Continuums is the story of Alexandra, a brilliant mathematician whose world – her career and her family – unravels following the flight of her younger brother from Communist Romania. Alexandra is forced to make painful choices. She delays and bends and dodges. Eventually, she runs away as well, leaving her husband, and losing her daughter. She starts anew in North America, but the loss of her daughter haunts her, and she remains torn and uncertain.
Continuums is also the story of Asuero Aroso, an extraordinary but obscure mathematician, first mentor and then colleague of Alexandra. A Sephardic Jew born in Istanbul, a gifted student of the eminent David Hilbert – in the days when Gottingen was the world centre of mathematics – and, as the narrative unfolds, an old mathematics professor stuck behind the Iron Curtain, his is the story of a young genius, of an incompatible and unhappy marriage, of an epochal mathematics discovery left unheralded, of generosity during supremely dark moments. Aroso has been the casualty of a misplaced, unsuitable love, but also of his own inertia, of difficult choices, of circumstances, of the nauseating time that was the middle half of the 20th century.
In her struggle to figure out what she should do, Alexandra seeks Aroso’s advice and learns his story. Their professional relationship – of like minds, passionate about their field – becomes, slowly, a deep and warm friendship. Ultimately, Alexandra does what Aroso did not, but at a price.
The book is also about mathematics, about Cantor’s transfinite numbers and about the resolution of a mathematical problem – the so-called Cantor’s Conjecture or the Continuum Hypothesis – which, at the beginning of the last century, was listed as the most important problem in mathematics.