• Current Reads

      Life after Life Jill McCorkle
      This Is Your Captain Speaking Jon Methven
      The Starboard Sea Amber Dermont
      Snark David Denby
      Bring Up the Bodies Hilary Mantel
  • Popular Tags

  • Recent Reflections

  • Categories

  • Moleskine’s All-Time Favorites

  • Echoes

    sumithra MAE on D.H. Lawrence’s Why the…
    To Kill a Mockingbir… on [35] To Kill A Mockingbird…
    Deanna Friel on [841] The Price of Salt (Carol…
    Minnie on [367] The Rouge of the North 怨…
    travellinpenguin on [841] The Price of Salt (Carol…
    travellinpenguin on Libreria Acqua Alta in Ve…
  • Reminiscences

  • Blog Stats

    • 1,040,414 hits
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,728 other followers

  • Advertisements

Borges and Mathematics


Thoughts from reading: The term “math fiction” came up while I was reading a review on Borges in the New York Times. Although I have never heard of it, but as soon as I spotted the phrase I associated to Flatland, a novel, or rather a mathematical essay, written by Edwin A. Abbott, I read in high school. The story itself consists of a two dimensional world (Flatland), in which there are people of assorted shapes. These shapes live regular lives, just as we do. The protagonist (a square), is visited by a sphere, which tries to explain to him the existence of a third dimension. This proves difficult, though, because to the square in flatland, the sphere appears to be nothing more than a circle that can expand, contract, disappear and reappear.

Now I’m in Borges to the hilt, I realize mathematical elements are abundant in his work. Some of the stories even contain small mathematical lessons. Borges is fascinated by infinity theory, recursive objects, symmetry, progression. In most of his works, there exists an essentially essayistic matrix. Borges is a writer who proceeds from a single principle—“in the beginning was the idea,” and conceptualizes his stories as incarnations or avatars of abstractions. There are also fragments of logical arguments in many of his stories. The elements of Borges’s style have affinity with the mathematical esthetic. Even in the passages that have nothing to do with mathematics, there is something in his writing, an element of style, that is particularly pleasing to the mathematical esthetic. When Borges writes, he typically accumulates examples, analogies, related stories, and variations on what he wants to tell. In this way the thrust of the story that unfolds is at once particular and general, and his passages give the impression that his particular examples are self-supporting references to universal forms. Mathematicians proceed in the same way. When they study an example, a particular case, they examine it with the hope of discovering a stronger and more general property that they can abstract into a theorem.


One Response

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: