Mattia pensava che lui e Alice erano cosi', due primi gemelli, soli e perduti, vicini ma non abbastanza per sfiorarsi davvero. A lei non l'aveva mai detto. Quando immaginava di confessarle queste cose, il sottile strato di sudore sulle sue mani evaporava del tutto e per dieci minuti buoni non era piu' in grado di toccare nessun oggetto.
Mattia thought that he and Alice were like that, two twin primes, lonely and lost, close but not enough to really brush against each other. He had never told her. When he imagined to confess these things to her, the slight layer of sweat on his hands evaporated completely and for a good ten minutes he wasn't able to touch anything. (My translation--it's the best I could come up with, sorry if it sounds awkward. The original is beautiful.)
I don't know if La solitudine dei numeri primi (The Loneliness of Prime Numbers) by Paolo Giordano is ever going to be translated in English, but I think it should. I read it from cover to cover this afternoon, and loved it. It's the first Italian book I read in a long, long time, mainly because of all the hype surrounding it (the book won the renowned literary award Premio Strega this year and has been a bestseller in Italy for the past few months). So I gave in and picked up a copy.
The beginning had me hooked. Two events from their childhood define Alice and Mattia's lives . Seven-year-old Alice is forced by her father to attend skiing lessons. One day, while she's waiting to go skiing, she dirties herself. She tries to get back home and falls, breaking her leg badly and earning herself a permanent limp. Mattia has a developmentally challenged twin sister, Michela. Her constant presence umiliates him with his classmates, and one day he leaves her in a park, with the promise he will be coming back to take her home soon. When he gets back, however, she's disappeared.
These two events shape the lives of the main characters: in her teens, Alice becomes anorexic, while Mattia is a math genius, probably suffering from Asperger's syndrome. Following her mother's death from cancer, Alice leaves university to pursue a career as a photographer, while Mattia goes on to earn his degree in Mathematics.
The title refers to Mattia's conviction that he and Alice are twin primes, that is two prime numbers which are separated by only one even number (like 11 and 13, for example). Like their mathematical counterparts, Alice and Mattia are very close but never enough to touch each other.
Despite its great success, this book has often been accused of having a poor plot and poor characterization, and of dealing with trivial events. I found the plot a bit frustrating sometimes--scenes often seemed to stop efore a big moment I would've liked to read about--but then I thought that this is the feature which makes the book so fascinating.
In a sentence: go for it. If you read Italian or if it ever gets translated into English, that is.