The Goddess of Small Victories

The Goddess of Small Victories

by Yannick Grannec

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Princeton University, 1980. A young and unambitious librarian named Anna Roth is assigned the task of retrieving the records of Kurt Godel-the most fascinating and hermetic mathematician of the twentieth century. Her mission consists of befriending and ultimately taming the great man's widow, Adele, a notoriously bitter woman set on taking belated revenge against the establishment by refusing to hand over these documents of immeasurable historical value.

But as Anna soon finds out, Adele has a story of her own to tell. Through descriptions of Princeton and Vienna after the war, the occupation of Austria by the Nazis, the pressures of McCarthyism, the end of the positivist ideal, and the advent of nuclear weapons, Anna discovers firsthand the epic story of a genius who could never quite find his place in the world-and the private torment of the woman who loved him.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781483018669
Publisher: Blackstone Audio Inc
Publication date: 10/14/2014
Edition description: Unabridged Library Edition
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

Yannick Grannec is a graphic designer and illustrator. After obtaining a degree in the sciences, she began studying art and joined Les
Ateliers in Paris, where she received a degree in design. A freelance art director, professor of fine arts in Reims, and enthusiast of mathematics, she lives in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France.

Willard Wood has translated widely from the French, including The Last Rendezvous by Anne
Plantagenet and the novels of the Goncourt Prize-winning author Jean-Christophe
Rufin. A recent NEA fellow in translation, he lives and works in Connecticut.

Emily Woo Zeller is an Audie and Earphones Award-winning narrator, voice-over artist, actor, dancer, and choreographer. AudioFile magazine named her one of the Best Voices of 2013. Her voice-over career includes work in animated film and television in Southeast Asia.

Dawn Harvey has been performing for as long as she has been able to walk and talk and sing. She was already a stage and film actress when she began her voice-over career and now is an AudioFile Earphones Award-winning narrator.

Reading Group Guide

1. Why do you think Yannick Grannec chose to write about Kurt Gödel’s life from the perspective of his wife? How does this choice change what we see of Gödel? How is it different from what we might have read had this been a biography of the mathematician?

2. Anna often reflects on the sense of purposelessness she feels in her life. (See “The sum of little bits of wasted time and the lateness of others added up to a lost life,” p 27; “What worries me is that I’m not doing anything with my life,” p 183.) How does this relate to her professional ambition and her relationships with Adele, her parents, and Leo? How does it compare to Kurt Gödel’s passion for his work?

3. How are Adele’s devotion to Kurt and Kurt’s devotion to his work similar?

4. How does Adele and Anna’s relationship change over the course of the novel? Why does Adele open up to her and not to any of the other people sent to retrieve the Nachlass? What light does Adele’s story of her life with Kurt shed on Anna’s own life?

5. On page 29 Adele says, “Humor is requisite for survival, young lady. Especially here.” What purpose does humor serve in the novel?

6. What is the effect of viewing significant historical events and individuals, such as the Anschluss, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and Albert Einstein’s death, through the lens of Adele and Kurt’s marriage?

7. Adele, Anna, and Kurt all feel outcast from their environments. Why is Adele able to communicate her lonesomeness to Anna but not to Kurt? In what ways do Anna and Adele’s outcast status differ from Kurt’s?

8. Adele and Kurt both are more concerned with their personal lives than with the political situations around them. How is this reflected in Anna’s initial preoccupation with getting Kurt’s papers from Adele?

9. What is the difference between the story Adele tells herself and the account Elizabeth Glinka gives about the Gödels’ home life? Does it alter Anna’s or your understanding of Adele and her life with Kurt?

10. On page 233 Adele tells Albert Einstein, “A good excuse to share nothing and keep everything among yourselves, among the elect. I thought you were more democratic, Herr Einstein.” What do you think about Adele’s assertion that the intelligentsia purposefully limit access to their work? Can her observation apply to her relationship with Kurt Gödel?

11. Adele believes that she was created “to keep a certain genius from slipping away before his time,” that she “had been compost for the sublime.” In contrast, Anna concludes that “No one has a mission. Adele had loved Kurt; nothing was more important.” With whom do you agree and why?

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