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A luthier in Bern, Switzerland is asked to repair a Patent Office clerk’s violin which has inexplicably lost its tone. This chance meeting in 1904 begins the friendship of two very different people – the one immersed in his physical craft on a daily basis, and the other obsessed with key problems facing the world of physics at the dawn of the 20th century.
The book is set in the months leading up to Albert Einstein’s “Miracle Year” when he published four ground-breaking scientific articles. During this period, Albert is busy with his day-to-day workload at the Patent Office and is a new parent; however, his mental experiments in physics are always at the forefront of his thoughts. The luthier, Carl, is struggling with a heavy workload, a long-distance marriage, and increasing dissatisfaction with his routine job. The two are also friends with the musician and budding artist, Paul Klee. Somehow, Carl and Albert manage time for music and play together in a local quintet. Carl also becomes involved in the mystery of a valuable violin bow that strangely appears in the hands of a local student and discovers its connection to Albert’s violin.
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Just as rice is unable to grow in the British Isles, Srinivasa Ramanujan struggled to survive in Cambridge; the mathematical genius may have eventually gained the recognition he desired but, removed from his Hindu religion, tradition, and culture, he suffered in his personal life.
A devout Brahmin from rural Tamil Nadu, India, Ramanujan traveled to the cold, industrial, Christian modernity of England a few months prior to the outbreak of World War I. Once in Cambridge, Ramanujan was befriended by his sponsor and mentor G.H. Hardy who was Ramanujan’s opposite: Hardy, a classically trained and celebrated mathematician, and Ramanujan, a self-taught savant inspired by his goddess Namagiri Amman. In England, Ramanujan faced estrangement from his family and culture, deteriorating health, struggles for recognition by his peers, and periods of physical isolation due to illness. But he also had friends including the North family who provide a fictional window into daily life in turn-of-the-century Britain.
A historical fiction, The Language of Equals, is told from Srinivasa Ramanujan’s perspective and portrays his religious devotion, his passion for mathematics, and the every-day culture of his homeland as recollected during his encounters with British society in Cambridge, England under the dark cloud of WWI.