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An artist of the abstract world

Janna Levin's first novel is a compelling fictionalisation of the lives of two great scientists. But her gift lies not so much in bringing science to life as in showing how life itself fuels great science

By Gwyneth Lewis   September 2008

A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines by Janna Levin (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £14.99)

It’s always a good sign when a work of art about science takes its form from the ideas under scrutiny. Goethe’s Elective Affinities and Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen are more than writing about science—their plots, rhythms and shapes are dictated by the theories they discuss. The same is true of cosmologist Janna Levin’s novel about Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing. Turing and Gödel never met in real life, but here Levin reimagines their lives and ideas in parallel with and contrast to each other—with herself as “that liar,…

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