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Where to find solace and safety in a shaky world? Bestselling author Paolo Giordano searches for a Tasmania

What do you hold on to when not only the world is tottering, but also your own life? Where then can you find a safe place, a future? That is what Tasmania, the new book by Paolo Giordano.


Giordano by Marc

Which came first: concerns about climate change and other world crises, or the crisis in his own life? The first-person narrator in Tasmania, a writer and physicist named Paolo, was already deeply interested in the climate issue. But, he realises, perhaps his visit to the 2015 Paris Climate Conference was also an escape manoeuvre: focusing attention on something even more urgent, something even more threatening, in an attempt to alleviate personal suffering.

Not that it succeeds, by the way. Main character Paolo and his slightly older wife, who has a son from a previous relationship, fail to conceive a child together, and he finds it hard to accept that. Their marriage suffers damage, former friendships are lost, new ones turn out not to be what they promised.

Doubts about his role as a stepfather also strike. A holiday with his wife to Guadeloupe ends in disappointment. 'We would emit a total of about four tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere to overcome the sadness that had nestled in our marriage,' he notes delicately. But after that, the removal is greater than ever.


As the narrator works on a book about the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he becomes increasingly adrift. A search for footing and meaning thus also becomes a search for himself. In the process, the narrator does not spare himself; what he does and what he fails to do, all his incapacity and shame, he entrusts to paper.

In this way, Paolo Giordano (1982) connects the big contemporary issues with personal questions and difficulties we all face in existence. Although Tasmania is called a novel and surely not everything will have happened like this one-to-one, it is palpable that Giordano has written this story close to his own skin.

This makes it a different book from his earlier novels The Solitude of Prime Numbers and Devouring Heaven; it chugs closer to non-fiction.

The result is an honest, vulnerable, sometimes painful but also courageous portrait of what it means to be human in this day and age. Faith, science, love: where do you find comfort and hope for the future? Can writing be a Tasmania?

However laboriously fought, the protagonist eventually finds an answer: 'I write about all the things that made me cry.'

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Cover Giordano Tasmania
Cover Giordano Tasmania

Paolo Giordano, Tasmania (344 p.). Translated from the Italian by Manon Smits, De Bezige Bij, €24.99

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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