Monday, June 08, 2009

The Solitude of Prime Numbers - Paolo Giordano


"Prime numbers are divisible only by 1 and by themselves. They stand in their place in the infinite series of natural numbers, squashed in between two others, like all other numbers, but a step further on than the rest. They are suspicious and solitary, which is why Mattia thought they were wonderful. Sometimes he thought that they had ended up in that sequence by mistake, that they’d been trapped like pearls strung on a necklace. At other times he suspected that they too would rather have been like all the others, just ordinary numbers, but for some reason they weren’t capable of it. The second thought struck him mostly at night, in the chaotic interweaving of images that comes before sleep, when the mind is too weak to tell itself liesIn his first-year Mattia had studied the fact that among the prime numbers there are some that are even more special. Mathematicians call them twin primes: they are pairs of prime numbers that are close to one another, almost neighbours, but between them there is always an even number that prevents them from really touching. Numbers like 11 and 13, like 17 and 19, 41 and 43. If you have the patience to go on counting, you discover that these pairs gradually become rarer. You encounter increasingly isolated primes, lost in that silent, measured space made only of numbers and you become aware of the distressing sense that the pairs encountered up until that point were an accidental fact, that their true fate is to remain alone. Then, just when you’re about to surrender, when you no longer have any desire to go on counting, you come across another two twins, clutching one another tightly. Among mathematicians it is a common conviction that however far you go, there will always be more pairs, even if no one can say where, until they are discovered. Mattia thought that he and Alice were like that, two twin primes, alone and lost, close but not close enough really to touch one another. He had never told her that. When he imagined confessing these things to her, the thin layer of sweat on his hands evaporated completely and for a good ten minutes he was no longer capable of touching anything.."


This book published in Italy last year, has already caused a storm selling over 1 Million copies and winning the prestigious Premio Strega ( top literary award in Italy). The book was officially released on June 4, 2009, its first English translation by Transworld Publishers.

Life of Mattia and Alice, are like those prime numbers. Mattia is one who rejected the world , while Alice was rejected by the world. Two lives, devastated and with disfigured mind trying to find solace in each other, at the same time, unable to join together.

Alice's life is guided by the early age skiing accident, which leaves her crippled for life. The wish of her imposing father, resulting in the early rejection by the daughter was one which never to be re-connected. Mattia on the other hand suffers from the loss of his twin-sister, retarded, whom he leave in a park for attending a friends birthday, never to see her again. He grew up as an exceptional student and a person, never been able to get connected to the general society.

The novel takes us through the life of Alice and Mattia, both spending their young, adulthood and grown up ages, linked but isolated. Alice marry Fabio, the doctor, who treated her ailing mother, in an attempt to join the mainstream. Mattia on the other hand remained an individual with no companion, among mathematical formulae and works accepting an invitation from a UK University to be their faculty member, while pursuing his studies.

This novel is about people on the 'borderline'. Despite the effort by themselves and by others, they find it hard to mingle and join the mainstream community. They are often viewed as different and treated with 'protection' or with contempt. Soon, they take solace in rejecting the world and build a world of their own, focussing and excelling in their profession.

The book is written in chronological sequence , citing main events from their lives which shapes the character and the future, leaving the gap to be filled by the reader. It is an easy and quick read, engaging till the end. What was interesting as a reader is that, you too are not connected with them personally, but a witness to the events as they unfold in front of you. Pretty decent read, though depressing.

Needless to say, the first book written by this 26 year old writer is already a making waves.

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The solitude of Prime Numbers

Paolo Giordano

Translated by Shaun Whiteside

Transworld Books

347 Pages

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2 comments:

baijuraj666 said...

paolo giordano is not yet available in india...or is it ?
if so where ? plz help

Brain Drain said...

Hi Baiju, not available in India yet. I had received a publisher's copy.

Jayan