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.
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”.