rivulets and maki

These have been slightly schizo days: on the one hand, the hiatus in teaching caused (again, how boring and unimaginative) by a blockade of the campus (this time, however, I decided against getting too involved, both emotionally and at the level of writing – I just did a few hangout session with my students and tried to optimize things for which I normally do not have enough time). On the other hand, projects – many of them. Dreary situations right in front of the richness of possibilities.

And an unfolding eight-hand project, combining art and math (more on this, if successful, later).

So, a research proposal (if successful, will post on it) that leads to new directions, a Geometry and Model Theory seminar in Bogotá (first week with lectures by Hugo Mariano from Sao Paulo, Alex Cruz from Tokyo, Pedro Zambrano from our university and Johan García, my master’s student who is working in Tannakian formalism). Organization of the next session (with Zilber, in October). And my own lectures on model theory and modularity, next two weeks.

Reading in the nick of time André Aciman’s Harvard Square – much better than I imagined it! I really regretted Aciman’s late cancellation of participation in Simplicity – I really believe he could have added much to the conference in terms of balancing toward writing, toward literature.

Outsideness (personal, sentimental, cultural) could be one of the topics that Aciman explores best. His former novels Out of Egypt and Call Me by Your Name were two incredible exercises – the first, a memoir on a Jewish family from Alexandria being forced to leave Egypt (but not only “Egypt” as a country – they really left a cosmopolitan life that could only exist in a place in North Africa that mixed Italian, Turkish, Greek, Jewish from different origins, Syrian, Coptic, what else? communities in a tapestry of languages, culinary traditions being interwoven – people like Claudia Roden, like André Aciman, Lawrence Durrell, Edward Said while growing up, Rogelio Salmona’s parents, Cavafis, Moustaki – just to name some of those who pop to mind without recurring to Wikipedia or internetelse, just my own mind without effort – they left all that for drab quarters in Paris or Cambridge, MA), the second, a coming-of-age and love novella, one of the most thoroughly accomplished short novels on the utter outsideness a person lives when falling in love (but read on Call Me by Your Name if you want to experience first-hand a mental, sensorial and intellectual treat), and now Harvard Square, a novel of two North Africans lost in Cambridge, MA – one of them a Harvard graduate student whose presence at the University seems to be hanging on preliminary exams that he has to take a second (and last possible) time after a first failure, the other a cab driver from Tunisia – the first a Jewish boy from Alexandria, the second a Berber from the desert – both of them thrown into one another by Harvard’s manigances and by the ideal of France and the French language – a France of their minds and memories, different from real France, in many ways better than real France…

How close to my own feeling of outsideness living in this country…

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