Rare Alan Turing notebook to be sold

22 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

FILM: The Imitation Game; Maps to the Stars.

A notebook about mathematics and computer science written by Nazi-code breaker Alan Turing, played by actor Benedict Cumberbatch in the Oscar-nominated film The Imitation Game, is to be sold at auction. The 56-page manuscript is expected to fetch at least seven figures, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity, when it goes up for sale on April 13th in New York. Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) was a mathematical genius with a complex personality that made him few friends, and having to suppress his homosexuality added another facet to his antisocial behaviour. Turing was a British genius mathematician and a pioneer in computer science who hastened the end of World War Two by cracking Germany’s wartime communications code. “This manuscript dates from the time when Turing was engaged in the crucial task of breaking the Enigma Code,” said Cassandra Hatton, senior specialist in fine books and manuscripts at Bonhams auction house. “Its mathematical content gives an extraordinary insight into the working mind of one of the greatest luminaries of the 20th Century,” she added in a statement. The only one to encourage him was Joan Clark (Keira Knightley), whose special skills earned her a place in the elite team given the near-impossible task of cracking a code that was changed daily and had hundreds of millions of permutations; when Turing pressed ahead with his claim that, given time and money, he could solve it, she stood by him even as failures earned him his superiors’ contempt.

But Gandy kept something special for himself: A notebook of Turing’s hand-written thoughts, from the period during which he was trying to break the famed Enigma Code. Eventual success created a terrible moral dilemma: if the Germans realised their plans could be thwarted, they might find a new means of communication, so sacrifices had to be made to preserve the illusion. This was at a crucial point in Turing’s career, when he and other code breakers were consumed with cracking Germany’s notorious Enigma code in Bletchley Park, England. In it Turing, considered a forefather of computer science, wrestles with questions about mathematical notation and phraseology, analyzing and referring to the work of mathematicians and thinkers including Giuseppe Peano, René Descartes and Louis François Antoine Arbogast.

Turing was gay, a criminal offense in England at the time, and he was forced to undergo hormonal therapy to “cure” him of his sexual orientation after a 1952 conviction. He was as accustomed to hard choices as to mathematical problems; from his experience as a pupil with a crush on a schoolmate to the sham of a meaningful relationship with Clark, he was conflicted and found absolute certainty only in his work. Mortem Tyldum’s direction of a first-rate script by Graham Moore (based on a book by Andrew Hodges) uses the framework of Turing being questioned by a detective (Rory Kinnear) about an apparent robbery.

Bonham’s press release announcing the auction plays up the “Imitation Game” tie-in and even contains a quote from the film’s star, Benedict Cumberbatch, about how “the thought of being able to hold a manuscript that was written by him is thrilling.” Cumberbatch received a best actor Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Turing, one of eight nominations for “The Imitation Game,” which itself is up for best picture. Cumberbatch is superb in a difficult, delicate role, and receives impressive support from Knightley and a cast that includes Charles Dance, Mark Strong and Matthew Goode. A cursory glance at the notebook shows why: The mathematician used the blank spaces in Turing’s notebook to write down the content of his own dreams.

David Cronenberg’s MAPS TO THE STARS has everything: a satire on Hollywood’s self-absorption, a couple of ghosts, violent deaths, sex, nudity and pyromania, with incest hovering over all the unpleasantness. But he held back the notebook, because of what else it contained: a private journal in which he recorded his dreams and discussed intimately personal matters, including his own homosexuality. “It seems a suitable disguise to write in between these thoughts of Alan’s on notation, but possibly a little sinister; a dead father figure, some of whose thoughts I most completely inherited,” Gandy wrote at the beginning of the journal. According to material supplied by Bonhams, the notebook was not seen by anyone – except a Jungian analyst who had treated both Gandy and Turing, instructing them both to keep dream diaries – until Gandy’s death, in 1995. She gets a job of sorts as an assistant to Havana (Julianne Moore), an actress hoping to play the lead in a remake of a picture that made her late mother famous. Then there is the peculiar Weiss family: Stafford (John Cusack), a self-help guru and Havana’s masseur; and Cristina (Olivia Williams), who manages the burgeoning career of Benji (Evan Bird), their son whose success in Bad Babysitter and its proposed sequel has made him an egotistical monster.

Cronenberg highlights human frailties and follies that are open to public scrutiny, subjected to gossip, and perverted by fame, drugs, ambition and other addictions. In its news release, the auction house quoted the Turing scholar Andrew Hodges as saying: “Alan Turing was parsimonious with his words and everything from his pen has special value.

This notebook shines extra light on how, even when he was enmeshed in great world events, he remained committed to free-thinking work in pure mathematics.”

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