|A short novel about Gustavo Roderer, a brilliant but troubled young man in Argentina. Mathematics is not a central theme, but arises as Roderer's friend (the narrator) talks with him about the philosophical implications of "Seldom's Theorem". "Seldom's Theorem" is apparently a fictional generalization of Gödel's theorem which the author created for this book. Although we only learn a little bit about the theorem here, we actually get to meet Arthur Seldom in another novel by the same author, The Oxford Murders (2004).
R.D. Ogden, Southwest Texas State Univ.|
"I have a Ph.D. in math, so my low math content rating must be seen in that
But the math that is in there, especially the discourse on proof and binary
logic, is accurate and appropriate. To me this brief literary jewel is
about the illusion of the self-sufficiency of genius and talent. With the
Latino love of the ironic, he shows how great the loss can be of the fruits
of genius (Roderer) when that genius has an inadequate support system:
the narrator, his family, and poor Roderer's mother. The narrator could not
put aside his own pretensions of genius to be the Boswell for
another. Probably in math this is even more common; so often we do not know
how to support the unorthodox among us. How many Galois and Ramanujans have
died, taking their insights and intuitions with them?"
It's a beautiful piece of art, comparable to Borges'. You won't regret a read.
I've just read this book and am trying to digest it. I am not a mathematician , although I've read a bit of math fiction before. This novel goes far beyond
mathematical or medical fiction. It is so concise and complicated, yet every "little" theme serves Martinez's literary object. I am definitely going to read "About Roderer" again and again. And recommend it to anyone who listens. And maybe quote it sometimes.
I have so much to say about it but the dust hasn't settled yet. The sum of it is: If this world is a model for dualistic humans , "we do have very little time", even if our dualism is a projection or a devised barrier for what we do not understand... yet. "The consequences are real" ; and Roderer and the nameless narrator and the "minor" characters are so compelling , a treat for the would-be cynic ( in the pure sense ).
The 'good doctor' adds a nice , pivotal touch. He is the Devil and Roderer is an anti-Faustus ; and morphine is proposed by the former as the means by which Roderer could rid himself temporarily from biological demands on his genius, until he would wake up to find himself spent, his life-absorving work claimed by the Devil. Even though Roderer is not tempted, the Devil proves to be the better chess player.
PS. Martinez is so very, very sly!