Neben Weierstrass kommen natürlich auch Mittag-Leffler und Poincaré zu Wort, letzterer immer als “Jules” – tatsächlich war das Henri Poincarés erster Vorname:
Poincaré arrived at an exceptionally early hour of the morning, complaining at once about the behaviour of the mathematician Weierstrass, Sophia’s old mentor, who had been one of the judges for the king of Sweden’s recent mathematical prize. Poincaré had indeed been awarded the prize, but Weierstrass had seen fit to announce that there were possible errors in his – Poincaré’s – work that he, Weierstrass, has not been given time to investigate. He had sent a letter submitting his annotated queries to the king of Sweden – as if such a personnage would know what he was talking about. And he had made some statement about Poincaré being valued in future more for the negative than the positive aspects of his work.
Sophia soothed him, telling him she was on her way to see Weierstrass and would take the matter up with him. She pretended not to have heard anything about it, though she had actually written a teasing letter to her old teacher.
“I am sure the king has had much of his royal sleep disturbed since your information arrived. Just think of how you have upset the royal mind hitherto so happily ignorant of mathematics. Take care you don’t make him repent of his generosity …”
“And after all,” she said to Jules, “after all you do have the prize and will have it forever.”
Jules agreed, adding that his own name would shine when Weierstrass would be forgotten.
Everyone of us will be forgotten, Sophia thought but did not say, because of the tender sensibilities of men – particularly of a young man – on this point.
Die eigentliche Rahmenhandlung ist ihre Heimreise aus Nizza.
The weather is warmer at Nice, a few days later, when he takes her to board the train.
“How can I go, how can I leave this soft air?”
“Ah, but your desk and your differential equations will be waiting. In the spring you won’t be able to tear yourself away.”
(Eine Seite später: “She has not, of course, reminded him that her work was on the Theory of Partial Differential Equations, and that it was completed some time ago.” Kursivsetzung im Original.) Im Zug von Berlin nach Rostock spricht sie ein dänischer Arzt an und verrät ihr nach längerem Zögern, in Kopenhagen herrsche eine von den Finnen eingeschleppte und von den Autoritäten verschwiegene Pockenepidemie, sie solle nicht über Kopenhagen fahren. (Keine Ahnung, ob dieser Teil der Geschichte wahr oder erfunden ist.) Sie nimmt also einen anderen Weg nach Schweden und stirbt nach ihrer Ankunft bekanntlich an einer Lungenentzündung.
Was Munros Erzählungen von anderer “großer” nobelpreisträchtiger Literatur unterscheidet ist vor allem die Einfachheit der Sprache. (Übrigens ein Grund, die Erzählungen im Original zu lesen, denn die deutschen Übersetzungen sollen sehr viel länger und sprachlich komplizierter sein.) Stilistisch erinnert vieles an Unterhaltungsliteratur, nicht zuletzt die sehr einfach gehaltenen Konversationen:
“Perhaps you would not always be happy calling out the stations.”
“Why not? It’s very useful. It’s always necessary. Being a mathematician isn’t necessary, as I see it.”
She kept silent.
“I could not respect myself,” he said. “Being a professor of mathematics.”
They were climbing to the station platform.
“Just getting prizes and a lot of money for things nobody understands or cares about and that is no use to anybody.”
“Thank you for carrying my bag.”
She handed him some money, though not so much as she had intended.
Fazit: schnell und leicht zu lesen und sehr interessant.