The Goddess of Small Victories

Written by Willard Wood (trans.) Yannick Grannec
Review by Kathryn Johnson

On the death of her husband, the aged Adele Gödel recalls details of her life with the brilliant but disturbed theoretician Kurt Gödel. Born in Austria in 1906, he eventually moved his family to the United States to escape Nazi Germany, perhaps also seeking to leave behind his emotional torment. Adele, in her declining years, calls up moments in history against which his career plays out. Tragically, she also recalls the painful rejection by his colleagues due to her earlier career as a cabaret dancer. Between scenes depicting their tumultuous relationship (Gödel must have been a hard man to live with) and private lives, the novel is peppered with discussions of mathematics and metaphysical arguments.

I believe readers who enjoy philosophical interludes mixed with science and math may welcome these inclusions in the novel, inspired by the lives of this real couple. (Albert Einstein figures as one of Gödel’s contemporaries and a friend.) Other readers who are less mathematically inclined may find these passages to be unwelcome interruptions in the serious business of seeing Adele through to the end of her story. A well-written novel, deep, troubling, and powerful.