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Book: Mathison by Leela Dutt

categories: Book, India, Artificial Intelligence, Nazi Germany, Quakers, Research Unit, USA, Golders Green, Cardiff University, Dentists, Breast Cancer, Hang-Gliding, Family History


Leela Dutt

Author Leela Duttabout this book: This story is told to a baby girl born at the beginning of the 21st century, and traces her ancestors for a hundred years. One of her great-grandfathers grew up in Kolkata in an ancient family home, another was a Jew who fled Nazi Germany. The narrator is a computer program which is being created in an artificial intelligence research unit at Cardiff University, where the baby's mother works in the 1990s. "Thoroughly enjoyed reading Mathison; I found the characters so engaging that they became like old friends and family… The Quaker setting, which rather than the artificial intelligence program forms the novel's natural backcloth, provided insightful authenticity and for someone like myself, who knows very little about the Quakers, food for thought." (Robert Coles, writer)

The book was inspired by my working in an artificial intelligence research unit in the 1990s myself - of course only a grammar was painstakingly being created there, not a whole novel; I exaggerated the capacity of AI! Maybe one day programs WILL write novels, but then I'll be out of a job... The Indian great-grandfather in my novel was entirely based on my own father's childhood. The Quaker gathering in Nazi Germany was taken from a book by Brenda Bailey, whose parents were there. The present day Quakers were based on personal observation, with a hilarious weekend gathering in the 1990s thrown in as light relief to point up the contrast with the sinister events at the earlier Quaker gathering. While I was writing the novel, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to have a mastectomy followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy, so naturally the director of the research unit at Cardiff University unexpectedly had to fit in all these experiences herself.

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Only a Signal Shown by Leela Dutt
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