The Solitude of Prime Numbers

Of all places, I found an intriguing fiction book at my grocery store by particle physicist and Premio Strega award-winning author Paolo Giordano (brillant AND sexy).

Divisible only by one and themselves, prime numbers stand in stark contrast to natural numbers, upending the orderly logic of mathematics. They are strange, solitary, and disruptive. Like prime numbers, Mattia and Alice are also oddities, united in their loneliness, adrift in the normal world. Unable to fit in with anyone else, Alice and Mattia are kindred spirits, each bearing the burden of physical and psychological injuries from their childhood. Alice walks with a limp, the result of a skiing accident, and, painfully self-conscious of her body, nurses an eating disorder. Mattia’s scars run deeper; devastated by the loss of his mentally handicapped twin sister and racked with guilt over his secret role in her disappearance, Mattia turns his emotional suffering into physical pain, deliberately cutting and burning himself. The relationship between these two damaged young people is the center of The Solitude of Prime Numbers, Paolo Giordano’s brilliantly arresting debut novel.

I might write my own review sometime, but for now, I just wanted to share.  I like that there is a discussion with the author as well as discussion questions in the link from Penguin books.


About Casey

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ~ Jack Kerouac, On The Road Again
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2 Responses to The Solitude of Prime Numbers

  1. Idebenone says:

    Twin primes are couples of prime numbers, such as 11 and 13 or 17 and 19; namely, two primes separated by a single even number. Primes are those numbers that are not divisible by any other number other than 1 and themselves. Mattia and Alice are exactly like that: they seem not to combine with any other person, isolation seems a fundamental aspect of their lives. That is due to painful events that took place during their childhoods, but it is also due to their own specific personalities. Mattia is a sort of genius, introverted and incomprehensible; Alice is arrogant but deeply insecure. As they meet, they recognize something similar one in the other. For the rest of the story, they desperately try to get closer and closer, but they never really succeed. There is always something in the way—that single even number between them. They are not the only pair in the book: Mattia has a twin, Michela, and he loses her when they are children. Alice constantly searches for someone to share her life with, but she ends up with the wrong choice. The search for our twin is, after all, the search of our lives, at least for many of us.

    • Casey says:

      I would normally delete comments by anyone who is trying to link to whatever they are selling, but, I have to make an exception in this case. I like what you said about the book.

      As for searching for our twin being the search for our lives? Yeah, I used to think in such terms. I liked Plato’s idea of a ‘split-apart’. I even thought I married mine. But…well, after all the hurting we did each other, I find it hard to believe we can ever get back to that place.

      I met another for whom I felt a very deep connection, and for the longest time I thought I was with the wrong person. But, as I struggled with that idea, and talked to this other person about the idea, I was repeatedly told he didn’t feel that way, but I had a hard time believing it. So, well, I had to kill off those feelings.

      I’ve decided that the search for the twin is a sentimental, idealistic, completely unrealistic and slightly dangerous notion. It’s a search for a kind of perfect other doesn’t exist. And we torment ourselves in the search as well as tend to miss the good in those we DO come in contact with. We can also end up throwing a way decent people because they fail to live up to our ideal of perfect.

      Trust me, I want to believe, but I have learned that it’s a painful way to live.

Would you like to share your thoughts? I'd love to hear them.

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