Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pythagorean Crimes by Tefcros Michaelides (Translated from the Greek by Lena Cavanagh)

Michael Igerinos is shocked to hear that his best friend of 30 years, Stefanos Kantartzis, has been murdered. While interviewed by the police, Michael begins to recall his long-friendship with Stefanos, which begin in 1900, when both met as young men at the Second International Congress of Mathematics in Paris.

In the ensuing decades, both men share a myriad of adventures that see them drink in Montmartre with the then undiscovered Pablo Picasso, cross-paths with the famous Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec at the Moulin Rouge, share romances, fight in war, clash with a criminal gang involved in prostitution, and all the while discussing the latest advancements in mathematics.

Lurking in the shadows of this novel is the mysterious story of Hippasus of Mesapontum, the ancient Greek philosopher who legend has it was killed by the Pythagorean sect after he discovered that the square root of two, and hence the Pythagorean Theorem, was irrational. Does Hippasus’ death contain any clues on the murder of Stefanos? Or was his death simply the result of an act of revenge by an embittered criminal? This fascinating story filled with mathematicians, painters, poets, pimps, prostitutes, soldiers and rich upper class snobs provides a captivating answer. Michaelides's has produced a wonderful work that manages to combine complex mathematics with brilliant literature. A true triumph.

5 out of 5 stars