a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Adding Machine (1923)
Elmer Rice

Contributed by "William E. Emba"

This highly symbolic play tells the life, death, afterlife, and rebirth of Zero, a mild-mannered nobody who is hoping to get a raise for twenty five years of loyal service as a clerk doing addition for his employer. Instead, he is to be replaced by an uneducated girl using an adding machine.

Also in the cast are his wife, Mrs Zero, and their friends, Mr and Mrs One through Six. Their friends Mr and Mrs Seven through Twelve are mentioned in the dialogue. Literary balance, of sorts, is provided by a character named Shrdlu, of "Etaoin Shrdlu" fame.

Mathematical content is mostly limited to the blatant (and effective) symbolism of treating people as mere numbers, and business as simply so much addition. Also, Zero is something of an arithmomaniac, given to turning mentions of numbers into obsessive bouts of addition, which he quickly suppresses.

This play was originally produced/published in seven scenes, with a deleted eighth scene (Zero's death) restored in revival/republication. The missing scene has no mathematical content.

Additional information about the play can be found in the Wikipedia entry, and the film version (1969) has an entry at IMDB.

Contributed by Lou

The adding machine is an amazing novel, but the title implies a mathamatically based story line but it really is a german expressionistic drama with no math at all.

More information about this work can be found at
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Works Similar to The Adding Machine
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Numberland by George Weinberg
  2. Stranger than Fiction by Marc Forster (Director) / Zach Helm (Screenplay)
  3. An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender
  4. According to the Law by Solvej Balle
  5. The Imaginary Number by Yizhak Oren
  6. Royal Highness (K├Ânigliche Hoheit) by Thomas Mann
  7. Tenet by Lorne Campbell / Sandy Grierson
  8. In Our Prime [I-sang-han na-ra-eui su-hak-ja] by Lee Yong-jae (screenwriter) / Dong-hoon Park (director)
  9. Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  10. Hidden Figures by Allison Schroeder (writer) / Theodore Melfi (director and writer)
Ratings for The Adding Machine:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
1.5/5 (2 votes)
Literary Quality:
4/5 (2 votes)

MediumPlays, Films,

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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)