added a single line to their life's work if death had passed them.
Perhaps fate recalls only humans, who have to give nothing more, who
have reached the end and are empty and burned out."
After that we learn that an academic society is concerned with the
collection and publication of the scientific papers of Durval, a work
that will never be finished, because in the final hours of his life
Durval running out of time wrote his insights on a check, a coffee
table, and on a small piece of paper which is blown away by the wind.
In my opinion it is the best story written about Galois.
Leo Perutz was a trained mathematician who worked for an insurance
company before he had his first success as literary writer. He had to
leave Austria because of the National Socialists, but he returned in
It was written in 1924 and was published for the first time in
1925 in two journals: Hamburger Nachrichten Vol. 134 (1925) and in an
Austrian journal which is still not found.
There is a funny episode following the publication: Two Austrian
mathematicians (Gustav Bergmann and Hans Weisz) wrote a letter to
Perutz and asked him whether his narrative had a real background...
the letter is still in the "Nachlass".