There is something in the air that worries us. A diffuse feeling of imminent catastrophe that rises when we hear about heatwaves, biodiversity or natural disasters. “We live […] at the very time when everything is changing. Drastically. And this is happening to us. The phenomena that we will witness over the coming years will be more and more extreme,” writes the Italian Paolo Giordano in his latest novel, Tasmania. In The Solitude of Prime Numbers (2008), winner of the Strega Prize, sold more than a million copies in the year of its release, the Italian writer used science to translate the emotions of his characters. In this new novel, the author’s scientific spirit dialogues with that of time, and particularly with the unease that inhabits him in the face of global warming. Its main character, Paolo, lives with two dark ideas: he has just learned that he cannot have children, and his specialty in scientific journalism condemns him to face the threat of climate change.

Life trajectories. In this text, Paolo Giordano works on the notions of the infinitely large (the destiny of humanity) and the infinitely small (our desires for children, our marital miseries, our careers, etc.). His character seeks to produce a literary work on the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as if to prove to himself that, if everything can collapse, everything can also be rebuilt. From these archetypes of mass destruction, Giordano addresses what, in our reality, petrifies us: nuclear war, climate change, attacks, global pandemic. But, at the heart of this broth of anxieties swim individual destinies as clumsy, fragile and miraculous as the bacteria in a genetic soup from which the best and the worst can emerge. The life trajectories that Paolo retraces – his own and those of some of his loved ones going through personal crises – provide a form of reassurance: in our contemporary world, as in biology or botany, life always finds its way. Without minimizing the risks weighing on our world, this sober and intelligent book tells of a humanity that never stops suffering, dying and then being reborn from its ashes. As if tragedy were only one probability among an infinity of possible conclusions §

“Tasmania”, by Paolo Giordano, translated from Italian by Nathalie Bauer (Le Bruit du monde, 336 p., €23).

“There are times when everything changes. Something happens, a click, and the river we’ve always been immersed in begins to flow in another direction. We call it a crisis. »