Saturday, January 10, 2015


As my relatively leisurely elective period comes to an end, I've been enjoying Benoit Mandelbrot's quirky autobiography. I'm generally annoyed by novels whose protagonists live a sort of charmed life during which they are prominently inserted into most of the major events of the era*. Mandelbrot interacts with virtually every major scientific and mathematical figure alive during his scientific upbringing, but only occasionally due to charm. His uncle was part of the Bourbaki, his father a practical genius, he himself a genius of all sorts. It's fascinating to read how his interactions with the great (largely) men of the era laid the foundation for one of the most ingenious mathematical advances ever to be made. Nowadays, one tends to be pigeonholed out of being a scientific polyglot; reading this autobiography, I wonder just how much of a drawback that is. And I wonder what happened to Benoit's brother Leon, and whether Leon ever felt jealous of living in Benoit's shadow. If this were a novel, Benoit might have some insights at the denoument of a great family disagreement...

Oh, and it's cold. Just the weather for dishes like shakshuka with spinach and Indian spices, or persimmon-turmeric oatmeal with plenty of grated fresh ginger and a hit of blood orange juice.

Good books, warm food... I'll just stay inside, thanks.

*For an exception, see Les Bienveillantes by Jonathan Littell. For not an exception, see The Long Ships by Frans Bengtsson.

1 comment:

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