Linda's Reviews > The Indian Clerk

The Indian Clerk by David Leavitt
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's review
Mar 29, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction
Read in February, 2009

I kept having to come back to this book. It's not an easy read. But I've always wanted to learn more about Ramanujan since I learned about while working in the UCLA Philosophy department while going to college. This story is more about Hardy than Ramanujan. It's a great read if you are interested in the logic and mathematics being done around WWII. It's also a revealing look at the life of English dons. Here's the plot from the publisher:

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.

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