Mirela Roznoveanu

 

Mirela Roznoveanu

 

(Romania-USA)

 

 

 

Constantin Virgil Negoiţă or The Love for Mathematics

 

 

 

Constantin Virgil

 

 

 

The human mind deploys different types of though  t, also known as thinking processes. The scientific mind deals with hypotheses that lead to experiments, and with the coordination of theory and evidence. Scientific thinking is knowledge seeking through language viewed as a tool to transport content.  Mathematical thinking is the foundation of scientific thinking. Mathematician Keith Devlin defined mathematical thinking as being “the equivalent of architecting […] a specific way of looking at things, of stripping them down to their numerical, structural, or logical essentials, and of analyzing the underlying patterns…”
On the other hand, the literary mind deals with metaphors, stories, parables, interior monologues, dialogs, characters, and conflicts. The literary thinking uses language in matchless ways that create beauty, and aesthetic pleasure.
Between these kind of minds and thoughts do not exist perfect barriers. As we know, beauty exists in the mathematics as logic in literature. However, there are instances when minds cross the barrier of these particular fields. I am not aware of a poet or novelist or literary critic that went from literature to science yet, but there are examples of the opposite.
The Romanian Literary History records a precedent of mathematical thinking exerted in poetry: Ion Barbu, the author of two books of poems: După melci, (After snails) Editura Luceafărul, 1921 containing a single poem, After snails; and Joc secund, (Secondary Game, Editura Cultura Națională, 1930). The Romanian critics found them hard to understand, for they seemed obscure.  Aware that the logic of mathematics and literature are different, and perhaps not wanting to be misunderstood by switching from one to another, Ion Barbu’s number of poems stopped at 35; despite the small amount of his poetic work, Ion Barbu is one of the well-known Romanian poets.
Similar to Ion Barbu – who wrote poetry after a bet with his literary friend Tudor Vianu, a Romanian literary critic and theoretician of literature –  Constantin Virgil Negoiţă did the same. He challenged his Romanian literary friends and while deciding late in his life to write fiction he embraced the post-modern phenomenon, perfectly fit for the way he writes and even for what I would call his aesthetic ideology.  The postmodern theory perfectly served this decision to write literature.
Secondly, as Ion Barbu, the author of numerous contributions to mathematics, Constantin Virgil Negoiţă – a well-known scholar on cybernetics and artificial intelligence and a university professor who had taught computer science for decades – made his debut in science with a book published in the Romanian language in 1970 called Sisteme de înmagazinare și regăsire a informațiilor,/ Storage and information retrieval systems. Soon after, he moved for the next 30 years from Romanian to English and published a vast number of articles and books on cybernetics with one exception: Pullback: a novel (1986).
In 2003 I witnessed his return to Romanian and a prolific switch to literary fiction through nine books: Vizitator (The Guest) appeared in 2003 followed by Vag (novel) 2003; Impotriva lui Mango = Roman postmodern  / Against Mango- a postmodern novel, 2004;  Logica postmodernului (fiction) Postmodern Logic, 2004; Irozii/ Herods (roman) 2005; Concert la Carnegie Hall (fiction) / Carnegie Hall Concert, 2006; Opus Dei, 2007; Cronica intrării în Rai / The Chronicle of the entry into Heaven (a novel) 2008; Martori apropiați / Close witnesses (2010).
Over the years I have tried to explain his particular approach to literature. After all this literary work belongs to a mind built by, and skilled in scientific work and mathematical thinking.  Clearly, the mathematical thought translates powerfully into the deep structure of his narrative discourse.
The narrator, the omnipresent voice in these books does not pay much attention to places, and the way characters look like; as the mind behind a demo of a theorem, he is actually the main character that identifies the key points of discussions and conveys them through concise definitions formulated in words. This narrator engages in logical, high-level reasoning about why something is true or false, a way of thinking that could be described as mathematical modeling: he clarifies or rejects assumptions, and relates things to the real-world picture.
Writing down what he thinks about a topic, that something would end up as a precise mathematical definition. It might take pages, and chapters for drafting until the precise statement comes alive. The sentence constructions read uneasily and even might take an effort to explain them. This comes from the main feature of mathematical thinking and writing: conciseness, and logical precision.
As we know, the standard writing in our Indo-European languages is that of continuity and of the elegant play with the major tenses of the past, present, and future; mathematical writing predominantly uses instances, examples, cases, blocks of demonstrations, and logic; its time is the present. Fiction is not logic and it is not confined to the present. Or it is logic but not obviously at the surface and it deals with the logic of aesthetics not mathematical abstractions and it is not confined to a perpetual present.
As in mathematical writing where the concrete and the logical precision are required, the  events in his literary work are focused on concrete events and characters that come to a logical climax. Negoiţă writes about what he knows, has heard and experienced.  Any statement is coldly analyzed. I will transcribe a startling excerpt from his prose – published last month in a Romanian literary magazine – in my translation into English. After the narrator’s rapidly counting the characters and the place of action, we read the following:  Questions arose; if happiness is one,  if happiness remains the same when it is acquired through various methods, if there are degrees of happiness, and if each degree of reality adds another level of meaning to  happiness, being known that the created light excite the brain as the uncreated light, visible especially to the monks on Mount Athos, where nothing is female.[1]
Is this fiction? Memoir? A philosophical account? A post-modern prose as some critics said? After a narrative loop on American political trends, the end of prose reads as a reduction ad absurdum – a method of proof which proceeds by stating a proposition and then showing that it results in a contradiction, thus demonstrating the proposition to be false:       A hundred years is nothing, America is a formidable experiment in progress, and where he was he would know what was coming.[2] The author/narrator knows what’s coming but does not elaborate.  Or the equation shows the result, but I don’t know how to interpreted it?
Fictionalized reality and mathematical thinking are coming together to define happiness and destiny. For those unfamiliar with the subject, it could be prose fiction. For those that do know –it is about his 70-year celebration in New York City — this is more a memoir.  And for all readers, this is a literary discourse they didn’t experience before; through the logical demo embedded in this text, we come to a conclusion, more important than style and literary tools.
Dinu Negoiţă writes literature in a way only a mathematician would. In his universe everything turns to numbers. God is the trinity; He is 3 in 1; a mystery he discusses within mathematics. Existence shows as a multitude of mathematical sets and continuous functions between two points of universe that could be A and B in between existing the vagueness of infinite mathematical sets. The vague and the fuzzy logic are his prominent scientific territories and they translate into his fiction. He uses in his writing lemmata –their purpose in mathematics is to help prove a theorem;  corollaries – statements that follow with little or no proof required from an already proven statement; the reduction ad absurdum and quod erat demonstrandum modes of argumentation.
To operate with blocks of demo used by other scholars it’s normal in mathematics.  Negoiţă does the same in his literary books including his previous or others texts. Referring to real characters of the American and Romanian political life, or his life, he assigns them numbers, abbreviations or nicknames like in mathematics. The narrative breaths through short segments – as the length of mathematical equation or demonstration going from a paragraph to a few pages.
I call this prose mathematical fiction; the Romanian literary history has to create a new entry with this category having his unique presence. Negoiţă went beyond mathematics, and numbers and have chosen words, more powerful in bringing fourth faster to people what he wants to say.
His literary work shows us the world and existence differently. His narrative is after all a fascinating equation about his life, life in general, and the life of our time. I want, of course, to read the ending paragraph, the one that contains the latest statement of his equation would. Negoiţă owns the rare ability to foresee the future I guess through mathematical modeling. So I would very much want to request him to write in the next book about what the future has in store for us.

 

 

 

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[1] Euphorion. No.1, 2016, p 26. http://www.revistaeuphorion.ro/files/EUPHORION%20NR.1.pdf  “…întrebarile s-au iscat; dacă fericirea e una, dacă ea rămâne aceeaşi când e dobândită prin diferite metode, dacă există grade de fericire, şi dacă fiecare nivel de realitate adaugă alt înţeles fericirii, fiind ştiut că lumina creată excită creierul la fel ca cea necreată,  vizibilă mai ales călugărilor de pe muntele Athos, unde nu există nimic de gen feminin.”

[2] Op. cit. “O sută de ani nu înseamnă nimic, America este un experiment formidabil, în curs de desfășurare, de unde era el să știe ce avea să urmeze.”

 

 

 

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165011416300410

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mirela Roznoveanu is a literary critic, writer, and journalist who has published novels, literary criticism, essays, and poetry. She was a noted dissident journalist during the turbulent period in Romania during the late eighties.

On the 10th of April 1947 Mirela Roznoveanu was born (birth name: Roznovschi) – literary critic and prose writer; after the refusal, in 1973, to attend the Communist Academy « Stefan Gheorghiu » she is fired in 1974 from the literary and cultural magazine « Tomis » in Constanta; in 1975 she moved to Bucharest where she intensely contributed on cultural issues with the Romanian Television, without being employed; between 1978 and 1989 she worked for the scientific and cultural magazine « Magazin », published by the newspaper « Romania Libera »; in April 1989, during the process of the journalists from the Bacanu Group, she is investigated by the Securitate and disciplinary moved as a  » health worker « ; her books and writing is banned; in December 1989 she is part of a group of journalists who takes over the newspaper « Romania libera » from the hands of the Communist government, making it the first independent and anti-communist newspaper in Romania :

http://en.radioromaniacultural.ro/articole/art.shtml?c=481&g=3&arh=1&y=2011&a=110911

In 1991, she moved to the U.S. where she has continued her writing career. She is a tenured, full time faculty member of the NYU School of Law where she is the Associate Curator: International and Foreign Law Librarian.

On December 2000, Mirela Roznoveanu was honored by outgoing President of Romania Emil Constantinescu, for exceptional contributions from abroad in the service of Romanian culture and democracy. Mirela has been named an Officer of the National Order for Faithful Service.

Her book The Civilization of the Novel: A History of Fiction Writing from Ramayana to Don Quixote received the 2008 Award of the Romanian Society of Comparative Literature and the 2008 Award of the Romanian Academy.

 

Personal home page: https://wp.nyu.edu/mroznoveanu/

Interview:  Mirela Roznoveanu’s Four Decades of Professional Writing:  A Dialog with Vladimir Wertsman for Multicultural Review:

http://vetiver.weblog.ro/2011/11/29/mirela-roznoveanu%e2%80%99s-four-decades-of-professional-writing-a-dialog-with-vladimir-wertsman-for-multicultural-review/#axzz1fzZVzDe0

 

Publications

Modern Readings, essays, Bucharest, Cartea Românească Publishing House, 1978

D.R.Popescu. Critical monograph, Bucharest, Albatros Publishing House, 1983

The Civilization of the Novel: A History of Fiction Writing from Ramayana to Don Quixote. An essay on comparative literature, Albatros Publishing House, vol.I -1983, Bucharest, Cartea Românească Publishing House vol. II – 1991

Always in Autumn, novel, Bucharest, Cartea Românească Publishing House, 1988

Life on the Run, novel, Bucharest, Sirius Publishing House, 1997; Apprehending the World, poetry, Bucharest, Luceafărul Foundation Publishing House, 1998

Platonia, novel, Bucharest, Cartea Românească Publishing House, 1999

The Time of the Chosen, novel, Bucharest, Univers Publishing House, 1999

Toward a Cyberlegal Culture, essays, New York, Transnational Publishers (2001, 2002)

Born again–in Exile, poetry, New York, iUniverse, 2004

The Life Manager and Other Stories, novellas, New York, iUniverse, 2004

The Poems and the Poet. A multimedia companion to Born Again — in Exile. Eastern Shore Productions, 2007;

Elegies from New York City, New York, Koja Press, 2008

The Civilization of the Novel: A History of Fiction Writing from Ramayana to Don Quixote. An essay on comparative literature,Cartex Publishing House,2008. 2nd edition

 

 

 

 

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