Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Indian Clerk - David Leavitt - Books - Review - New York Times

Here's Nell Freudenberger writing in New York Times about David Leavitt's new novel "The Indian Clerk" about the life of Indian mathematician and genius S. Ramanujan (The Indian Clerk - David Leavitt). Excerpts:

"Once Ramanujan arrives in England, he becomes a Cambridge celebrity: there is competition among the dons for proximity to the “Hindoo calculator,” as he’s called in the press. Another mathematician, Eric Neville, takes Ramanujan into his home; his wife, Alice, becomes obsessed with their guest’s comfort, catering to his dietary restrictions, albeit in a very British fashion (a “vegetable goose” is one of the more appealing attempts). There are various justifications for the impulse to save Ramanujan: Alice claims to be easing his culture shock, while Hardy hopes to develop his mind. In both cases, however, their fascination has a sexually predatory edge: Hardy “cannot deny that it excites him, the prospect of rescuing a young genius from poverty and obscurity and watching him flourish. ... Or perhaps what excites him is the vision he has conjured up, in spite of himself, of Ramanujan: a young Gurkha, brandishing a sword.”"

"“The Indian Clerk” is loosely structured around a lecture given by the brilliant English mathematician and Cambridge don G. H. Hardy. In 1913, as Hardy is engaged in trying to prove the Riemann hypothesis — a mathematical problem involving prime numbers that Leavitt (the author of a brief biography of the mathematician Alan Turing) seems to understand deeply."

Must tear that book to shreds! To the occidental eye all Indians are either turban-ed Sardarjees or Khukri-wielding Gurkhas. Ever heard about Tamilians (S Ramanujan was one) and Malayalis (me!)?

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