MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Geometric Regional Novel (1969)
Gert Jonke
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Contributed by Vijay Fafat

An odd but charming book which describes a dreamy, strange, very static, grey world nestled in some corner of thought. In measured, clipped tones, the narrator describes the mathematically precise contours of the geometric village, with its Village Square, its by-lanes, its bridge, the bridge keeper, the artist and his pyramidal tent, the blacksmith and his house, the regimented routines of the village officials, the sleeping positions of people, the door frames and door styles, the trees, the irrigation system, dairy farming, folk songs, etc etc. Geometric drawings supplement the descriptions in various places.

However, unlike “Flatland” or “Planiverse”, this is really not a mathematical novel, as such, beyond the geometric mood it sets. It is intended as a very subtle satire. As the back cover of the book describes it:

“[The book is] An innovative satire on the process by which bureaucracy and official regimentation insidiously pervade society. In a dead-pan, pseudo-scientific tone, the nameless narrator takes us on a tour of a bizarre village whose inhabitants lead such habitual, regulated lives that they resemble elements in a mathematical equation."

The Publisher’s Weekly review describes it as follows:

“The traditional regional novel celebrating simple rural living is gleefully subverted in this experimental fiction [..] Alternating mathematically precise descriptions with dreamlike interludes, the author evokes a stultifying village where a schoolteacher obsesses over petty rules while the ineffectual mayor enacts meaningless public rituals. Instead of taking their place in a linear plot, daily events, such as a tightrope walker's performance in the village square, are refracted through multiple points of view, concrete verse and associative word clusters. Alleging that ``black men'' are hiding in the shadows of trees, the town authorities begin to monitor all citizens' activities; permission to take a walk in the woods requires submission of a six-page form in duplicate. Ordinances, pat aphorisms and pseudo-informative diagrams pervade the narrative, testifying to the onslaught of bureaucracy. Meanwhile, a flock of violent birds periodically destroys villagers' houses, perhaps symbolizing nature's revolt against a fossilized social order. Leavened with irreverent humor, this Kafka-esque fun house of a novel raucously protests the regimentation and standardization of modern life.”

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Works Similar to Geometric Regional Novel
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Kazohinia [A Voyage to Kazohinia] by Sándor Szathmári
  2. Inquirendo Island by Hudor Genone
  3. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
  4. Goliijo by Alex Rose
  5. Erasmus with Freckles [aka Dear Brigitte] by John Haase
  6. The Sinister Researches of C.P. Ransom by Homer C. Nearing Jr.
  7. The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem
  8. Bill, the Galactic Hero by Harry Harrison
  9. Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
  10. Albert's Bridge by Tom Stoppard
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Categories:
GenreHumorous,
MotifMath as Cold/Dry/Useless,
Topic
MediumNovels,

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Exciting News: The total number of works of mathematical fiction listed in this database recently reached a milestone. The 1,500th entry is The Man of Forty Crowns by Voltaire. Thanks to Vijay Fafat for writing the summary of that work (and so many others). I am also grateful to everyone who has contributed to this website. Heck, I'm grateful to everyone who visited the site. Thank you!

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)