5.0 von 5 Sternen
Greek Tragedy without the Gods:, 4. Mai 2000
Or rather, with the gods reborn in psychological terms as our inner motivators and inhibitors.
At its simplest, this is a short, well written, light, detective story. It is a little like Sherlock Holmes, a set of stories read by Uncle Petros, with Mathematics as an environment rather than a subject.
If taken at this level it is an enjoyable read that should have a wide audience.
However, it is a multifaceted novel. For me it has its origins in Ancient Greece, its heart in the theme of 'Pride" (hubris) and is constructed in terms of Greek Tragedy, complete with protagonist (Uncle Petros) / antagonist (unnamed nephew narrator). It has all the intensity and economy needed to make a wonderful opera.
There are many allusions to the myths, philosophy and history of Ancient Greece. Pythagoras, his mathematics (especially his opinion of the number 2 and the Pythagorean idea of rules imposing limits on the unlimited) and his views on beans seem to lie behind a several of the book's images. Plato is specifically referred to and the location of much of the story in Uncle Petros's semi-rural cottage is reminiscent of the original Academy.
Of the myths, Oedipus is central: The solving of the sphinx's riddles (the second riddle, about two sisters, links with Petros's dream), Oedipus being destroyed by 'truth', his apotheosis at Colonus all have parallels in the novel.
There are references to more recent literature and other arts forms: The choice of Isolde (Wagner's Eros driven opera), as the name of Petros's only human love is typical - and Hamlet, complete with ghost, make an appearance too.
All this is treated with a light hand, there to be seen and enjoyed but not essential to understanding (unlike, for example, in TS Eliot!).
Another major facet is an exploration of creativity and originality. Apostolos Doxiadis clearly demonstrates the visual imaging many great thinkers experience (Kekule and the tail-biting snake being a classic example) and reflects contemporary views on dreams and the role of the sub/unconscious.
The book looks at the social and political consequences of original creativity: The tremendous self belief and lack of doubt needed to drive the mind to real creativity; the politics surrounding the individual in institutions and the need for peer recognition; the isolation from the family and the way we define "self".
Scattered through the book are characters driven 'mad' by too close a knowledge of the pure form - the sad image of Kurt Godel in the 'shabby', 'genteel', Oppenheimer created Institute of Advanced Study is quite horrifying in some respects. Other real mathematicians appear, all 'The Greats' bent from the norms of the society they lived in in some way, all seeking immortality, a place in the museum of mathematics.
The book opens with the bold claim (in a quote) that mathematicians have a greater chance of immortality than poets: It ends in the 'poetic' First Cemetery of Athens with Goldbach's Conjecture engraved, as a poem, on Uncle Petros's grave stone.