Jorge Luis Borges

Reading, writing and arithmetic – the glorious interrelation of maths and literature

There are lots of reasons why non-scientists should be forced to study mathematics, but it’s hard to see why mathematicians should bother with literature. Literature is part of the entertainment industry: emotional manipulation, crippled by cheap assertions and hollow arguments. Maths is intellectual. Maths has rigorous standards. Literature hides guff under its pretty phrases. Hart discusses the statistical challenges for the Oulipo group and their refusal to use the letter ‘e’ in thir clvr novls Sarah Hart, a professor of mathematics, wants us to see literature and mathematics as the ancients did – mutually supportive, central elements of a rounded education.  Once Upon a Prime is an eager, straight-forward book.