The Indian Clerk, Paperback Book
2.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


January, 1913, Cambridge. G.H. Hardy - eccentric, charismatic and considered the greatest British mathematician of his age - receives 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 mathematical problem of his time.

Hardy determines to learn more about this mysterious Indian clerk, Srinivasa Ramanujan, a decision that will profoundly affect not only his own life, and that of his friends, but the entire history of mathematics.

Set against the backdrop of the First World War, and populated with such luminaries as D.H.

Lawrence and Bertrand Russell, "The Indian Clerk" fashions from this fascinating period an utterly compelling story about our need to find order in the world.


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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 intellectuals in the period immediately before and during the First World War. Who would have thought you could write a 500 page novel about early 20th century 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 200 pages or so. It's fun to read about the "naughty" Cambridge Apostles, and the conflicting egos of Bertrand Russell, D.H. Lawrence, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and other intellectual bigwigs who make their appearances here. And the Indian mathematician of the title, Srinivasa Ramanujan, is fascinating enough, even though he is treated entirely from the outside. The problem is there's not enough of interest - not enough plot - to justify the lengthy treatment that the author provides. And the central character through whom the novel is refracted, a cranky bachelor don named G.H. Hardy, becomes tiresome company halfway through the book.

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