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The Human Body [Kindle Edition]

Paolo Giordano , Anne Milano Appel
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

From the bestselling author of The Solitude of Prime Numbers, a searing novel of war and the journey from youth into manhood
 
A heartrending, at times darkly comic but ultimately redemptive novel, Paolo Giordano’s The Human Body is an exploration of brotherhood and family, of modern war and the wars we wage within ourselves. It is a novel that reminds us of what it means to be human.

A platoon of young men and a single woman leave Italy for one of the most dangerous places on earth. At their forward operating base in Afghanistan—an exposed sandpit scorched by inescapable sunlight and mortar fire—this band of inexperienced soldiers navigates the irreversible journey from youth to adulthood. But when a much-debated mission goes devastatingly awry, their lives are changed in an instant. And on their return home, they will confront the most difficult challenge of all: to create a life worth living. 


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 997 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books (2 Oct. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00ISEP2EE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #772,404 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb novel about serving in Afghanistan 3 Oct. 2014
Format:Hardcover
Paolo Giordano (PG)’s 2009 debut “The Solitude of Prime Numbers” sold over a million copies in Italy alone and has been translated in over 30 languages. In a recent interview he said the constant media attention and book signing tours in Italy and abroad seriously delayed his PhD dissertation in particle physics. When the storm died down and with his PhD finalized, he wrote for an entire year with his head only, not his heart, ending up with a few short stories he considered fit for human consumption. So, when offered the chance to go to Afghanistan as a journalist embedded in an Italian Alpine unit, he seized it with both hands. In the interview PG said it was his cure and salvation.
This second novel has several layers and reads like a thriller. It is about the boredom of some 200 Italian troops serving in Afghanistan in a remote, hilltop FOB near Helmand province: poor food, bench-pressing, posturing and pestering, gaming, phoning home and making rare inspections of the village below, heavily armed but with plenty of sweets for the dirty, fly-ridden children. There is nothing to enjoy and no sense to what they are doing, pacifying Afghanistan from a hilltop.
When Lt. Egitto, the unit’s medic and due to go on leave after six months, is phoned by his sister Marianna , their exchange of words and feelings prompts him to forego his leave. Another six months of duty lie ahead, which he is quite prepared to suffer with the secret supply of anti-depressants he has brought along. Why? For readers to find out.
This reader is stunned by how brilliantly PG has composed and written this book. His characters are superbly drawn and cast during and after Lt. Egitto’s fateful second tour: naïve and gullible Ietri, Torsu and his dubious online girlfriend, Lt.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb novel about serving in Afghanistan 2 Oct. 2014
By Alfred J. Kwak - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Paolo Giordano (PG)'s 2009 debut "The Solitude of Prime Numbers" sold over a million copies in Italy alone and has been translated in over 30 languages. In a recent interview PG said the constant media attention and book sisigning tours in Italy and abroad seriously delayed his PhD dissertation in particle physics. When the storm died down and with his PhD finalized, he wrote for an entire year with his head only, not his heart, ending up with only a few short stories he considered fit for human consumption. So, when offered the chance to go to Afghanistan as a journalist embedded in an Italian Alpine unit, he seized it with both hands. In the interview PG said it was his cure and salvation.
This second novel has several layers and reads like a thriller. It is about the boredom of some 200 Italian troops serving in Afghanistan in a remote, hilltop FOB near Helmand province: poor food, bench-pressing, posturing and pestering, gaming, phoning home and making rare inspections of the village below, heavily armed but with plenty of sweets for the dirty, fly-ridden children. There is nothing to enjoy and no sense to what they are doing, pacifying Afghanistan from a hilltop.
When Lt. Egitto, the unit's medic and due to go on leave after six months duty, is phoned by his sister Marianna, their exchange of words and feelings prompts him to forego his leave. Another six months of duty lie ahead, which he is quite prepared to suffer with the secret supply of anti-depressants he has brought along. Why? For readers to find out.
This reader is stunned by how brilliantly PG has composed and written this book. His characters are superbly drawn and cast during and after Lt. Egitto's fateful second tour: naïve and gullible Ietri, Torsu and his dubious online girlfriend, Lt. Egitto's own vengeful and powerful ex-girlfriend or macho soldier Cederna, who added 2.000 euro worth of internet-procured extras to his basic kit/gear, and so on, all lost souls, right up to the ebullient, balls-scratching colonel in charge.
CNN is reporting high suicide rates among US veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 20 per day, perhaps 8.000 a year. This novel`s cast of characters feels that the Taliban follow their every move and inevitably, it comes to a dramatically-described engagement. In the novel's final part, PG sketches the psychological impact of the mission on some of them back in Italy.
Veterans from many countries who fought in Afghanistan and survived their tour(s)of duty intact in body and mind, will probably enjoy this book about this hapless Italian unit. Written with so much empathy and black humor, this novel may even have therapeutic value. Instantly re-readable and highly recommended.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb War Novel that Happens to be Italian 22 Jan. 2015
By Roger Brunyate - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Although set in Afghanistan in the past decade or so, this magnificent war novel has the distinct advantage of being Italian, dealing with Italian troops serving with NATO. So one can read it without dragging in the political and patriotic factors that affect Americans reading of their own military. But on another level, being Italian makes no difference, for men (and one woman) at war are much the same, regardless of uniform and nationality; this is a novel about human beings under stress, their relationships with one another, and how they handle physical and psychological trauma. However, I do recommend turning straight to the explanatory endnote by the superb translator, Anne Milano Appel; the Italian ranks can be very confusing to our ears ("marshal," for instance, for master sergeant), as can the names of some of the equipment ("Lince" for something like a Humveee). Clear up a few points like this, and there will be little foreign about the book at all, and little contentious either: simply soldiers, their loved ones, their bodies, and their feelings.

I would put this down as the best novel about the recent Middle East wars that I have read, among which are Phil Klay's REDEPLOYMENT and Kevin Powers' THE YELLOW BIRDS. Other comparisons cited on the cover include Tim O'Brien's Vietnam novel THE THINGS THEY CARRIED and Joseph Heller's CATCH-22. These comparisons are more distant, however. There is certainly a little of the anarchic spirit of the Heller, but one imagines that this is a common reaction to the necessary discipline of war. And while this is more conventionally structured, Giordano shares O'Brien's insight that war writing is more true broken up into almost random fragments; one only distorts by looking for the long heroic line.

Not that there are no heroes, but they come in flawed packages. The twenty-year-old virgin Ietri, for example, who after so long being the butt of his companions' cruel jokes, suddenly decides that he is after all a soldier and a man. The aforesaid master sergeant René, who works as a male escort back home, but takes the utmost responsibility for his men. The company doctor, and arguably the book's principal character, Lieutenant Egitto, who isolates himself from excessive feeling with daily doses of drugs, but who finds himself time and again standing up for what is right, what is humane. Giordano also gets right (or at least convinces me) the long days of debilitating waiting in a Forward Operating Base, with skeletal amenities and only the illusion of security, as against the one devastating action that makes all the rest seem irrelevant. But Giordano's skill is to show that nothing is irrelevant, and he has the remarkable ability to carry it through from glimpses of the characters' private lives back in Italy to how their experience changed them after their return. And so to loop back to his first paragraph, which really says it all:

"In the years following the mission, each of the guys set out to make his life unrecognizable, until the memories of that other life, that earlier existence, were bathed in a false, artificial light and they themselves become convinced that none of what took place had actually happened, or at least not to them."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Struggling for connection in uncertain times 18 Nov. 2014
By Jill I. Shtulman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Right before the prologue, Paolo Giordano provides a helpful list of characters from the seventh alpine regiment and the third platoon. He needn't have taken the trouble. The characters in The Human Body are so intricately rendered that each of them is impossible to forget.

There's medical officer Egirto who has willfully exchanged the war zone at home for the war zone overseas. Marshal and troup leader Antonio Rene, a male prostitute who has just learned that he is to become a father. Corporate Marshal Roberto Ietri, a wet-behind-the-ears 20 year old virgin, for whom everything is new and interesting. Senior corporal Major Francesco Caderna, a brusque bully who singles out one unfortunate soldier for his cruel pranks. And there's First Corporal Major Angelo Torsu, who falls seriously ill after food poisoning and spends his spare time online, trying to connect to a virtual "sweetheart."

These are just some of the characters that populate The Human Body, and if they sound one-dimensional or stereotypical, that is far from the truth. Each is fleshed out with subtle brushstrokes and yet given his (or in a few cases, her) own individuality.
For readers looking for a "war book", with details of battle and wins and losses, they won't find it here. Although the background is Afghanistan, there is very little action depicted. As readers, we know from the prologue that there will be one ill-fated mission and that some will live and some will die. But even that engagement is narrated from the internal lives of the characters more than the action outside.

Ultimately, we begin to care greatly about these imperfect characters, placed in a heinous pattern of waiting, and the struggles they embody: what they've left behind, what they're experiencing, and what they are destined to endure. The war zone itself serves as a catalyst for helping each of these men - and women - realize who they are and the necessity of eventual transformation and connection.

Beautifully translated by Anne Milano Appel, the book is particularly strong in its details: for example, right before disaster, a teeming herd of red sheep overcomes the convoy. These images are powerful and disturbing. Heartrending, insightful and brimming with pathos, The Human Body is an outstanding character study.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Italian soldiers respond to death and changing lives 4 Jan. 2015
By TChris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The Human Body follows several Italian soldiers, beginning on the day before they leave on a mission to Afghanistan and ending after they return home. The Italians are charged with maintaining a "security bubble" after American soldiers have cleansed the area of people they identify as insurgents. "Security" includes such tasks as protecting the military's washing machines from sandstorms. We know from the prolog that Lt. Alessandro Egitto (the only doctor at the Italians' Forward Operating Base) will receive a four month suspension for an "incident" that occurs during the mission. We do not learn the nature of the accusation, however, until the final chapter.

The reader spends most of the novel's first half becoming acquainted with the characters, including Egitto, who is dealing (not particularly well) with a dying father and an indifferent sister back home. Only a couple of the Italians in uniform are female. One of those is an intelligence officer who has a history with Egitto. Again, we do not understand her full importance to the story until the novel is nearly finished.

War provides the background, leading to a pivotal moment of lethal violence in an eventful second half, but most of the drama in the first half comes from internal battles. A male stripper/prostitute who left behind an unplanned pregnancy wrestles with the contents of an email that will say yes or no to an abortion. A virgin wants to stay alive so his mother (the only woman in his life) will not feel the pain of his loss. A soldier worries that his internet chatmate might be a guy pretending to be a female. Some characters worry about their inhumane treatment of innocent Afghan families while others loath every Afghan as if they were all Taliban.

In the end, the novel is about the impact of the war on the soldiers. The men cope (or fail to cope) with fear, with guilt, with anger, with loneliness, with worry that they will be just as lonely when they make it home. Egitto describes himself as turning into "something abstract," something that is no longer a human being. Another soldier, facing death, regrets all the squabbles he had with a woman when (he realizes) he should simply have been satisfied to receive her love and understanding. Another is haunted by a small act of selfishness that leads to a tragic consequence. A colonel reflects upon his inability to remember the faces of the men who die under his command. One of the men, after returning home, is assured that he will soon become "the man he was before," but he knows that is neither possible nor desirable.

War changes people but, as key characters realize, so does the act of living. We cannot control all the events that change us, the novel suggests, but how we respond to those events is what matters. Paolo Giordano's keen illustration of that lesson earns The Human Body my strong recommendation.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bodies 19 Jan. 2015
By Ken C. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Italian soldiers in Afghanistan escort a convey of trucks through the red zone, and for many of them, their lives are changed by what happens there. The prologue of the novel tells us a bit about what happened afterward with some of the characters. The last chapters do the same, but I much prefer how it was handled in the prologue. The last chapters are a letdown, or were for me. The novel itself is gripping as we see real events take life on the pages, and we almost feel as if are there with these soldiers. Their interactions with each other seem quite real. All of that presence is lost in the author's attempt to follow up once the troops have left Afghanistan. Granted, it's just my opinion, but that's what you put in a review, isn't it?
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