WHY I READ WHAT I READ
I am a writer of books myself. But my books are about abstract mathematics, and although the theories developed in them are applicable to physics, engineering, and other sciences, they mostly live in formal and complex imaginary environment including a lot of analysis depending on the geometry of infinite dimensional spaces.
In this context, for the sake of balance, my reading needs focus not on works of pure fiction but on books that stay closer to the ground and cover history and biography, or both. This is the case of the book I am reading this summer. The volume "Kathmandu", written by Thomas Bell, a reporter for the British daily The Telegraph, was presented to me in May by my daughter, Lauren, after her return from a semester of anthropological study in Himalayan Valleys. Thomas arrived in Kathmandu almost two decades ago as a young twenty-something, but fell in love with the culture and history of the Valley (and also a Nepali woman whom he married:-) and settled permanently there.
His writing is very illuminating as he interweaves his personal experiences, and the daily contacts with local Nepali and a lot of British and American expatriates, with a subtle and incisive analysis of what's happening now in Nepal in the context of its history. It is obvious that Thomas spent a lot of time studying it in the Kathmandu archives, ancient Buddhist temples, and museums, and reading old but often incomplete accounts of more than 1000 years of the events in Kathmandu Valley. And the result is very informative for me as it exposes the convoluted interplay between religion, politics, money, and personal psychology, as well as the usual power plays at different levels, from the competition for space between poor neighbors, or at cremation river bank sites, all the way to global powers vying for influence over the place strategically located between India and China. Are there any lessons from there for our lives in Shaker Heights, at our university, or more generally, in the world? Not literally, but the concepts developed in the book are firmly anchored in the real world, they cannot be ignored, and their relevance to our life paths cannot be denied. I find Thomas' lessons on how "now" is interlaced with " then" enriching and educating.
Wojbor A. Woyczynksi is a profesor of mathematics. He specializes in:
Probability theory, Levy stochastic processes, random fields and their statistics
Nonlinear, stochastic and fractional evolution equations
Harmonic and functional analysis
Random graphs, statistical physics and hydrodynamics
Applications to chemistry, physics, operations research, financial mathematics, medicine, biology, oceanography and atmospheric physics
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