Iozzi and Duke conferences updates

Just a quick update to indicate that the official FIM pages for the conferences in honor of Alessandra Iozzi’s birthday and Bill Duke’s birthday (both at FIM next year) are now available. Most important are the forms for young researchers to request funding (local expenses) to attend the conferences, here and there. (I was almost going to say to be careful not to apply to the wrong conference, but both will be great, so it doesn’t really matter…)

The Magic Mountain

Once more, I have yielded to the arch-Tempter, the Book-Buying demon.

This time, it started when I bought (second-hand — I actually think today that only second-hand books are really authentic, unless of course the book is brand new) the translation by J. E. Woods of the novel “Joseph and his Brothers” by Thomas Mann. I expected that (like Joyce’s “Finnegans wake” and Faulkner’s “A Fable”, which I both own and in one case read) this was only a gesture of respect for the work of a writer that I admire. To my astonishment, I read this four-part fifteen-hundred page book (“The stories of Jacob”, “The young Joseph”, “Joseph in Egypt”, “Joseph the Provider”) in a few weeks, and found it too short, and realized that it was a masterpiece. The story of Joseph and Mut-em-Ênet in the third book is, indeed, an extraordinary act of literary empathy. And this story was written in exile by a conservative sixty-year old german, when most of everyone and everything he loved was either utterly betraying his culture or was being destroyed.

Well, so when I learnt (from a blog post of the ETH Bibliothek) that — after who knows how many years of work from the editors — the commented edition of this book was appearing in April this year (the Grosse kommentierte Frankfurter Ausgabe announced it in 2008 as “in plan, 2012”), I couldn’t resist and ordered it. I actually had already bought a German version of the book (“Die Geschichten Jaakobs”, “Der Junge Joseph”, “Joseph in Ägypter”, “Joseph der Ernährer”, to use the original titles), and since the available room in my apartment doesn’t really allow for more than one copy of thousand pages long German books, I donated these to my colleague Ian Petrow who had told me of his liking for the “Magic Mountain”.

But then, could I really keep my paperback German copies of “Der Zauberberg” and of “Doktor Faustus”, when both existed in the same amply commented edition? I couldn’t, donated the old ones (to the same colleague), and bought both. So here I am:

Thomas Mann
Thomas Mann

(on the left, the older (in)complete works of Shakespeare for scale).

The empty slot in the middle is that of the “Zauberberg”, which I am now trying to read in German, with much help from online dictionaries. And it reminds me that I started reading “The Magic Mountain” in Rutgers (and in translation, of course), when a friend there recommended it to me, especially because of the character of Lodovico Settembrini:

Auf dem Wege von links kam ein Fremder daher, ein zierlicher brünetter Herr mit schön gedrehtem schwarzen Schnurrbart und in hellkariertem Beinkleid, der, herangekommen, mit Joachim einen Morgengruss tauschte – der seine war präzis und wohllautend – und mit gekreuzten Füssen, auf seinen Stock gestützt, in anmutiger Haltung vor ihm stehen blieb.
GFKA, p. 88

For the Yiddish version, translated by Isaac Bashevis Singer, see here.

Like Joyce, Thomas Mann died in Zürich, and his grave can be found there.

Thomas Mann
Thomas Mann

Where will the Tempter bring me next? I believe that, most likely, it will be the Opere of Primo Levi, or those of Niccolò Machiavelli, although my Italian is now rather worse than my German.

Winter School at Monte Verità

Philippe Michel and myself are organizing a Winter School in January 2019 on the topic of trace functions and their applications to analytic number theory. There is a very basic web page for the moment. Most importantly, the application form, which will be setup by the conference center where the school will be held, is not yet available.

The setting is the CSF (Congressi Stefano Franscini), which is a conference center of ETH located in Ticino (so this will be a good occasion to practice italian). The school is intended essentially for current PhD students, together with a smaller number of recent PhDs ; the total number of participants should be around 50. There will be five minicourses, given by T. Browning, Ph. Michel, L. Pierce, W. Sawin and myself. A more detailed programme will appear in due course…


It’s not every day that I have three upcoming conferences to announce which I co-organize. In chronological order:

June 1 and 2, 2018, Ph. Habegger, Ph. Michel and myself are organizing the 14th edition of the “Number Theory Days”. It will be in Basel, for the first time — from then on, it will rotate between Basel, Lausanne and Zürich.

January 22 to 25, 2019, C. Burrin, T. Hartnick, B. Pozzeti, A. Wienhard and myself and co-organizing a conference at FIM in honor of the birthday of A. Iozzi.

June 17 to 22, 2019, Ö. Imamoglu, H. Iwaniec and myself are co-organizing a conference at FIM in honor of the birthday of B. Duke.

The respective web pages have more information (and in the last two cases, these will be updated when the FIM webpage is created; this will contain the registration form, as well as the web page to request funding for junior participants).

Subsidiary question: Which book is Bill Duke holding in the picture? Any correct answer (without cheating) gives right to one drink of your choice.

“Seminar”, the opera

This afternoon, while chatting with Will Sawin, between addressing rather technical points of ongoing projects, we observed that although we’ve seen seminar talks shared between two speakers, it was never with simultaneous speakers. It was just a step to jump from there to the idea that someone should write an Opera about a mathematical seminar talk, which — as opera does — would allow a duet, or trio, or quartet, or quintet, or sextet, of simultaneous speakers, including maybe some from the audience, or the chairperson trying to control the situation.

Unfortunately, I don’t know music, but if I were twenty years old, I’d be very tempted to write “Seminar”, the definitive opera about a math talk. At least, I can think of a libretto and try to write it (which language? I think French is best here, although the title should then be “Séminaire” or “L’exposé” in that case; which topic? good question — of course it would have to be a real talk; which style?)

In any case, I can safely predict a triumph in enlightened circles.