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Indian Clerk, The

by David Leavitt
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publishing date: 04/09/2007
  • Language: Français
  • ISBN-13: 9781596910409
  • ISBN: 1596910402

Synopsis

The brilliant new novel from one of our most respected writers—his most ambitious and accessible to date.
 
On a January morning in 1913, G. H. Hardy—eccentric, charismatic and, at thirty-seven, already considered the greatest British mathematician of his age—receives in the mail a mysterious envelope covered with Indian stamps. Inside he finds a rambling letter from a self-professed mathematical genius who claims to be on the brink of solving the most important unsolved mathematical problem of all time. Some of his Cambridge colleagues dismiss the letter as a hoax, but Hardy becomes convinced that the Indian clerk who has written it—Srinivasa Ramanujan—deserves to be taken seriously. Aided by his collaborator, Littlewood, and a young don named Neville who is about to depart for Madras with his wife, Alice, he determines to learn more about the mysterious Ramanujan and, if possible, persuade him to come to Cambridge. It is a decision that will profoundly affect not only his own life, and that of his friends, but the entire history of mathematics.

Based on the remarkable true story of the strange and ultimately tragic relationship between an esteemed British mathematician and an unknown—and unschooled—mathematical genius, and populated with such luminaries such as D. H. Lawrence, Bertrand Russell, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, The Indian Clerk takes this extraordinary slice of history and transforms it into an emotional and spell-binding story about the fragility of human connection and our need to find order in the world.
David Leavitt is the author of several novels, including The Body of Jonah Boyd, While England Sleeps, and Equal Affections. A recipient of fellowships from both the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, he teaches at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
A New York Magazine Top 10 Book of the Year
 
On a January morning in 1913, G. H. Hardy—eccentric, charismatic and, at thirty-seven, already considered the greatest British mathematician of his age—receives in the mail a mysterious envelope covered with Indian stamps. Inside he finds a rambling letter from a self-professed mathematical genius who claims to be on the brink of solving the most important unsolved mathematical problem of all time. Some of his Cambridge colleagues dismiss the letter as a hoax, but Hardy becomes convinced that the Indian clerk who has written it—Srinivasa Ramanujan—deserves to be taken seriously. Aided by his collaborator, Littlewood, and a young don named Neville who is about to depart for Madras with his wife, Alice, he determines to learn more about the mysterious Ramanujan and, if possible, persuade him to come to Cambridge. It is a decision that will profoundly affect not only his own life, and that of his friends, but the entire history of mathematics.

Based on the true story of the strange and ultimately tragic relationship between an esteemed British mathematician and an unknown—and unschooled—mathematical genius, and populated with such luminaries such as D. H. Lawrence, Bertrand Russell, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, The Indian Clerk takes this extraordinary slice of history and transforms it into an emotional and spell-binding story about the fragility of human connection and our need to find order in the world.

"Mathematics and its paradoxes provide a deep vein of metaphor that Leavitt uses to superb effect, demonstrating how the most meaningful relationships can defy both logic and imagination."—The New Yorker

"Leavitt, a fine writer, has captured not just the complex nature of their partnership, but also a sense of the context: In his telling, England at the turn of the 20th century fits the phrase he uses to describe a particular boarding house, as 'a room grown stale from its own protection.' But beneath the surface of this story lurk issues that feel as fresh as today's news. Most importantly, the novel addresses the clash of cultures as Britain's empire-building came home to roost."—Seattle Times 

"Extensively researched . . . [a] richly layered, rueful portrait . . . Leavitt has tapped into marvelous material."—San Francisco Chronicle

"A beautiful and creative work that manages to portray a melange of the literary, historical, romantic and academic, with breathtaking prose and deeply nuanced characters."—Pittsburg Post-Gazette

"Leavitt makes the math of prime numbers surprisingly palatable. But we learn more about the complexities of love and work, and their interaction. In Hardy, Leavitt has created a rich character."—Boston Globe

"Erudite and well researched, and Leavitt writes about pure mathematics in a way that won't utterly baffle those of us who didn't get beyond pre-calculus in high school ."—Christian Science Monitor

“A novel about people who really existed, recreated by an author who plays with the facts, and especially the intriguing lacunae, of their lives . . . richly imagined . . . Leavitt's porttrait of Hardy is a remarkable achievement . . . Leavitt has been praised and condemned for the explicit sex in his fiction, but it is his candid exploration of class that sets him apart from most American writers . . . It's usually not possible to know real people as well as writers can know fictional characters, and it's to Leavitt's enormous credit that he makes these historical personages so vividly complex . . . Leavitt has a passion to inhabit the past, a particular novelistic impulse that goes beyond simple 'animation' of history. The research that went into The Indian Clerk is impressive . . . reading it offers the pleasure of escape into another world, along with the nagging feeling of familiarity that characterizes the best historical fiction."—The New York Times Book Review

"This is a daring novel in a most unusual way. It is as if David Leavitt had challenged himself to novelize the subject most inimical to fiction, and when the eureka moment arrived, it was a vision of—mathematics!"Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Excellent…highly recommended.”  —Library Journal, starred review

"A profoundly moving tale that illuminates the agony of repressed feelings and the thrill of intellectual discovery. Think Remains of the Day meets Good Will Hunting.”—Entertainment Weekly

“Leavitt’s copiously researched new novel focuses on a relatively narrow world that he nevertheless illuminates into its deepest recesses . . . Leavitt explores the legend that grew up around Ramanujan, finds what is real in the myth that shrouded his actual being, and in the process reaches impressive heights of understanding the psyche of the intellectual as well as those who seek company with the brilliant-minded."Booklist

"A loving exploration of one of the greatest collaborations of the past century, The Indian Clerk is a novel that brilliantly orchestrates questions of colonialism, sexual identity and the nature of genius."—Manil Suri, author of The Death of Vishnu

"The certainty attributed to mathematics is richly contrasted to the uncertainty of human relationships in Leavitt's unusual and absorb


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  • Read At Your own Risk!
    From Amazon

    in my estimate, the author has used Ramanujan's mathamatical notoriety as a "come on" to draw an audience. Unfortunately this book of fiction seems to be a platform on which Mr. Leavitt embroiders homosexual and dream episodes through G. H. Hardy's character. This reader felt that this story was not about Ramanujan, but about the rather anal (as portrayed) G. H. Hardy. This reader did enjoy parts of the book portraying a Don's view at Cambridge, the First World War, as well as cultural aspects of the time in England. Since I have enjoyed considerable mathematics, the brief discussions related to Hardy's and Ramanujan's math sessions were of interest to me. Certainly such Indian students such as Ramanujan were treated with some disrespect and often had much difficulty blending into English culture. Will I pass this book on? Probably not. Will I recommend it as a good read for math-minded people? No. There are other much more informative books (The Man Who Knew infinity, for example). Read Hardy's, A Mathematician's Apology. The Indian Clerk to me is similar to a cruise ship often lost at sea with no port of call. Personally, I was relieved when the 478th page was finished, but saddened at Ramanujan's death in India at age 33. For reference, the Sources and Acknowledgements section might be worth one's time without having to mush through the book.

  • A great book for the homosexuals
    From Amazon

    I am getting tired of getting books without being warned about the content... luckily David Leavitt did me a favour by emphasising that the "romantic" relationship between the 2 male characters of the book early. It took only a few flipping of the pages for me to decide I would not like to read 400+ pages of such a book. And so, I lost my money by trowing the book into the gabage. Unless you are trilled by books on homosextuality, skip this one.

  • Better than AMBIEN!
    From Amazon

    Slow, tedious and dull..Such a disappointment for I have found David Leavitt to be such a captivating storyteller with everything else he has written. This book puts me to sleep every single night!

  • NYC LGBT group offered mixed reviews, but those who hated it were vehement
    From Amazon

    At the November 2009 meeting, the NYC LGBT Center book discussion group had a very nice sized group that read "The Indian Clerk" by David Leavitt. The discussion was interesting. A number of people (including myself) thought that the novel was a good read and historical piece although it had problems. A number of readers hated hated hated the novel and the author's inability to connect with his characters or readers. (Needless to say, I don't think we'll be reading any more David Leavitt in the near future.) I think that those of us who rather liked it thought that it was "novelistic," that is, a good combination of slowly revealing plot and character and historical events, although it was hard to emotionally connect with the characters, who had repressed Victorian personalities and were only interested in numbers. Those who didn't like it thought that the writing was flat, the unlikeable characters unmotivated, and the historical period not illuminated by the too-many events depicted (such as the appearances of famous individuals at Trinity and the Great War). I think that we all agreed that some of minor characters with more imagined stories - rather than historically accurate stories - were better. I'm thinking of Littlewood's mistress, Anne Chase, and Alice Neville, who falls in love with Ramanujan. So this was a very mixed evening of reviews, but I was surprised by the vehemence of the bad reviews.

  • Disorder
    From Amazon

    David Leavitt takes historical figures and facts of the early 20th century in England, and weaves a complicated story of personal relationships and mathematical genius on the pages of his novel, The Indian Clerk. The title refers to Srinivasa Ramanujan, who in 1913 from his accounts clerk desk in Madras, India, sent a nine-page letter about prime numbers to Cambridge mathematician G.H. Hardy. Hardy and his colleague J.E. Littlewood recognize Ramanujan's talent and agree that he should come to Cambridge. Once there, he and Hardy work hard on math proofs. The orderliness of math contrasts well with the disorderliness of the relationships in this book. Genius can always be difficult in their personal relationships, and the many geniuses in The Indian Clerk make for lively and complicated relationships. Lovers of math will find the formulas in the book and their discussions to be intriguing. For the rest of us, there's sadness about all the personal aspects of unfulfillment in the emotional lives of all the key characters. Husbands and wives are estranged; lovers are separated; homosexuality is closeted and Ramanujan dies an early death for a reason that could have been avoided if the selfish Hardy had paid more attention. For those readers who reach the end of the book with questions about what was fact and what was fiction, Leavitt provides a final section of the book that sorts much of that out. Rating: Three-star (Recommended)

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