The Housekeeper and the Professor (3M)

‘Math has proven the existence of God, because it is absolute and without contradiction; but the devil must exist as well, because we cannot prove it.’

Absolutely wonderful — I loved this book!!

Have you seen the movie 50 First Dates? It’s one of my favorite movies, and a very similar situation occurs in this book. A mathematics professor has only 80 minutes of short term memory due to a car accident, but he remembers everything clear as a bell that happened before his head injury. He continues to solve mathematical proofs and has an uncanny ability to know exactly where the North Star is in the sky, even when there’s no visibility. He is kind and has a great love for children. But, he remembers only 80 minutes at a time in the here and now. His sister-in-law lets him live in a cottage next to her main house, and she has hired a ninth housekeeper to cook and clean for the professor.

The housekeeper does her best to please the professor and works around his disability. She tells him about her 10 year old son, and he insists on letting the son come to his cottage after school, even though it’s against the cleaning agency’s rules. The professor writes notes to himself to help remind him of the housekeeper and her son. The boy and the professor both have a love of baseball, and the professor uses this to teach the boy mathematics. Soon a strong bond is formed among the three of them.

There is quite a bit of math in this book, and of course I enjoyed those references tremendously. I have an engineering degree, and mathematics has always been a love of mine. I don’t think you have to know math like I do to enjoy this book, but you will certainly appreciate the beauty of it a bit more if you do.

‘Eternal truths are ultimately invisible, and you won’t find them in material things or natural phenomena, or even in human emotions. Mathematics, however, can illuminate them, can give them expression — in fact, nothing can prevent it from doing so.’

Very highly recommended!!

2003, 2009 for the English translation by Stephen Snyder, 180 pp.


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