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By Francis Spufford

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More than a pleasure, a relief almost, because every time the pure pattern of mathematics turned out to have a purchase on the way the world worked, turned out to provide the secret thread controlling something loud and various and apparently arbitrary, it provided one more quantum of confirmation for what Leonid Vitalevich wanted to believe, needed to believe, did believe when he was happy: that all of this, this swirl of phenomena lurching on through time, this mess of interlocked systems, some filigree-fine, some huge and simple, this tram full of strangers and smoky air, this city of Peter built on human bones, all ultimately made sense, were all intricately generated by some intelligible principle or set of principles working themselves out on many levels at once, even if the expressions didn’t exist yet which could capture much of the process.

A better life, in a straightforward, practical way: better food, better clothes, better houses, better cars, better planes (like this one), better football games to watch and cards to play and beaches to sit on, in the summertime, with the children splashing about in the surf and a nice bottle of something cold to sip. More money to spend – or else more of a world in which money was no longer necessary to ration out the good things, because there were so many good things, all gushing out of the whatchamacallit, the thing like a cone spilling over with fruit.

Such a long way travelled, he thought, since he had been a quick kid himself, the kid on the coalfield with the home-made motorbike and three gold roubles in his pocket on a Friday, and the fluffy white duckdown hair. ) Such a long journey to this point in time for the whole country; and none of it easy, none of it achieved without cost. No one gave us this beautiful plane. We built it ourselves, we pulled it out of nothing by our determination and our strength. They tried to crush us over and over again, but we wouldn’t be crushed.

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