The Human Body


From the bestselling author of The Solitude of Prime Numbers, a searing novel of war and the journey from youth into manhood

In Paolo Giordano’s highly awaited new novel, a platoon of young men and one woman soldier leaves Italy for one of the most dangerous places on earth. Forward Operating Base (FOB) in the Gulistan district of Afghanistan is nothing but an exposed sandpit scorched by inescapable sunlight and deadly mortar fire.

Each member ...

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The Human Body

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From the bestselling author of The Solitude of Prime Numbers, a searing novel of war and the journey from youth into manhood

In Paolo Giordano’s highly awaited new novel, a platoon of young men and one woman soldier leaves Italy for one of the most dangerous places on earth. Forward Operating Base (FOB) in the Gulistan district of Afghanistan is nothing but an exposed sandpit scorched by inescapable sunlight and deadly mortar fire.

Each member in the platoon manages the toxic mix of boredom and fear that is life at the FOB in his own way. Brash Cederna shamelessly picks on the virgin Ietri. Giulia Zampieri seemingly navigates this male-dominated world with ease—until two male comrades start vying for her attention. And for medical officer Alessandro Egitto, the FOB serves as an escape from a real life even more dangerous than one fought with guns. At night, lying on their beds, they feel the beat of their own hearts,
the ceaseless activity of the human body. But when a much-debated mission goes devastatingly awry, the soldiers find their lives changed in an instant.

A heartrending, redemptive story about brotherhood and family, modern war and the wars we wage with ourselves, Paolo Giordano’s visceral novel reminds us what it is to be human.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 09/01/2014
Giordano follows The Solitude of Prime Numbers with a stunning exploration of war. The novel revolves around a platoon of Italian soldiers stationed in Forward Operating Base Ice in the dangerous Gulistan district of Afghanistan. Giordano makes the tedium of combat fascinating with his well-drawn characters. Included in the cast is Lieutenant Egitto, a medical officer escaping his perilous home life; girlfriend-obsessed First Corporal-Major Torsu; and the boisterous Cderna. Giordano covers everything from preparation for deployment—the weekend before they leave, all the soldiers’ girlfriends want to watch movies, but the soldiers want to “tank up on sex for the upcoming months of abstinence”—to the ways soldiers stay in touch with those left at home. The first page indicates that the platoon’s experience was particularly horrible (“In the years following the mission, each of the guys set out to make his life unrecognizable, until the memories... were bathed in a false artificial light”), but the fact that the mission runs off the rails is almost secondary to the beauty, texture, and acuity with which Giordano captures the day-to-day routines of the soldiers, and their efforts to make sense of both their lives in Italy and their military assignment. (Oct.)
Library Journal
★ 09/01/2014
Italian soldiers played a part in the recent ill-fated war in Afghanistan, and this novel tells the story of a small group of them at a remote outpost there. Among the main characters is Lieutenant Egitto, a doctor, who's smart, sensitive, and depressed, and who ruminates about his past family life and romantic failures. Roberto Ietri, one of the younger soldiers, also thinks about his kinsmen and becomes friendly with the older, hard-nosed Cederna, among the few looking forward to a real battle, if it ever comes. Meanwhile, Marshall Rene finds his shell of cynicism and duty cracking under the Afghan sun. Then a mission is conceived that involves accompanying some local truck drivers who have been supplying the base in their return trip across miles of hostile, Taliban-held territory. An ambush arises, lives are lost, and people are changed forever. VERDICT Despite the tragic events, this is a very entertaining novel, with the characters' innate and passionate sense of the absurdity of their situation, and of life itself, evident in every scene. The fast-paced, present-tense narrative seems to have been translated accurately to capture the nuances of emotion and drama conveyed by the highly intelligent and perceptive Giordano (The Solitude of Prime Numbers). [See Prepub Alert, 4/27/14; for another take on the Italian experience in Afghanistan, see also Melania G. Mazzucco's Limbo, p. 95.]—James Coan, SUNY at Oneonta Lib.
Library Journal
Giordano, who shot up like a firecracker with his internationally best-selling debut novel, The Solitude of Prime Numbers, returns with a book featuring a platoon of Italian soldiers—including one woman—posted to a Forward Operating Base in a particularly sun-scorched corner of Afghanistan.
Kirkus Reviews
Giordano's (The Solitude of Prime Numbers, 2010) unorthodox Afghanistan war novel is short on action but rich in psychological insight. In a post outside Afghanistan, a team of Italian soldiers copes with boredom, fear and barely human living conditions. This is no typical group of heroes: Medical officer Egitto is a former male prostitute who's just learned that one client is pregnant with his child; Cpl. Ietri is a naïve 20-year-old who's still attached to his mother. One officer gets into an online relationship that turns abusive. Another is a bully who singles out one subordinate for mistreatment, Full Metal Jacket style. And two female officers drift into unhealthy relationships with their colleagues. For much of the book, the closest thing they see to action is an epidemic of food poisoning. Military engagement finally arrives in the form of an ill-advised plan to transport local truck drivers away from the reach of bloodthirsty insurgents. As some in the company predict, the mission is a disaster, with many of the major characters wiped out in an instant. There's no easy resolution, but all the survivors are transformed as they return to their former lives. Giordano tells the story with economical language and a few memorable images, most notably that of the convoy getting overrun with sheep just before the carnage erupts. As the title suggests, the book is less about military heroism than the devastating human impact of combat. Well-observed and compassionate, this is a memorable look at imperfect people in extreme circumstances.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670015641
  • Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
  • Publication date: 10/2/2014
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 340,856
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Paolo Giordano is the author of the critically acclaimed international bestseller The Solitude of Prime Numbers, which has been translated into more than forty languages. He is the youngest person ever to win Italy’s prestigious literary award, the Premio Strega. Giordano has a PhD in particle physics and is now a full time writer. He lives in Italy.

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