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The Invention of Ana [Forestillinger om Ana Ivan] (2016)
Mikkel Rosengaard

A Danish writer visiting New York becomes obsessed with the life story of Ana Ivan, a Romanian artist that he meets. She tells him about two lovers, about her parents' lives under the autocratic rule of Ceausescu, about her father's suicide, and about the fact that she is a (sort of) time traveller.

Doubt concerning reliability of the narrator(s) hangs heavily over this novel. In fact, with the writer (who bears some similarity to the novel's author), telling us the tales that Ana relates to him, many of which occurred before her birth and so must have been told to her by someone else, the reader cannot entirely trust what has been written. It leaves one questioning what is true, and what "true" even means in a fictional context. This surely was Rosengaard's intent, but I'm afraid I found it more frustrating than either interesting or enlightening.

Mathematics mostly enters the book through its discussion of Ana's father and his attempts to become a professional research topologist. Her parents, both mathematicians, met at the Institute of Mathematics. However, politics interferes and prevents them from earning their degrees. (Zoia Ceausescu, the dictator's daughter who was a mathematician in reality, plays a brief but important part in the story.) Initially, Ana herself studies math but abandons that career path to become a performance artist focusing on time travel.

N.B. "Time travel" in this novel does not mean the same thing that it does in science fiction novels. Rather, it refers to a number of realistic time-bending phenomena such as scientific experiments into the perception of time, art exhibits designed to alter the perception of time, using different calendars, changing time zones, and false birthdates.

The original Danish version appeared in 2016 and an English translation (by Caroline Wright) was published in 2018.

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Works Similar to The Invention of Ana [Forestillinger om Ana Ivan]
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Continuums by Robert Carr
  2. Divide Me By Zero by Lara Vapnyar
  3. A Universe of Sufficient Size by Miriam Sved
  4. Solenoid by Mircea Cartarescu
  5. The Capacity for Infinite Happiness by Alexis von Konigslow
  6. Miss Havilland by Gay Daly
  7. A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin
  8. The Proof of Love by Catherine Hall
  9. The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung
  10. Incendies by Denis Villeneuve / Valérie Beaugrand-Champagne / Wajdi Mouawad
Ratings for The Invention of Ana [Forestillinger om Ana Ivan]:
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Mathematical Content:
3/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
4/5 (1 votes)

MotifAcademia, Real Mathematicians, Female Mathematicians, Time Travel,

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Exciting News: The 1,600th entry was recently added to this database of mathematical fiction! Also, for those of you interested in non-fictional math books let me (shamelessly) plug the recent release of the second edition of my soliton theory textbook.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)