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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

(The Snowflake Constant)

Peter Stephan Jungk

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Tigor

Title: Tigor
Author: Peter Stephan Jungk
Genre: Novel
Written: 1991 (Eng. 2002)
Length: 217 pages
Original in: German
Availability: Tigor - US
The Snowflake Constant - UK
Tigor - Canada
Tigor - Deutschland
  • German title: Tigor
  • US title: Tigor
  • UK title: The Snowflake Constant
  • Translated by Michael Hofmann

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Our Assessment:

B : some decent ideas and writing, but doesn't achieve its aims

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
TLS A+ 15/3/2002 Stephen Abell
World Literature Today A Fall/1992 Willy Riemer

  Review Consensus:

  An impressive accomplishment

  From the Reviews:
  • "(S)tartlingly impressive (.....) Solidity and fluidity, order and chaos, random chance and inevitable coincidence: this novel is spectacularly successful in making sense of the beguiling and the contrary, in investigating and accommodating the mess of the modern world." - Stephen Abell, Times Literary Supplement

  • "A fresh sense of wonder at the complexity and mystery of reality permeates the work. Tigor is a postmodern narrative about a protagonist who, however, cannot quite let go of his modernist projects. (...) The textual filigree dense with information is therefore not simply a flourish of erudition, but the recursive complex environment through which the book tracks Tigor's unpredictable path. His quest for absolute truth seems quixotic in the face of the actual dynamics that shape his destiny. The subversion of traditional order also affects plot and character development and thus necessarily invites an appropriate reading strategy. It is well worth the effort." - Willy Riemer, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The title character of Tigor is a mathematician, and, as he explains: "To do anything in my field, you have to be young." He's just short of forty when the book begins, and has hit one hell of a mid-life crisis. He had accomplished something, devoting his professional career to a specific area and coming up with what was known as the snowflake constant -- or, indeed, 'Tigor's constant'. But he had found certainty (or rather tried to ascribe it to something) where, unfortunately, it turns out there is none.
       As the book opens, Tigor's world has come crumbling down. He's been at a mathematical congress in Italy where the last scraps of his theory have been demolished, rendering his professional accomplishments essentially meaningless -- and undermining his whole world-view. Unfortunately, he does not take this well.
       The snowflake constant suggested a neatly ordered world, but Tigor admits: "I was forced to see that what will prevail is chaos." So guess what happens in the novel .....
       Tigor is a mathematics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, but he doesn't return there, drawn instead to a different life. Among his adventures: he works backstage at the Odéon in Paris -- his uncle calls the theatre "a dumping ground for failed lives", so it's just the thing -- and eventually makes his way to (still Soviet) Georgia and then Mount Ararat, and finally goes off in search of Noah's Ark (and quite the (pseudo-)dramatic conclusion). He's torn between complete aimlessness and working towards specific objectives, occasionally focussed on a task or goal at hand, but at other times just drifting away.
       Tigor's adventures are generally somewhat exotic, out of sight of life as we generally know it (in obscure locales, or behind the scenes at the theatre, for example), but not too ridiculously far-fetched, and there's some entertainment value here. Tigor's convenient deliriums -- in which he'll (sort of) explain what has happened to him, or provide an excuse for the action to move forward -- are less than ideal fictional devices, and the novel also shifts focus from the very specific to the very general too much. Tigor himself also remains a convenient narrative object, for Jungk to do with as he pleases, rather than a convincing character.
       Jungk doesn't commit himself entirely to the maths-model for his book, using mathematics at certain points, but not quite willing to make it the central device in the book, leaving an odd feel to the whole thing. It doesn't help matters when Tigor explains, for example:

Modern mathematics is much closer to such things as Dada and Cubism, atonal music and the writings of Franz Kafka, which, thank God, I have never read.
       Such grand pronouncements might be of interest if there were anything to back them up, but Tigor (and Jungk) don't bother to explain or expound, leaving them grand-sounding but completely empty words. (Likely Jungk avoided expanding on these words because even he realised that the idea that maths are like the works of Kafka or like Dadaism is too stupid to withstand the slightest scrutiny.) And in saying maths is like the works of an author he has never read Tigor comes across simply as a fool: it's hard to have the slightest sympathy with someone whose calling is supposedly scientific, dealing with theorems and proofs, who would make a statement like that.
       Jungk has some talent, and there are interesting bits to Tigor: quite a few scenes and episodes, and some of the ideas (alas, none of which are truly well used). Unfortunately, much of the presentation is also awkward, and Jungk tries far too hard to imbue the novel with meaning.

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Reviews: Peter Stephan Jungk: Other books by Peter Stephan Jungk under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       American-born (in 1952), German-writing Peter Stephan Jungk is the son of Robert Jungk.

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