Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions

Flatland’s full text is available here. =)

I had to stop reading Foucault’s Pendulum to accommodate 101 titles that will be with me only for a limited amount of time. I have to read them all before my friend takes the titles off my hands again.

This is a very interesting book. The writer and engineer in me agrees. It’s like getting a whole new system that is parallel to world society, but expressed through the tenets of Geometry. Edwin Abbott knows his Math and knows his English.

Best of all, he depicts our world (“Spaceland”) through a fluent expression of both. In particular, ┬áit depicted 1800’s Victorian England world. The issues of those times were expressed in this geometric satire. The angst and the feel of ancient England was so there, no need for equations or lengthy derivations to figure it all out.

Even if I am a certified Spaceland citizen, I found myself able to relate with the Triangles and Squares. Particularly those approaching the equilaterals. Possible that I may be an irregular, though. *strokes chin and goes pensive* Yes, very irregular…

I think if I had someone who loves to read and hates numbers, this is the best book that will help the person at least get a slightest inclination of mathematical interest.

Very creatively done, although it is not something you can easily grasp especially if you are naturally averse to geometric stuff. It takes a lot of imagination, and the illustrations helped me a lot in some instances.

However, I believe it is a bit chauvinistic in some parts. Flatland has reduced women to two-ended pointed needles while only the men can have polygon shapes. That’s so not fair, you know! What about women’s rights, Edwin??? Incroyable… haha.

Clincher part for me: where the Sphere was trying to explain to the Square what 3-Dimensional space meant in action. Because the Square only knew 2D all his life. And he only got used to lines and points. So the Sphere (perfection of the circle) had to go to drastic measures to show the Square that aside from width and length, there is HEIGHT or a third dimension. Can you imagine doing all that on paper and getting the readers in action? Well, Abbott did that in this book and more. Somehow he got the square to think he can become a CUBE.

And the rest of the novel, the square tried to proclaim this Gospel of “Upward, but not Northward” concept to the other people of Flatland. With no success.

How easy it is sometimes to reduce things to over-simplicity when there is a third dimension hovering above that gives more meaning and texture to the things that we do…

I lost track of time reading this novel. It was a bit dragging in some parts (but maybe more because I am naturally impatient with lengthy discourses). Having some background on 1800 England society is a big help, aside from knowing your polygons well.

Another interesting thing, Abbott classified the priests as Circles– elite of the elite, so to speak. The theory being, when a worker gains so many sides, he approaches a circle. And a circle is above the politics of the other few or many-sided polygons in the Flatland world because they are free of pointed edges etc.

1 down, 100 titles to go! haha!