The Indian Clerk

I’ve just finished reading David Leavitt’s The Indian Clerk (or The IND1AN CLƐRK as the book’s cover would have it). I found it very good indeed. It’s a novel based on real people and real events that happened mainly in Cambridge, England, between 1913 and 1920. The two central characters are G. H. Hardy and Srinivasa Ramanujan. Hardy was a prominent British mathematician, and was instrumental in bringing Ramanujan, a mathematical genius, from India to Cambridge.

The novel imagines Hardy’s innermost feelings as it tells the story of the relationship between the two mathematicians, both personal and professional. There are many other real people and real events contained in the book, and Leavitt has done a wonderful job in bringing them and the society to life. In particular, the evocation of life at Cambridge, and the Cambridge Apostles is very well done. I did notice one small mistake, though. On page 374, he mentions the “scent of Dettol permeating the air” in a nursing hostel where Ramanujan has been taken. Unfortunately for Leavitt, Dettol wasn’t invented until after 1929 and marketed in 1933.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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