Kurt Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems sent shivers through Vienna’s intellectual circles and directly challenged Ludwig Wittgenstein’s dominant philosophy. Alan Turing’s mathematical genius helped him break the Nazi Enigma Code during WWII. Though they never met, their lives strangely mirrored one another—both were brilliant, and both met with tragic ends. Here, a mysterious narrator intertwines these parallel lives into a double helix of genius and anguish, wonderfully capturing not only two radiant, fragile minds but also the zeitgeist of the era.
The lives of Kurt G del (1906 1978) and Alan Turing (1912 1954) never crossed physically, but did intellectually: G del's incompleteness theorem implies a sort of Platonism, and Turing's mechanical decision theory implies, conversely, hard-nosed materialism. Levin, a mathematician, juxtaposes both lives in her debut novel. She begins with G del as a young man in Vienna, his incompleteness theorem destroying the line of inquiry (arguably spearheaded by Wittgenstein, who cameos)that argued math was complete in itself; his courtship with a nightclub dancer, Adele; his misunderstanding of the Nazi takeover of Austria. Alan Turing's not very charmed life is skewed not only by what looks like autism but by being hounded for his homosexuality in Britain after breaking the German Enigma code during WWII. Turing is an innocent in many ways, while G del, a greater thinker, is a monster of selfishness; both, however, have a passion for the invisible that is hard to dramatize. G del becomes a paranoid old man, living with Adele (who comes alive through Levin's shrewd novelistic guesswork) in solitude in Princeton, and eventually starving himself to death. Levin is sympathetic to all concerned, but doesn't quite make a larger point, dramatic or otherwise.
Reads like a romantic gothic novel too much embellishment and drama.