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The Indian Clerk

3.54  ·  Rating Details ·  1,244 Ratings  ·  227 Reviews
January, 1913. G.H. Hardy, considered to be the greatest British mathematician of his age, receives a letter from a self-professed mathematical genius who claims to be on the brink of solving the most important mathematical problem of his time. Hardy determines to learn more about the mysterious Ramanujan.
Paperback, 485 pages
Published February 1st 2009 by Bloomsbury UK (first published 2007)
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(showing 1-30)
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David
Jan 03, 2008 David rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2008
So how exactly are we to understand the phrase 'historical biography'? Apparently, as practiced by David Leavitt, it involves picking over the lives of his chosen victims - for some reason he has a predilection for gay English intellectuals - and tarting up the factual record with embellishments that appear to be more a projection of Leavitt's own unresolved issues than any kind of added insight into the character being assassinated. Maybe Professor Leavitt would be better served by seeking out ...more
Jonathan
Sep 15, 2007 Jonathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an ambitious book that succeeds on great characterization and Leavitt's highly readable prose. Leavitt manages to juggle numerous characters, and he tells his story from multiple perspectives. Occassionally, the change in point of view is disorienting -- in these spots, Leavitt is like a film director who moves the camera too quickly -- but it's a technique that reinforces the themes of the novel. Leavitt lets us see how his characters -- many fictionalized versions of real people -- mis ...more
Kia76
...mmmmmm..... Da un libro intitolato "Il matematico indiano" mi sarei aspettata di scoprire qualcosa in più di quanto non si possa trovare su Wikipedia su Srinivasa Ramanujan, questo personaggio straordinario che ha influenzato la storia della matematica con le sue teorie. Invece, dopo tante pagine, di lui non ci viene detto quasi nulla di essenziale, nè del suo lavoro scientifico. Molto invece ci viene detto di G.H. Hardy, il protagonista assoluto del libro è lui (e la sua omosessualità, osere ...more
Brenda
Feb 25, 2008 Brenda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't believe how much I liked this book. It is essentially a fictional biography of mathmaticians--who could possibly care about them? But the author entices you along with fascinating pictures of English intellectual life. And then you get to meet the real genius. Fascinating.
Stephen
Feb 10, 2008 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern
I cannot recall with clarity how I first became aware of The Indian Clerk by David Leavitt. NPR? Amazon? Whatever the case, I am very glad that I followed up on the lead.

The title is in reference to S. Ramanujan, the mathematician. It is a name I had heard, but the name and profession were previously the extent of my knowledge. The book begins with the English maths don G.H. Hardy helping bring Ramanujan over to Cambridge from his post as a minor clerk in Madras. From there it proceeds through
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Ellen
Jun 08, 2013 Ellen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I've read in months.
I don't understand anything about theoretical mathematics, but I know something about collaboration, and this description of what it is to work with another person on an intractable but fascinating problem is beautifully realized. I found all of the characters compelling, the story, based as it is on historical incidents and people, moving and ultimately heart-breaking. Images in this have stuck with me for weeks now (a British woman feeling out of plac
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Gary  the Bookworm
Dec 17, 2011 Gary the Bookworm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very impressive effort by David Leavitt. The main characters, based on historical figures, are believable and the story he tells is engrossing. I can't comment on the mathematic theorizing because it was way beyond my comprehension, but it added authenticity to this story about Cambridge mathematicians during WWI. The appearance of many famous figures from academia, the reenactment of a meeting of the Apostles, a secret society at Cambridge, and pacifist activities there and in London, contrib ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
This is a true historical novel - all of the characters were real people. I freely admit I'd never heard of them. None of them are likely to come up in any conversation I might have either.

It is the world of mathematics in the early 20th Century at Trinity College, England. The Indian Clerk of the title is Ramanujan, who is described by G.H. Hardy, then a famous mathematician, as being "the greatest mathematician of the last 100 years, perhaps the last 500 years." There are formulas interspersed
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José Luis
http://30dediferencia.com/2015/08/11/...

Una historia entretenida, fácil de leer y sin embargo no estoy muy seguro de si se la recomendaría a alguien. Seguramente yo iba buscando una historia en la que Ramanujan fuese más protagonista, pero he tenido la sensación de que en buena parte de la historia figura nada más que como un invitado de lujo, es la excusa perfecta para contarnos otra historia. La historia se centra mucho más en otro matemático, Hardy, y Ramanujan queda excluido en muchos moment
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Yooperprof
If there were a "truth in book titles" law, this novel should really be called "The Cambridge Don."

Bravo to David Leavitt for doing a lot of research on Cambridge intellectual society shortly after the turn of the century. Who would have thought you could write a 500 page novel about early 20th mathematics and make it interesting? Here's the rub: based upon Leavitt's effort here, it's probably not possible. Actually, the "campus politics" aspect of the book keeps the plot simmering for the first
...more
Toto
Jan 08, 2015 Toto rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Compulsively readable, very deeply imagined historical bio-fiction about the life and times of two brilllian mathematicians around the turn of the last century. Learned a lot about, not mathematics, but mathematicians at the Trinitiy College of Cambridge during World War I. Best kind of historical fiction: true to detail, well drawn characters, and a great story.
Deirdre
Oct 15, 2007 Deirdre rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
i think it would have been better if the editor had a heavier hand. but some interesting stuff about life in the university setting in the UK right before and during WWI, including attitudes towards race, marriage, class, sex.
Frumenty
Nov 17, 2013 Frumenty rated it really liked it
Full marks to David Leavitt for writing a novel about mathematics and mathematicians that is so readable. The research is impressive and the writing is very accessible. The "Indian clerk" is a self-taught mathematical genius with very little formal education who, despite all his disadvantages, succeeds in interesting a leading Cambridge mathematician, G.H. Hardy, in his ideas.

I've known the name G.H. Hardy since high school; he was the Hardy who didn't write The Mayor of Casterbridge and Tess of
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Cthonus
Sep 29, 2013 Cthonus rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As much as I continue to hold the author in high esteem for the notable "Family Dancing" and "The Lost Language of Cranes" this work is unfortunately not on a par with those distinguished novels. It is a story about the tail end of the Edwardian period, its peculiar mannerisms, social distinctions and colonialism that could only be written by someone from another country for all its cliches and blatant howlers.

You probably have to be a Brit-picker to catch some of the nuances that offend and irr
...more
Emily
Nov 08, 2009 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
he Indian Clerk, by David Leavitt, is a novel that I respected more than enjoyed. It's a fictionalized story about the Cambridge mathematician G.H. Hardy's relationship with the Indian prodigy Ramanujan during the First World War. After receiving a startling letter from Ramanujan, which seems to rediscover complicated theories and lay out entirely new ones, Hardy encourages him to come to England. They work together productively for just a few years before Ramanujan's health begins to fail and h ...more
Amy Cousins
Oct 18, 2008 Amy Cousins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loving this book, although at the moment I cannot find it. Slipped under the bed perhaps?

Quite a bit later on:

I very much enjoyed this book, in much the same way that I loved Colm Toibin's The Master. It is quiet book; when your main characters are almost all people who end up on the quiet fringes of society during a massive World War, the drama that evolves is smaller, although no less deep for that. I have no opinion as to the book's accuracy as regards its treatment of these historical and r
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Marcy
Feb 01, 2014 Marcy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this novel more than I actually did. The novel is about Srinavasa Ramanujan, the extraordinary Indian mathematician and his relationship with the English mathematician G.H. Hardy. But unfortunately the novel ventures more fully into the life of Hardy, as it is primarily told through his point of view, than it does Ramanujan. The parts where Hardy is lecturing to students at Harvard University--which is always prefaced by some caveat suggesting he intended to share these thoughts ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Based on a lecture given by a real-life Hardy in 1913, this intellectual and historical novel explores the beauty of mathematics, the nature of creativity, sexual repression, class relations, and the frailty of human connection-all set against the decline of empire and war. David Leavitt, best known for While England Sleeps (1993), impressed critics with his research and the novel's accessibility; even his discussions of the Riemann hypothesis and the secret order of the primes offered them inte

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Sherelyn Ernst
Apr 08, 2015 Sherelyn Ernst rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book although I'm not sure why. Themes of higher mathematics and gay issues in England/Oxford during the early 1900's figure prominently in this, and neither theme is high on my list of favorites. Nevertheless, it's based on actual people so I learned much about things I wouldn't have learned if I hadn't read this book and found them very interesting. I even felt I at least briefly understood the passion some find in higher mathematics. Wow! That took some doing!
Jeffrey Rasley
Nov 28, 2011 Jeffrey Rasley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing piece of historical fiction. The research is impeccable and astonishing. The writing is brilliantly creative. I so enjoyed how fiction and nonfiction were blended into the POV of G.H. Hardy. It is not a light read and an interest in math and history is helpful.

I knew nothing of Ramanujan before reading the book. I'm glad I met him and honor the memory of his short life.
Joann Amidon
Jun 03, 2016 Joann Amidon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shelved
It would never have occurred to me that I would read and actually enjoy a nearly 500 page book about mathematics. However, this book twines many other aspects of pre-WWI life in England with the subject of mathematics and genius. It took me about a quarter of the book to really become immersed in it but from then on the book was quite engrossing, even if I never could understand the mathematical portions.
Teju
Sep 27, 2015 Teju rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I should confess that I was binge reading books on mathematicians, especially Ramanujan- so i picked up the book. After i realized that this is a work of fiction... I see that the author ties the story together with some well known facts. He takes his liberty in fiction quite adeptly. It is certainly worth a read, he folds in the first world war, the eccentricities of academics (which surprisingly does not change in generations) interestingly.
Aparna Dubey
Nov 30, 2014 Aparna Dubey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully woven stories that revolve around Ramanujan's journey covering the life and times of British thinkers during World War One; the coteries governing the most respected institutions of learning . A very nice historical recreation of Ramanujan's personality and his travails from a Western perspective, especially introspective and amusing for a rasam loving vegetarian Hindu like me!
dawna
Jan 17, 2012 dawna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this is the first book I've read by this author and I was absolutely charmed - the writing is incredible, thick and baroque, it gives you the feeling of velvet and cut flowers - I had a sloooow time reading it because I was savouring! I'm sorry for no commentary on the story but I cant yet escape the glorious orgy of imagery that made up the story.
John Habermann
Jul 11, 2013 John Habermann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written book about mathematics, England during WWI, and the difficulty of relationship.
Marilyn twisted my arm...5 stars. I'm such an easy grader. Perhaps I wanted things to turn out differently for our main characters!
Ishan Gupta
One of he close views of how Ramanujan affected Hardy in the search of Infinity.
Tamara Agvanian
Jun 09, 2016 Tamara Agvanian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very engaging history about Ramanujan. Would be interesting to compare to The Man Who Knew Infinity.
Ron
Jul 10, 2016 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hence 331, 3331, 33331, 333331, and 3333331 are prime, but 33333331 is not.
>>
how notoriously resistant numbers are to the ordering impulse that, by their very nature, they invoke.
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he wrote out the primes, tried to see if there was reason to their ordering: 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19 … It seemed there was none. Yet there had to be order, because numbers, by their very nature, conferred order. Numbers meant order. Even if the order was hidden, invisible.
>>
The question was easy
...more
Becky Powell
Dec 30, 2012 Becky Powell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own

Archimedes will be remembered when Aeschylus is forgotten, because languages die and mathematical ideas do not. “Immortality” may be a silly word, but probably a mathematician has the best chance of whatever it may mean.
--G.H. Hardy, A Mathematician’s Apology

Curiosity is a wonderful thing. It leads us from familiar ground into unmapped territory. Curiosity led me to The Indian Clerk by David Leavitt after discovering the Indian mathematician Ramanujan in a children’s book about famous mathematic
...more
Jiji Paul chakola
Feb 07, 2017 Jiji Paul chakola rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
great book about Ramanujan in english soil.though i had picked up the book thinking its fiction enjoyed thoroughly.
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Leavitt is a graduate of Yale University and a professor at the University of Florida, where he is the co-director of the creative writing program. He is also the editor of Subtropics magazine, The University of Florida's literary review.

Leavitt, who is openly gay, has frequently explored gay issues in his work. He divides his time between Florida and Tuscany, Italy.
More about David Leavitt...

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“Spouse or collaborator, it comes to the same thing. And there is work to be done. Always, always work to be done." -David Leavitt, "Partition," _The Indian Clerk_” 1 likes
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