Promenade Through a Life's Work
4.The Novel of Manners
In speaking of my mathematical past, and in the course of doing so uncovering (as if it were a matter of rescuing my own body) the mysterious turns taken by the colossal Burial of my life's work I have been led, without having intended it, to draw up a portrait of a certain milieu in a certain time in history - a time marked by the disintegration of certain timeless values which give meaning to all human endeavor. This is the aspect of the 'novel of manners', developing around a historical event which in no doubt unique in the " Annals of "Science”. What has already been stated must make it clear that one shouldn't expect to find in Récoltes et Semailles, the "police report" or "dossier" of some celebrated "affair", written solely for the purpose of bringing one up to date. Any friend looking for such a report will go through it with his eyes closed, having seen nothing of any of the flesh and blood substance of Récoltes et Semailles.
As I explain, in much greater detail, in The Letter, the "police investigation" ( or the "novel of manners") is to be found principally in Parts II and IV: "The Burial (1)-or the Robe of the Emperor of China”, and: "The Burial (3) -or the Four Operations". In the course of writing these pages I have stubbornly brought to light a multitude of "juicy" findings, ( to say the least), which I've attempted, for better or for worse, to "spruce up". Bit by bit I've found a coherent picture slowly emerging from the mists, one whose colors grow in intensity, one whose contours are becoming progressively sharper. In the notes that I've made on a daily basis, the "raw facts" which surface are inextricably mixed with personal reminiscences, comments and reflections on psychology, philosophy and even mathematics. That's the way it is and I can't do anything about it!
On the basis of the work already done, which has absorbed me for over a year, anyone wishing to extract a "dossier", in the mode of an investigative "wrap-up", will have to spend many additional hours, if not days, depending on the interest or curiosity of the reader, in working it out. At one point I myself tried to extract such a dossier. This when I began the long footnote now known as "The Four Operations"(*)
(*) What was intended as a footnote exploded into all of Part IV (with the same title of "The Four Operations"), comprising 70 notes stretching over 400 pages.
Ultimately it wasn't possible. I failed totally! It's not my style, certainly not in my elderly years. In my present estimation, I've done enough, with the production of Récoltes et Semailles, for the benefit of the mathematics community to be able, without regrets, to leave for others (who may perhaps be found among my colleagues) the work of putting together the dossier it contains.