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Traveling Author: Paolo Giordano Speaks of His “Solitude”

Paolo Giordano - Photo by ©Simone Mottura

One of Italy’s youngest and most talented authors, Paolo Giordano, is getting ready for his first extensive book tour in the United States.

“I came last year to New York,” he says, “but this is the first time I will be presenting the book to several different American cities. The schedule is a little scary.”

The book is “The Solitude of Prime Numbers,” Giordano’s first literary work which has thrust him into the Italian and international spotlight in 2008. The 28-year-old author will be presenting the book’s paperback edition at the Brookline Booksmith on April 5.

“The book’s immediate success has had a great impact on me,” he says. “I don’t think I was ready for such notoriety. For two years I endured it more than I enjoyed it. Now I’m finally able to manage it.”

First published in January 2008, the book’s sales immediately sent it to the top of the Italy’s bestselling charts. Several months later it received the country’s most prestigious literary award, the Premio Strega. Translations were quickly made, and today “The Solitude of Prime Numbers” is sold in almost 40 languages.

A movie based on the book and directed by Saverio Costanzo was made in 2010, featuring famous Italian actors such as Isabella Rossellini. “I made sure I would have a say in writing the script,” says Giordano. “It was quite liberating to see my work being dealt with by others, to see in what different ways it could be processed. I was starting to feel a little caged by it, so I wanted the movie to be different, and I believe it is.”

“The Solitude” is the story of two adolescents, both living with a haunting episode of their past. Alice is pretty and intelligent, but has a severe limp caused by a skiing accident she had had years before. She didn’t want to ski, but her oppressive father pressed for her to be an extraordinary athlete. Matteo is a mathematical genius who sees the world through numbers, but who lives with a feeling of guilt planted within him. On his way to a party with his mentally disabled twin sister, he decides to leave her waiting in a park while he goes to the party alone, but she disappears and is never found again.

The deep friendship the two develop is permeated by the complications of adolescence, but their troubled and complicated pasts bring them close, but never together. They are like primary numbers, Matteo explains. 11 and 13, 41 and 43. Numbers that can be divided only by one or by themselves. Unique, beautiful, but solitary, without a chance of intersecting with others.

Now Giordano is starting to set his eyes (and fingers) on his second novel. “I’ve been working on it for a few months now. In the first book one probably tends to throw in all that is inside. With this second one I feel like I’ve matured. I’m more careful when it comes to constructing a novel. I keep track of the overall balance, dosing the emotional content. It’s a more professional approach. If we were to look for total spontaneity, no one would write books.”

About Nicola Orichuia

Nicola is an Italian journalist and media enthusiast living in the United States. He keeps an eye on the Italian-American communities across the country and is always looking for positive stories to highlight.


  1. the explanation of the title of the book “They are like primary numbers, Matteo explains. 11 and 13, 41 and 43. Numbers that can be divided only by one or by themselves. Unique, beautiful, but solitary, without a chance of intersecting with others.” is not perfectly exact.
    Giordano refers to some special couples of prime numbers, the ones that are separated just by a single even number: 5 and 7 are separated by 6, 11 and 13 by 12… and so on. these couples are called “twin prime numbers”
    He argues that the two main characters of this book are two twin souls that would be a perfect couple: they try to get in touch during their life getting very near but there is always something that keeps them separated… they get a chanche like 5 and 7, but they don’t catch it… time passes and get another chanche like 11 and 14… and so on.
    As time passes it becomes more difficult to find anoter chanche… and none (also mathematically speaking) knows if there is an infinite series of twin prime numbers or not.