a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Man Without Qualities Vol. 1: A Sort of Introduction and Pseudo Reality Prevails (1930)
Robert Musil
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

The hero of this landmark of Modernism is a mathematician, but as the title suggests, it is difficult to say anything else about him. The author, Austrian Robert Musil, studied mathematics and philosophy in college.

Contributed by anonymous

"Life-changing view of how to live. The finest work I've known. Pure logic leading to philosophy and morality."

Contributed by Austin

There are two translations of this work. The one mentioned here is the newer, and by far the inferior. Ex.: Those who know German will chafe at reading "Seinesgleiches geschieht" translated as "Psuedoreality Prevails"; the old translators, Eithne Wilkins and Ernst Kaiser, much more reasonably rendered it as "The like of it now happens," which preserves the intended ambiguity.

Contributed by James Bashkin

I thought this was a tremendous book. I read a Picador publication of it, if I remember correctly. I'll have to figure out which translation it was (I read it in about 1980). Apparently a relatively new translation is available (making three, perhaps?). There was a play based on The Man Without Qualities that toured England in the late 1970's or early 80's that I also saw. The play received terrible reviews, but I thought it was OK.

Well, once again I have to say that I didn't think much about math while reading this, but I was young... Maybe I did think about math and just forgot... Anyway, this is a must read, and now I think I'll need to read it again with the benefit of your comments!

Note: In an essay called "The Mathematical Man" (1913), Musil commented on what he saw as unique about the field of mathematics at the turn of the 20th century: "Today there is no other possibility of having such fantastic, visionary feelings as mathematicians do."

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Works Similar to The Man Without Qualities Vol. 1: A Sort of Introduction and Pseudo Reality Prevails
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Unknown Quantity by Hermann Broch
  2. Null-P by William Tenn
  3. Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  4. Confusions of Young Torless by Robert Musil
  5. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  6. The Theory of Everything by Lisa Grunwald
  7. Royal Highness (Königliche Hoheit) by Thomas Mann
  8. The Man of Forty Crowns by François Marie Arouet de Voltaire
  9. Randall and the River of Time by Cecil Scott Forester
  10. The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am [Jo Fortere Jeg Gar, Jo Mindre Er Jeg] by Kjersti A Skomsvold
Ratings for The Man Without Qualities Vol. 1: A Sort of Introduction and Pseudo Reality Prevails:
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:
2.88/5 (8 votes)
Literary Quality:
4.78/5 (9 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)