The Goddess Of Small Victories
Yannick Grannec, Willard Wood (translator)
Other Press, Sep 9 2014, $26.95
In 1980, the Institute for Advanced Study sends archivist Anna Roth to the Pine Run Retirement Home in Pennsylvania to persuade obstinate widow Adele Gödel to release the papers of her late husband, brilliant troubled mathematician Kurt. Anna says she would like to catalogue the Nachlass so that those qualified can study it. She also explains she reads the rarely used Gabelsberger shorthand; the style Kurt employed.
Adele tells the visitor how they met in Vienna and though several years older than Kurt with his mother’s reluctant approval they married. When the Nazis annexed Austria, Kurt and Adele fled eventually arriving in America, but treated as enemy agents due to their accents. While she did everything to make her disturbed mate’s life easier over the five decades together, for the first time Kurt, still distressed, found acceptance at Princeton because of his brilliant work.
This is an intriguing biographical fiction that focuses on the mentally tough widow and through her filter we see the great but mentally ill genius. Although distracting from the fascinating main storyline, a well-written secondary subplot re the relationship between Adele and Anna further shows the strength of the older woman; as she encourages her visitor to be all she can be with what she wants out of life. With real persona like Einstein; documented incidents (with footnotes) and events like the A-bombs and the Cold War to anchor time and place, readers will appreciate The Goddess Of Small Victories.