a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Gentzen oder: Betrunken aufräumen [Gentzen or Cleaning Up Drunk] (2021)
Dietmar Dath
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

In this work of modern literary fiction, the author appears as a character who is trying to write a novel about the mathematician Gerhard Gentzen. Together with two other colleagues, he tries to get a better understanding of this logician who worked on questions of the foundations of mathematics.

The blurbs for the book bemoan the fact that Gentzen is largely forgotten. He is certainly not completely forgotten. But, even if some people think he deserves more recognition, it is not difficult to find or sympathize with reasons for his relative lack of prominence today. He was an active supporter of the Nazis from 1933 until his death in a Soviet prison camp in Prague in 1945.

Although the choice of Gentzen as a subject for a work of fiction in 2021 is unusual, the fact that the book is rather strange in many ways should not be surprising to anyone who knows about the author. And, Dath does not disappoint in this regard. For example, in this novel which spans decades from Gentzen's lifetime all the way through 2035, one scene has Gentzen explaining Euclid's proof that there are infinitely-many primes to Lady Gaga!

I have not actually read this book myself, but based on what I have read and heard about it, the book seems to emphasize Gentzen's role as "one of the fathers of modern computer programming". This may be a stretch. And while exaggerating the modern impact of the research of individual historical mathematicians in works of mathematical fiction is not uncommon, for me I question the wisdom and motivation of doing so in this particular case.

I am grateful to Thomas Riepe for bringing this book to my attention and to Hauke Reddmann for correcting some errors in the original version of this entry.

More information about this work can be found at
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Works Similar to Gentzen oder: Betrunken aufräumen [Gentzen or Cleaning Up Drunk]
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Shakespeare Predicted it All by Dietmar Dath
  2. A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines by Janna Levin
  3. When We Cease to Understand the World [Un Verdor Terrible] by Benjamin Labatut
  4. Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman
  5. Dirac by Dietmar Dath
  6. Intoxicating Heights (Höhenrausch. Die Mathematik des XX. Jahrhunderts in zwanzig Gehirnen) by Dietmar Dath
  7. The Difference Engine by William Gibson / Bruce Sterling
  8. Doctor Who: The Turing Test by Paul Leonard
  9. Instantiation by Greg Egan
  10. Atomic Anna by Rachel Barenbaum
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GenreHistorical Fiction, Science Fiction,
MotifReal Mathematicians, War,
TopicComputers/Cryptography, Logic/Set Theory,

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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)