Thursday, 2 February 2017

Artin's conjecture as poetry: The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

I opened this book intending only to make a start on it before going to sleep, but didn’t put it down until I finished. Later on I looked up some things; i) Yutaka Enatsu; and ii) maths. It turns out that a few years after it was published, Ogawa wrote a book on the world’s most elegant mathematics with Masahiko Fujiwara, a professor emeritus at Ochanomizu University, whose major work is on Diophantine equations. Knowing this gave me a good deal more comfort than it probably should.

And then I thought for a while about why I feel so at home, at peace, with the best Japanese writers. But I didn’t conclude anything sensible. It doesn’t matter; I like how they affect me.

Anyway, if you know what amicable numbers and twin primes are, and would like to read a novel about a guy with an eighty-minute memory and a superior knowledge of Ruth-Aaron pairs, Mersenne primes, Euler's formula and Japanese baseball statistics, and how he forms an unlikely family with a housekeeper and her young boy, then this is the book for you.

And even if you didn't know the Japanese even played baseball, and mathematics made you cry at school, you should still read it. 

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