Italian swaps physics for writing and wins plaudits

Wed Mar 24, 2010 3:11pm EDT
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By Karina Ioffee

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Working long days in a particle physics laboratory at the University of Turin, doctoral student Paolo Giordano wanted an escape from the academic rigors of numbers.

So he wrote about love and misunderstanding with a sprinkling of science and unwittingly became a literary sensation.

Now Giordano is the youngest person to win Italy's top literary prize, the "Premio Strega," for his novel "The Solitude of Prime Numbers," recently published in the United States to rave reviews.

Giordano, 27, wrote the book while pursuing a doctorate in physics.

"I decided to dedicate all of my free time, nights and weekends to this," he told Reuters this week in New York, where he is promoting his book. "Later, I realized that subconsciously I was looking for a way out of science."

He completed his degree, but since then has quit physics to focus on writing. He discovered a love for the craft amid a trying time aged in his early 20s, he said, as youthful idealism was replaced by more adult preoccupations such as finding a job and making a living.

"I felt this void and had to fill it with something," said Giordano, who described himself as sensitive, shy and methodical. "I always feel very lost when I have a lack of ambition toward anything ... my motivation came from the ambition to write a novel."

Giordano tackled writing with the same intensity he had his scientific work. But he was hesitant to call himself a writer, telling just a few friends of his endeavor. Even his parents were surprised when the book was published.   Continued...