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Gödel geht [Gödel's Exit] (1991)
Andreas Findig

Kurt Gödel's reflection steps out of the mirror and joins him at his table in a cafe. (That may seem weird, but the author assures us that such fantastical things are always happening in Vienna.) Since time runs backwards in the mirror universe, his counterpart is able to tell Gödel about his future. Having been presented with this knowledge, the two Gödels make a rather unusual choice: to switch universes and relive the portion of the life they each have already seen rather than remaining in their own to experience the rest.

The story takes place in 1929 when Gödel is working on proving the result we now know of as his Incompleteness Theorems. His doppelgänger -- who knows the result and its consequences already -- offers him support and advice as he struggles to rigorously prove what he already believes to be true, that there are true mathematical statements which are ultimately unprovable. The story only barely mentions Gödel's research into the nature of time (cf. Gödel metric), but this story is more about his life than it is about his research. In particular, this unusual situation provides the reader a chance to weigh the good things (such as his recognition for having demonstrated the incompleteness of axiomatic systems and his friendship with Albert Einstein) against the bad (war and the sad circumstances of his death) in Kurt Gödel's life.

This story won the Der Deutsche Science-Fiction-Preis "Beste deutschsprachige Kurzgeschichte" (Prize for Best German Language Short Story) in 1991. It appeared in a collection of the author's stories ( "Gödel geht", Edition Pangloss, 1999) and was translated into English for by Todd C. Hanlin for the collection "The best of Austrian science fiction" edited by Franz Rottensteiner (Ariadne Press, 2001). Thanks to Thomas Riepe for telling me about this wonderful story.

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Works Similar to Gödel geht [Gödel's Exit]
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Gödel Incomplete by Martha Goddard (Writer and Director)
  2. The Goddess of Small Victories [La déesse des petites victoire] by Yannick Grannec
  3. Left or Right by Martin Gardner
  4. Napier's Bones by Derryl Murphy
  5. Arcadia by Iain Pears
  6. Incomplete Proofs by John Chu
  7. The Difference Engine by William Gibson / Bruce Sterling
  8. Gödel's Sunflowers by Stephen Baxter
  9. Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan
  10. Ratner's Star by Don DeLillo
Ratings for Gödel geht [Gödel's Exit]:
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:
1/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
4/5 (1 votes)

GenreScience Fiction, Fantasy,
MotifProving Theorems, Real Mathematicians, Time Travel, Kurt Gödel,
TopicMathematical Physics, Logic/Set Theory,
MediumShort Stories,

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Exciting News: The 1,600th entry was recently added to this database of mathematical fiction! Also, for those of you interested in non-fictional math books let me (shamelessly) plug the recent release of the second edition of my soliton theory textbook.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)