a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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La Resta [The Remainder] (2015)
Alia Trabucco Zerán

Two friends from modern day Santiago travel through Chile using "mortuary mathematics" to attempt to better understand the legacy of their country's dictatorship:

(quoted from La Resta [The Remainder])

[A]nd just as I'm calming down and getting ready, just as I take out my pad to make a note of him, there, in the distance, is that unbearable wailing, the ambulance accelerating furiously, hurrying me as I subtract him, because adding them up is a big mistake, yeah, counting up is not the answer: how can I square the number of dead and the number of graves? how will I work out how many are born and how many remain? how can I reconcile the death toll with the actual sum of the dead? by deducting, tearing apart, rending bodies, that's it, by using this apocalyptic math to finally, once and for all, wake up on that last day, grit my teeth, and subtract them: sixteen million three hundred and forty-one thousand nine hundred and twenty-eight, minus three thousand and something, minus the one hundred and nineteen, minus one.

This novel which was published in 2015 (and its English translation in 2019) has won and been nominated for many prizes (including being on the short list for the Man Booker prize). It is a literary masterpiece, but there is not much to say about the mathematics in it. As you can see in the quote above, the mathematics is not particularly deep. It appears to be there only to provide a contrast between these trivial and emotionless arithmetical questions on the one hand and the incalculable human suffering they are attempting to measure.

More information about this work can be found at
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Works Similar to La Resta [The Remainder]
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Apeirogon: A Novel by Colum McCann
  2. One Hundred Twenty-One Days by Michèle Audin (Author) / Christiana Hills (Translator)
  3. Colonel Lágrimas by Carlos Fonseca Suárez
  4. Diary of a Bad Year by John Maxwell Coetzee
  5. The Last Theorem by Buzz Mauro
  6. The Happy Numbers of Julius Miles by Jim Keeble
  7. The Mathematics of Nina Gluckstein by Esther Vilar
  8. Long Division by Michael Redhill
  9. Napier's Bones by Derryl Murphy
  10. Divide Me By Zero by Lara Vapnyar
Ratings for La Resta [The Remainder]:
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:
5/5 (1 votes)


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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)