Hopeless

Tommaso Soldini

Italian, 2020

“The turnoff was just ahead; Swatch street would take him to Giorgia, but he had no real reason to go there. A squeeze of gratitude, a sprinkling of need, a spoonful of attraction for a quick guzzle. Gemma was still the one he wanted, the woman to whom he’d said I do and to whom he’d repeat it, if only she’d ask him, even now that the thread had been frayed. Just touching her knotted shoulder, rubbing the tiger balm into the pinched nerve, was enough to make him realize that, in some magic cases, the brain ceases to believe it causes reality.”

Hopeless narrates the vicissitudes of an investigative journalist, Michele Incassa, who finds himself chasing the shadow of the wife who had unexpectedly rejected him in a club for swingers suspended between dream and reality. In parallel, reconstructing an incident reported in the news leads the protagonist to “ask fiction to tell the truth.” In this ambitious novel, riddled with linguistic invention, Tommaso Soldini challenges his readers by dismantling all the clichés we define as “reality”. In its irreverence and hopeless humanity, the novel cannot fail to stir up emotions.

Tommaso Soldini’s Hopeless is almost feral. One of those novels that are not only hard to define, but flout the very idea of definition. Unabashedly set in a very near future (2024-25), it narrates the vicissitudes of an investigative journalist, Michele Incassa, father of two girls, who is unexpectedly abandoned by his wife Gemma. In order to win her back, he finds himself chasing her shadow in the Petite Princesse, a club for swingers suspended between dream and reality. As if this were not enough, a news report embroils him in a meticulously inventive reconstruction of an attempted murder, in particular of the hours and days before the incident. These parallel interwoven narratives dismantle the predictable, routine notions of what we call — in a naïve simplification — “reality”, or even “truth”. Tommaso Soldini challenges his readers with a slow, rhythmic dance of linguistic and syntactical inventions, torrential, at times neurotic, often erudite quotes, and obsessive sequences of footnotes that open and close other stories. With an evident (self-declared) nod to David Foster Wallace, the striking stylistic and thematic density of Hopeless is perhaps closer — though shorter, and therefore in a reduced form — to the literary genre that James Wood, in his essay on Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, coined as “hysterical realism”, which also embraces American writers Soldini particularly admires such as Jonathan Franzen, Don De Lillo, and, of course, Foster Wallace. In sum, this is a novel that cannot fail to stir up emotions. Its irreverence and excesses, as well as its painful sincerity and poignantly hopeless humanity, show how powerful and necessary literature can be, here and now, for all of us.

Text by Yari Bernasconi

Title
L’inguaribile
Publisher
Marcos y Marcos, Milan
Translation rights
Claudia Tarolo, rights@marcosymarcos.com
Publication date
January 2020
Pages
320
ISBN
978-88-7168-930-2

Author

Tommaso Soldini

Tommaso Soldini was born in Lugano in 1976. After studying in Switzerland, he moved to New York for a year and in 2003, shortly before the Iran conflict escalated, participated in the largest anti-war demonstration of our history. Ever since, the theme of violence has been haunting him: it is at the heart of L’inguaribile (Hopeless), together with that of desire. Today he teaches Italian in Bellinzona and has published several books of fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

Photo: Yvonne Böhler