A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines (Hardcover)

By Janna Levin

Knopf, 9781400040308, 240pp.

Publication Date: August 22, 2006

Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (9/18/2007)

List Price: 23.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


In this remarkable work of fiction, astrophysicist Janna Levin reimagines the lives of two of the most important and influential minds of our time.

The narrator is a scientist herself, a physicist obsessed with Kurt Gödel, the greatest logician of many centuries, and with Alan Turing, the extraordinary mathematician, breaker of the Enigma Code during World War II. “They are both brilliantly original and outsiders,” the narrator tells us. “They are both besotted with mathematics. But for all their devotion, mathematics is indifferent, unaltered by any of their dramas . . . Against indifference, I want to tell their stories.” Which she does in a haunting, incantatory voice, the two lives unfolding in parallel narratives that overlap in the magnitude of each man’s achievement and demise: Gödel, delusional and paranoid, would starve himself to death; Turing, arrested for homosexual activities, would be driven to suicide. And they meet as well in the narrator’s mind, where facts are interwoven with her desire and determination to find meaning in the maze of their stories: two men devoted to truth of the highest abstract nature, yet unable to grasp the mundane truths of their own lives.

A unique amalgam of luminous imagination and richly evoked historic character and event—A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines is a story about the pursuit of truth and its effect on the lives of two men. A story of genius and madness, incredible yet true.

Praise For A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines

“An absolutely wonderful book. Godel and Turning tried to defy time, and failed, so the only way to bring them back is through the imagination. It requires a very wise and special imagination, with a powerful and quirky mind of her own, to give a plausible portrait of such geniuses. Janna Levin is a gifted stylist and with this compelling book, she has transcended the category of scientists who write books to become simply one of our most interesting contemporary writers.”
–Lee Smolin, author of The Life of The Cosmos and Three Roads to Quantum Gravity

“I love the contrast of Turing's mechanized view of the world with Godel's more openended ‘incompleteness.’ A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines is a wonderfully imagined book.”
–Alan Lightman, author of Einstein's Dreams

A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines is a wonderfully original book. Janna Levin's compelling narrative artfully straddles the realms of fiction and non-fiction, allowing us to viscerally experience the tortured lives of two towering intellects–Godel and Turing–while learning how each, in his own way, left a profound imprint on human thought.”
–Brian Greene, author of The Elegant Universe