Recoltes et Semailles

Récoltes et Semailles, Part I

The Life of a Mathematician
Reflections and Bearing Witness

Alexander Grothendieck 1986

English Translation by Roy Lisker

By December 2002, when I began this translation, 14 years had passed since the distribution, in 1988, of copies of Récoltes et Semailles by Alexander Grothendieck to mathematical colleagues around the world.

In all that time, despite the universal interest manifested in its contents, no part of it had been placed on the Internet in either French or English.

In my decision to make a rough English translation of the first part of R&S to be placed on the Ferment Magazine website, it is with the hope that this effort will result in other translators coming to the plate and bringing the project to completion.The literary output of Alexandre Grothendieck is of great interest, deeply moving and in places poetic. His protestations notwithstanding, it does not have a fraction of the importance of his contribution to mathematics. Recoltes et Semailles is, all the same,a major document for the history of mathematics

Harvests and Sowings

Thematic Inventory, or
Prelude in 4 Movements

Promenade Through a Life's Work - or the Child and the Mother.

  1. The Magic of Things

  2. The Importance of Solitude

  3. The Interior Adventure - or Myth and Witnessing

  4. A Novel of Manners

  5. The Inheritors and the Builders

  6. Visions and Viewpoints

  7. The "Great Idea" - or the Forest and the Trees

  8. The Vision - or 12 Themes in Search of a Harmonization

  9. Structure and Form - or the Voice of Things

  10. The New Geometry - or the Marriage of Number and Magnitude

  11. The Magical Spectrum - or Innocence

  12. Topology or How to Survey the fogs

  13. Toposes-or The Double Bed

  14. Mutability of the Concept of Space - or Breath and Faith

  15. "Tous Les Chevaux du Roi.... "

  16. >Motives - or the Heart Within

  17. In Quest of the Mother - Two Views

  18. The Child and its Mother

    EPILOGUE: The Invisible Circles

  19. Death is my Cradle

  20. Spying on the Neighbors

  21. Sui generis - or The Gift of Solitude


  1. The 1000 page letter

  2. Germination of the Project of Harvests and Sowings ( a retrospective insight)

  3. The Boss is Dead - the Abandoned Workshop

  4. A Scent of the Burial ...

  5. The Voyage

  6. The Inverse Side of the Shadow -Creativity and Contempt

  7. Respect and Endurance

  8. " My Colleagues" - or , Conspiracy

  9. The Plundering

  10. A Movement in Four Phases

  11. Movement and Structure

  12. Spontaneity and Rigor

    EPILOGUE AND POST-SCRIPT- or Contexts and Prerequisites for a Debate

  13. The Spectrograph on the Shelf

  14. 3 Flat Feet

  15. The Gangrene Torture - or the Spirit of the Age

  16. Making Restitution - or the Spirit of the Age


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