Top positive review
14 people found this helpful
on 6 November 2013
This is a wonderful book. It is a voyage through mathematics, seen
and illustrated as an ethereal and universal body of knowledge (though
one which is capable of making the most precise and concrete predictions
about the world we live in) yet one which is at the same time very
much a human endeavour. Not in the sense that mathematical truths
are subjective, but in the sense that the circumstances that bring about
their discovery are very much steeped in human and historic circumstances.
Would so many brilliant Russian jews have devoted themselves to
Mathematics if discrimination had not closed so many other paths
for them? Would we in the West have known about the mathematics
they discovered if the Eastern block had not collapsed? These are,
in my mind fascinating questions raised by the book.
And yet the book is a lot more: it offers a glimpse of one of the most
advanced areas of present day mathematics (the Langlands program).
Will you close the book with a complete understanding of what that
program is? Probably not, but then again its ultimate implications are
still being worked out, and the book is not a scientific tract. It offers
a panoramic view of a magnificent landscape, a Rosetta stone of
Mathematics, and as such conveys what it is that mathematicians
do and what living mathematics is.
As a side comment, I am amused by the statement of one of the
reviewers that Frenkel's book "parades a constant reference to
the plight of Jewish students in Russia during the Stalin epoch".
The book begins in the mid eighties, more than thirty years after
Stalin's death... Perhaps the reviewer might give the book, or better
a history book a closer read? And even it Frenkel's book were an
"anti Stalin tract" (it isn't at all), would there be something wrong
in criticizing Stalin?