a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Odile (1937)
Raymond Queneau

A humorous semi-autobiographical novel by this famous, French, surrealistic author.

Contributed by Larry D'Antonio, Ramapo College

Queneau seems to have had some training as a mathematician and was friends with several leading French mathematicians. This book is generally considered a satire of the Surrealist movement (of which Queneau was an early member). But one of the main characters is a mathematics student and has a long discussion with one of his friends about mathematics.

(Not a work of fiction, but worth mentioning: Queneau wrote a poetry work entitled 100,000,000,000,000 Poems. It consists of 10 sonnets with the property that any line of any sonnet may be substituted for any other, similarly numbered, line to create a new sonnet. Hence there are 10^14 different possible poems.)

Queneau's writing is also featured in Mathematical Magpie where there is reproduced three humorous excerpts:

  • In Excercices de Style, a scene on a bus is redescribed in 99 different ways. One of the ways is mathematical (e.g. "In a rectangular parallelepiped moving along a line representing an integral solution of the second-order differential equation...").
  • In Cahiers du College de Pataphysique No 1, Queneau notes that "All attempts, from earliest times to the present day, to demonstrate that 2+2=4 have failed to take into account the velocity of the wind"...and proceeds to fill that gap.
  • And in "At the Edge of the Forest" he uses limits to make a talking dog disappear.

More information about this work can be found at
(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)

Works Similar to Odile
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Het gemillimeterde hoofd (The Cropped Head) by Gerrit Krol
  2. Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
  3. Kazohinia [A Voyage to Kazohinia] by Sándor Szathmári
  4. Problems for Self-Study by Charles Yu
  5. Mulligan Stew by Gilbert Sorrentino
  6. Odds Against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich
  7. The Princess Hoppy or the Tale of Labrador by Jacques Roubaud
  8. Matrices by Steven Nightingale
  9. The Girl with the Celestial Limb by Pauline Melville
  10. Arithmetic Town / Arithmetic by Todd McEwen
Ratings for Odile:
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Mathematical Content:
1/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
4/5 (1 votes)


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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)