China Exclusive: “Distracted generation” comes of age: awardwinning Italian writer

By Xinhua writers Du Jie, Zhang Yizhi
BEIJING, Aug. 26 — With smartphones, Facebook and
Twitter, today’s young people are living in an increasingly
connected world. In an interview with Xinhua, Italian writer Paolo
Giordano described such young people as the “distracted generation”
— who are accustomed to the daily use of social networking and the
perpetual distraction this causes.

“I always find that mine is a sort of distracted generation.
We’re distracted by so many things and we are kind of scattered in
many places at the same time,” said Giordano, the youngest writer
to win Italy’s prestigious Premio Strega literary award for his
debut novel “The Solitude of Prime Numbers.”

In his second literary offering “The Human Body,” the
31-year-old Italian writer details the story of a platoon of young
soldiers fighting in the deserts of Afghanistan. The author
describes how only under such extreme circumstances can members of
the so-called “distracted generation” re-discover their true

“The idea was that in order to be able to describe my
generation, I have to put it in the middle of a desert with threats
coming from all around. So now they are trapped and they can’t
escape from that. They could finally observe what they were,” he

Though not everyone will have to fight on an actual battlefield
someday, Giordano said everyone goes through some kind of “war” at
some point in their lives, adding that it is through personal
struggles that the “distracted generation” can truly find

Born in 1982, Giordano may be seen as a maverick by some of his
generational peers for his refusal to use social networking sites
like Facebook or Twitter, which he believes use up too much of
one’s energy.

Giordano studied physics at the University of Turin and holds a
Ph.D in theoretical particle physics. However, the success of his
novel “The Solitude of Prime Numbers,” which has sold over 5
million copies across the world and been translated into over 30
languages, prompted him to leave the world of physics and devote
himself entirely to writing.

Being a physicist and novelist both require a great deal of
solitude. Giordano has a firm understanding of loneliness, making
it an important theme in his writing.

“To me, solitude is always a sort of resource. It makes things
slow down a little bit. I’m probably a little bit slow, so I always
need time for processing. And I can only do that if I’m alone,”
Giordano said.

Giordano said the “distracted generation” should learn to cope
with solitude and the fragility of their inner world.

After spending many sedentary hours in his office, the young
Italian wrote “The Solitude of Prime Numbers,” in which two young
and lonely people become close to each other, but never end up
being together, not unlike two prime numbers that are separated by
an even number.

“People love the book because I tried to discuss the loneliness
one might encounter in the course of growing up,” Giordano said.
“People of my generation share a collective complex of loneliness,
reminiscence and remorse amid a fast-changing world. That is
probably why the book is so appealing to them.”

But Giordano said he has no intention to continue writing about
youth and growing up in the future. Following the success of his
first book, he went to military bases in Afghanistan to experience
the impact of war on individual soldiers in order to better
understand the inner world of the “distracted generation.”` “Not to
aspire to success,” he said when asked how young writers should
achieve success.

“The principle goal is to write a book you really want to write.
Just imitate who you think is the best writer for you and try to
write something as beautiful as that. Then success, readers,
publication — they are all natural consequences,” he said. Enditem
(Zhao Xiuzhi contributed to the story)

(To watch the complete interview, please visit China View on