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The Solitude of Prime Numbers [La Solitudine dei Numeri Primi] (2008)
Paolo Giordano

The novel "La Solitudine dei Numeri Primi" (2008), written by a physics grad student, sold over a million copies in Italy and appeared in English as ``The Solitude of Prime Numbers'' (2010). It tells the story of two emotionally damaged teenagers, both having suffered tragedies in their childhood, who recognize each other as kindred spirits. Math shows up both as metaphor (e.g. `these characters are like prime numbers, divisible only by themselves and one, never truly fitting with another') and more practically in the form of a prestigious mathematics position that the male character takes as an adult.

Contributed by Lapo Fanciullo

I've been asking myself whether to signal this to you or not, since there's not a lot mathematics in it - but since you already posted it, I should certainly contribute.

The title refers to twin primes, primes numbers that differ by two (such as 11 and 13): according to one of the characters, the two of them are like twin primes, "near but not enough to touch each other". Apart from this metaphor, there are a few passing references to the work, and some stray thoughts, of the mathematics-savvy character. Not very much.

You may not like the fact that the male character is a typical anti-social mathematician, clueless about anything that's not his work. Redeeming qualities may be that the character's traumatic childhood is well exposed, thus providing a realistic explanation for his personality, and that his fellow mathematicians are perfectly normal people (though none of them nearly as brilliant as him).

Update: The Courant Institute's Joel Spencer wrote a review of this book for the September 2010 issue of the AMS Notices. In his view, this novel admirably gives a glimpse into the mind of a mathematician. Read the entire review here.

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Works Similar to The Solitude of Prime Numbers [La Solitudine dei Numeri Primi]
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
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  4. The Decimal People by Zachary Shiffman
  5. Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby
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  9. The Axiom of Choice by David Corbett
  10. 36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Goldstein
Ratings for The Solitude of Prime Numbers [La Solitudine dei Numeri Primi]:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
2/5 (2 votes)
Literary Quality:
3.5/5 (2 votes)

MotifAnti-social Mathematicians, Academia, Romance,
TopicAlgebra/Arithmetic/Number Theory,

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Exciting News: The 1,600th entry was recently added to this database of mathematical fiction! Also, for those of you interested in non-fictional math books let me (shamelessly) plug the recent release of the second edition of my soliton theory textbook.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)