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Confusions of Young Torless (1906)
Robert Musil
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

Contributed by John L. Bell, University of Western Ontario

A semi-autobiographical novel set in a military academy in a desolate corner of the Austro-Hungarian empire, is the story of the intellectual awakening of an intelligent adolescent, and contains several passages on mathematics (and philosophy), notably a remarkably penetrating discussion of the meaning of imaginary numbers.

Contributed by Austin

Young Törless was adapted into a movie, directed by Volker Schlöndorff (who also adapted The Tin Drum).

Contributed by Herbert Huber

Confusions of Young Torless is not only about irrational numbers but also about parallels. In the beginning Musil describes the tracks of the railroad line not as one may expect (and as it for instance Gerhart Hauptmann does it in "Bahnwärter Thile") as converging at the horizon. Musil tells the reader the tracks will never meet. Which of course is true but you never see it like that. The thoughts about irrational numbers raises the philosophical question if numbers alltogether are inventions of man kind or if we find them (as we found for instance Australia or the Congo).

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Works Similar to Confusions of Young Torless
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Ratings for Confusions of Young Torless:
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:
2.75/5 (4 votes)
Literary Quality:
4.75/5 (4 votes)

GenreHistorical Fiction,
TopicAlgebra/Arithmetic/Number 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)