From the Publisher

A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines bridges fiction and nonfiction to tell a strange if true story of coded secrets, psychotic delusions, mathematical truth, and lies. This story of greatness and weakness, of genius and hallucination, is based on the parallel lives of Kurt Gödel, the greatest logician of many centuries, and Alan Turing, the extraordinary code breaker during World War II. Taken together their work proved that truth is elusive, that knowledge has limits, that machines could think. Yet Gödel believed in transmigration of the soul and Turing concluded that we were soulless biological machines. And their suicides were complementary: Gödel, delusional and paranoid, starved himself to death fearing his food was poisoned. Turing ate a poison apple, driven to suicide after being arrested and convicted of homosexual activities. These two men were devoted to truth of the highest abstract nature, yet were unable to grasp the mundane truths of their own lives. Through it all, the narrator wonders, along with these two odd heroes, if any of us can ever really grasp the truth.


A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines has been honored with the following awards:


“The poetically heightened language…the incantatory prose and the stylized metaphysical colloquy…make it clear that Levin’s novel is no mere assemblage of biographical transcriptions. We are very much within the mind of an unreliable narrator, one whose dark existential obsessions resonate with the versions of Godel and Turing she has fashioned.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Three dimensions emerge from the flat page. Her characters and their century come brilliantly, irritably alive.”
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“very smart first novel… a simple work of genius”
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“A brainy novel rich in revelation”
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“Levin constructs a fascinating tale… What’s most impressive here is the elegance and sympathy with which Levin creates the fictional universe that accommodates these men’s mathematical principles, while at the same time mapping a mathematical universe in which fiction can thrive.”
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“A fast-reading, deceptively complex book…as a detailed, intensely felt character study of two striking figures in the realms of mathematics and philosophy, “A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines” is undeniably compelling.”
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“Intelligent…Compelling…As Levin alternates between the lives of Turing and Gödel, she delivers a convincing, palpably human portrait of solitary genius.”

“…charged with more than enough poetry, inspired by both the pursuit of reason and the sorrowful tragedies of the 20th century’s many scientific martyrs. A strikingly intelligent book, it’s also smart enough to aim first for the heart.”

“The author enters unobtrusively into her story and wonders, along with her characters, whether we can ever know the truth. The one thing we do know is real are library budgets, and libraries that can spring for this book will richly reward patrons who enjoy a novel of ideas.”

“…excels by glorious, sometimes lyrical descriptions and by lively dialogues which also give a clear idea of the scientific work of these two geniuses. Janna Levin has given us a ravishing book.”

“Wildly addictive. . . . A paradox: a work of fiction that is essentially true.”

“Sparklingly clear prose. . . . A dazzling investigation of genius and insanity.”

“Like a lyrical mash-up, Levin interweaves the personal narrative style of her first book with taut prose evocative of Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams, creating a deft, if somewhat discordant, novel on the price of mathematical genius. Levin skillfully twists nonfictional accounts of Turing and Godel’s lives and demises into a tale of brainy introspection on the nature of love, knowledge and madness.”

“An absolutely wonderful book. Godel and Turning tried to defy time, and failed, so the only way to bring them back is through the imagination. It requires a very wise and special imagination, with a powerful and quirky mind of her own, to give a plausible portrait of such geniuses. Janna Levin is a gifted stylist and with this compelling book, she has transcended the category of scientists who write books to become simply one of our most interesting contemporary writers.”
Lee Smolin, author of The Life of The Cosmos and Three Roads to Quantum Gravity

“I love the contrast of Turing’s mechanized view of the world with Godel’s more openended ‘incompleteness.’ A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines is a wonderfully imagined book.”
–Alan Lightman, author of Einstein’s Dreams

“A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines is a wonderfully original book. Janna Levin’s compelling narrative artfully straddles the realms of fiction and non-fiction, allowing us to viscerally experience the tortured lives of two towering intellects—Godel and Turing—while learning how each, in his own way, left a profound imprint on human thought.”
—Brian Greene, author of The Elegant Universe