by Paolo Giordano
Prime numbers are divisible only by 1 and by themselves. They hold their place in the infinite series of natural numbers, squashed, like all numbers, between two others, but one step further than the rest. They are suspicious solitary numbers, which is why Mattia thought they were wonderful. (p 111)
While all fiction emanates from the imagination it is rare that a work successfully mimics the language of dreams. The Solitude of Prime Numbers comes as close to doing so as any novel I have read in recent memory. The incidents of the characters' lives are blended together by the young author, Paolo Giordano, in a way that suggests their lives exist, fictionally, on the edge of reality. The main characters, Alice and Mattia, are in a state of continual wonder both of the world that surrounds them and the nature of their own being. Their lives and their search is made tragic by their solitude. The wonder of the novel is in the beautiful, even loving way that this is demonstrated.
As I read I kept trying to think of the right word to describe the events of the story. Were they quirky or odd or just strange? None of these words seemed to capture the feeling created by the author's prose which seemed almost poetic in the ethereal way the quotidian accidents of life were presented. It was only when I remembered the irrationality of my own dreams that I found the appropriate description for the story. The characters' lives are lived on a road strewn with obstacles that seem to be fundamental to their inner being. The substance of their solitude forever separates them from the quality of life that they deserve and most of us enjoy. That a story of two such lives would be compelling is a tribute to the author and his novel.
The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano. Viking Penguin, New York. 2010 (2008)