a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Parade's End (1924)
Ford Madox Ford

Although the British aristocracy, women's liberation, marital infidelity, and World War I are more important to this acclaimed novel, math arises a few times since the primary protagonist, Tietjens, is a government statistician. An example of the sort of mathematics which arises in his work follows:

(quoted from Parade's End)

"Mr. Waterhouse," Tietjens said, "asked me if I wouldn't consent to be transferred to his secretary's department. And when I said: "Go to hell!" he walked the streets with me for two hours arguing. . .. I was working out the chances on a 4 1/2 d. basis for him when you interrupted me. I've promised to let him have the figures when he goes by up the 1.30 on Monday."

Macmaster said: "You haven't.... But by Jove you're the only man in England that could do it. "

"That was what Mr. Waterhouse said." Tietjens commented. "He said old Ingleby had told him so."

'I do hope,' Macmaster said, 'that you answered him politely!'

"I told him," Tietjens answered, "that there were dozen men who could do it as well as I, and I mentioned your name in particular."

"But I couldn't," Macmaster answered. "Of course I could convert a 3d. rate into 4 1/2 d. But these are the actuarial variations; they're infinite. I couldn't touch them."

We learn that Tietjen could easily have been the highest scoring math student at Cambridge, if only he had wanted to:

(quoted from Parade's End)

At Cambridge he had been perfectly content with a moderate, quite respectable place on the list of mathematical postulants. He knew that that made him safe, and he had still more satisfaction in the thought that it would warrant him in never being brilliant in after life. But when Tietjens, two years after, had come out as a mere Second Wrangler, Macmaster had been bitterly and loudly disappointed. He knew perfectly well that Tietjens simply hadn't taken trouble; and, ten chances to one, it was on purpose that Tietjens hadn't taken trouble. For the matter of that, for Tietjens it wouldn't have been trouble.

He is the sort of mathematician character who thinks about math when other people would not, for example when playing golf:

(quoted from Parade's End)

Although Tietjens hated golf as he hated any occupation that was of a competitive nature, he could engross himself in the mathematics of trajectories when he accompanied Macmaster in one of his expeditions for practice.

This work about the decline of the British aristocracy was once widely touted as one of the great novels of the 20th century, though 21st century readers do not seem to have as much appreciation for it. I am grateful to Simon Brown of the Deviot Institute for bringing this work to my attention by forwarding to me the listing of "mathematical literature" that John S. Lew published in 1992. Lew's list included this along with a few others I had not previously heard about.

This work was first published as four separate novels before being published as a single book. (The publication date of 1924 that I've given is the year the first of them, Some Do Not... , appeared.) Moreover, there was a TV adaptation written by Tom Stoppard, though I do not yet know whether any mathematical content was carried over into the "TV programme". (If you have seen the television adaptation with Benedict Cumberbatch, please write to let me know if it should be considered "mathematical fiction".)

More information about this work can be found at
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Works Similar to Parade's End
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Randall and the River of Time by Cecil Scott Forester
  2. Hard Times by Charles Dickens
  3. Geometry in the South Pacific by Sylvia Warner
  4. Slightly Perfect / Are you with it? by George Malcolm-Smith (Novel) / Sam Perrin (Script) / George Balzer (Script)
  5. The Man Without Qualities Vol. 1: A Sort of Introduction and Pseudo Reality Prevails by Robert Musil
  6. The City of Devi by Manil Suri
  7. Royal Highness (K├Ânigliche Hoheit) by Thomas Mann
  8. And Be a Villain by Rex Stout
  9. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  10. The Odd Women by George Gissing
Ratings for Parade's End:
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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)