Sunday, October 21, 2012

Edik Frenkel on his mekh-mat entrance exams in 1984

Nothing new for most of my friends of course but I still recommend a well-written and completely accurate excerpt from Edik Frenkel’s forthcoming book, Love and Math.

We walked out of the room and entered the elevator. The doors closed. It was just the two of us. The examiner was clearly in a good mood. He said: 

“You did very well. A really impressive performance. I was wondering: did you go to a special math school?” 

 I grew up in a small town, we didn’t have special math schools. 

“Really? Perhaps, your parents are mathematicians?” 

No, they are engineers. 

 “Interesting. . . . It’s the first time I’ve seen such a strong student who did not go to a special math school. 

I couldn’t believe what he was saying. This man had just failed me after an unfairly administered, discriminatory, grueling five-hour exam. For all I knew, he had killed my dream of becoming a mathematician. A sixteen-year-old student, whose only fault was that he came from a Jewish family. And now this guy is giving me compliments and expecting me to open up to him?! 

 But what could I do? Yell at him, punch him in the face? I was just standing there, silent, stunned. He continued: 

“Let me give you some advice. Apply to the Moscow Institute of Oil and Gas. They have an Applied Mathematics program, which is quite good. They take students like you there.” 

 The elevator doors opened and a minute later he handed me my thick application folder, with a bunch of my school trophies and prizes oddly sticking out of it. 

 “Good luck to you,” he said, but I was too exhausted to respond. My only wish was to get the hell out of there!


Anonymous said...

Как фамилия "героя"?

avzel said...

Не знаю.

xgrbml said...

A blast from the past, что называется. Я хорошо знал женщину, которая выспрашивала у автора про национальность. Да и на ступеньках главного знания мы друг друга небось видели...

avzel said...

Хотя я не могу так сходу сообразить, кто эта женщина, но наверное, я ее тоже знаю.