Dis-moi qui tu aimes (je te dirai qui tu hais)

A colleague has very helpfully provided me with a copy of the murder mystery set at the IHES that I wrote about recently here, and I’ve just finished reading it. Since I’m not much of an afficionado of this genre of fiction, I can’t really evaluate how good a murder mystery it is. But as a memoir of the IHES during the 1980s, it is excellent. A claim at the beginning of the book that “any resemblance to real persons is just coincidence” seems to be one of the few things in it (besides the murder) that is fiction. As far as I can tell, the descriptions of all characters correspond precisely to someone at the IHES during that period, with only the names changed. I’m guessing that all or most of the anecdotes about these characters also correspond to reality.

It’s a roman a clef, so here’s the key for the major characters:

Andre Grusin = Leon Motchane
Henrik Dekker = Nicolaas Kuiper
Charles Bouleaux = Marcel Berger
Antoine Fleuret = Alain Connes
Jacob Zuram = Barry Mazur
Boris Grekov = Mikhael Gromov
Jacques Chevalier = Pierre Deligne

Among the minor characters, I suspect

Joe Bub = Dennis Sullivan
David Amir = Ofer Gabber
Albert Toudy = Adrien Douady

I don’t think I’ll be giving away too much of the plot to mention that, since the novel was written nearly twenty years ago, back when string theory was a hot topic, one of the plot twists involves string theory. There’s a discovery that “superstring theory is renormalizable and predicts that gluonic interactions are colorless”.

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7 Responses to Dis-moi qui tu aimes (je te dirai qui tu hais)

  1. lieven says:

    i know it’s pathetic but the ‘que’ should be a ‘qui’. Anyway, I’d love to read the book in whatever language (it’s out of print), now that I’ve read Dixmier’s testimonial :

    « Une partie du charme de ce livre provient de l’environnement psychologique inhabituel. Bien sûr, les passions classiques se déchaînent ; mais aussi des passions moins classiques. Margot Bruyère, à l’évidence, connaît bien le milieu qu’elle décrit. »
    Jacques Dixmier

  2. Peter Woit says:

    Thanks Lieven, typo fixed.

    Dixmier’s blurb is accurate.

    Is it really out of print? It was republished in 2002 as “Maths a Mort”, and that version still shows up on the publisher’s web-site:


    and FNAC


    and amazon.fr


    Margot Bruyere has a web-site:


    and the first chapter is online there:


  3. lieven says:

    thx peter. i did find the website and read the first chapter. the fnac-website sucks and amazon.fr says its unavailable. i’ll try to get hold of it somehow. atb :: lieven.

  4. lieven says:

    my apologies to fnac.fr. they’ve promised delivery in 3 weeks…

  5. Happy new year! Bonne année!
    I just discover your website and the comments on my book “Dis-moi qui tu aimes” alias “Maths à mort”, and I am happy to state that most people enjoyed it.

    I regret that my english is too poor to translate it. But if somebody thinks it’s worth to do it and have it print, I would be very gratefuf… but I do’nt know a translator (Mary Turner seems to have given up) neither a publisher.

  6. Peter Woit says:

    Margot Bruyere,

    I also definitely enjoyed the book, thanks for writing it!

    I know nothing about the market for murder mystery books, but perhaps a press that publishes mathematics books would be interested. Maybe Princeton University Press, perhaps Jacques Chevalier could help…


  7. Thank you, Peter, for reading the book. I am happy that you appreciate it. Maybe I will try to have the book translated! But I am working now more on history than mathematicians.

    I enjoyed very much the time I worked at IHES, but I enjoy also very much the life I have now in Brittany.

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