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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Lust for Numbers - By NELL FREUDENBERGER a review of THE INDIAN CLERK

review of THE INDIAN CLERK By David Leavitt.

Once Ramanujan arrives in England, he becomes a Cambridge celebrity: there is competition among the dons for proximity to the “Hindoo calculator,” as he’s called in the press. Another mathematician, Eric Neville, takes Ramanujan into his home; his wife, Alice, becomes obsessed with their guest’s comfort, catering to his dietary restrictions, albeit in a very British fashion (a “vegetable goose” is one of the more appealing attempts). There are various justifications for the impulse to save Ramanujan: Alice claims to be easing his culture shock, while Hardy hopes to develop his mind. In both cases, however, their fascination has a sexually predatory edge: Hardy “cannot deny that it excites him, the prospect of rescuing a young genius from poverty and obscurity and watching him flourish. ... Or perhaps what excites him is the vision he has conjured up, in spite of himself, of Ramanujan: a young Gurkha, brandishing a sword.”

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