The Solitude of Prime Numbers, By Paulo Giordano

The Solitude of Prime Numbers hints at the scientific background of its 27-year-old Italian author. Paolo Giordano is completing a PhD in Physics in Turin, while also winning the country's most prestigious literary prize, Premio Strega, selling over one million copies all over the world, and writing short stories and columns for the Italian press.

Giordano's first novel tells the story of two solitary adolescents: he compares them to "special" prime numbers such as 11, 13, 17, 41 and 43. These numbers can only be divided by one and themselves – they live parallel lives without ever touching. This is the story of Alice and Mattia, two extraordinary beings who will live parallel destinies, developing a friendship without ever becoming romantically involved.

Alice - pretty, intelligent and sporty - nearly loses her leg in a ski accident. Pushed by her father to the heights of competition, she wets herself one cold morning on the slopes and takes a wrong turn to hide her shame, falling in remote woods with disastrous consequences and permanent psychological and physical scars. Mattia is a genius, envied by all his classmates, with a retarded sister of whom he is ashamed. Invited to a party with her, he deserts her on a bench intending to fetch her later. The girl disappears forever, probably drowned in the nearby river. Mattia, rational and lacking social skills, will also have to bear the consequences of an irrational act.

The two share similar pain, dictated by their own exceptional nature. Their inability to express feelings, suffering or joy and to relate to others – friends and family alike, who are at the same time intimidated and fascinated by their difference - is their most characteristic feature. The characters grow into adulthood and their problems increase with age. Language and syntax become more complex and captivating, as the narrative gains momentum and depth.

Alice – a photographer – becomes anorexic and is unable to have children because of her damaged body. Mattia is absorbed by the infallible logic of his mathematician's universe. Still affected by guilt for his sister's disappearance, he self-harms and cannot get close to any girl without devastating and, at times, comic effects.

We follow the destinies of these two wonders and are guided through their hearts and minds with a delicate but insightful analysis of human nature, its weakness, passions and helplessness. Giordano, who admits to feeling very close to Mattia, seems to deliver a message from the world of the extremely talented. Intelligence will make you different and therefore lonely: are you ready to cope with it? Not a bad result for a first attempt at fiction by a promising hope for the future of Italian literature.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers hints at the scientific background of its 27-year-old Italian author. Paolo Giordano is completing a PhD in Physics in Turin, while also winning the country's most prestigious literary prize, Premio Strega, selling over one million copies all over the world, and writing short stories and columns for the Italian press.

Giordano's first novel tells the story of two solitary adolescents: he compares them to "special" prime numbers such as 11, 13, 17, 41 and 43. These numbers can only be divided by one and themselves – they live parallel lives without ever touching. This is the story of Alice and Mattia, two extraordinary beings who will live parallel destinies, developing a friendship without ever becoming romantically involved.

Alice - pretty, intelligent and sporty - nearly loses her leg in a ski accident. Pushed by her father to the heights of competition, she wets herself one cold morning on the slopes and takes a wrong turn to hide her shame, falling in remote woods with disastrous consequences and permanent psychological and physical scars. Mattia is a genius, envied by all his classmates, with a retarded sister of whom he is ashamed. Invited to a party with her, he deserts her on a bench intending to fetch her later. The girl disappears forever, probably drowned in the nearby river. Mattia, rational and lacking social skills, will also have to bear the consequences of an irrational act.

The two share similar pain, dictated by their own exceptional nature. Their inability to express feelings, suffering or joy and to relate to others – friends and family alike, who are at the same time intimidated and fascinated by their difference - is their most characteristic feature. The characters grow into adulthood and their problems increase with age. Language and syntax become more complex and captivating, as the narrative gains momentum and depth.

Alice – a photographer – becomes anorexic and is unable to have children because of her damaged body. Mattia is absorbed by the infallible logic of his mathematician's universe. Still affected by guilt for his sister's disappearance, he self-harms and cannot get close to any girl without devastating and, at times, comic effects.

We follow the destinies of these two wonders and are guided through their hearts and minds with a delicate but insightful analysis of human nature, its weakness, passions and helplessness. Giordano, who admits to feeling very close to Mattia, seems to deliver a message from the world of the extremely talented. Intelligence will make you different and therefore lonely: are you ready to cope with it? Not a bad result for a first attempt at fiction by a promising hope for the future of Italian literature.

Comments