BOOK ANALYSIS: L’ANOMALIA BY MASSIMILIANO PIERACCINI
The purpose of this analysis is to identify the position of Massimiliano Pieraccini towards Ivor Catt’s work by analysing Pieraccini’s novel L’Anomalia.
As a matter of fact, Catt’s name appears at least 13 times in the book (Chapters 4, 15 and 20) with explicit reference to his scientific activity. In some cases, Catt is criticised by the fictional characters created by Pieraccini. The present analysis will investigate the content of L’Anomalia to try and understand what Pieraccini’s views are on Ivor Catt as a scientist and for which purpose he decided to mention Catt – often in all but flattering terms – in his book.
Disclaimer: WHAT FOLLOWS IS THE RESULT OF AN INDEPENDENT ANALYSIS BASED ON THE BOOK L’ANOMALIA AND ON A NUMBER OF INTERVIEWS/BLOG ARTICLES RELATING TO THE BOOK (REFERENCES ARE PROVIDED). NO INFLUENCE CAME FROM PIERACCINI’S OTHER PUBLICATIONS, PUBLIC STATEMENTS ON CATT OR ANY OTHER SCIENTIST, OR PERSONAL OPINIONS COLLECTED FROM IVOR CATT HIMSELF OR HIS COLLEAGUES.
In the 2011 Rizzoli edition, L’Anomalia is a 333 pages book composed of 44 chapters.
The story is set in Italy (with numerous flashbacks stretching to Brussels, the UK, the US and some former Soviet countries) in the first decade of XXI Century. The plot revolves around two murders committed during a scientific convention in Erice, Sicily. The victims are two scientists called Alexander Kaposka and Giulia Perego. The two main characters of the book, professor Massimo Redi and his former student Fabio Moebius, decide to investigate the crime. The linear course of action is interrupted by numerous flashbacks, allowing the reader progressively to learn more about Kaposka’s past and the tormented relationship between Massimo and Giulia.
Conceived in 2006 and published in May 2011, L’Anomalia took 5 years to write. Pieraccini performed thorough research both online and on multiple sites in order to keep his work as accurate as possible from the scientific, historical and geographical point of view.
Although there is a disclaimer on page 4 of the book which informs the reader that names, characters, places and events in L’Anomalia are fictional or used in a fictional way, the book’s constant reference to historical facts, politicians and members of the international scientific community is impressive. In fact, most of the facts and figures used by Pieraccini - such as those relating to the Chernobyl disaster, or to the mysterious deaths of numerous scientists at the beginning of XXI Century - can be easily found online. Similarly, character Antonio Zichichi borrows every detail of his fictional persona (even his name) from a well-known living Italian scientist. Furthermore, the many scientific theories mentioned in the book are accurate and as simply explained as possible, in order to make them accessible to readers.
The scientific accuracy of Pieraccini’s book, coupled by its thriller-like plot, have led some to define L’Anomalia as literary innovation. Writer Donato Carrisi praised the author for inventing a new genre – the “scientific thriller”. Although Carrisi’s enthusiast comment was printed on the back cover of the 2013 edition of L’Anomalia, Pieraccini publicly denied such merit. In a blog article, the author admitted that he took inspiration from a number of authors including Michael Crichton and the Italian writer Roberto Vacca, who published their scientific thrillers before L’Anomalia was even conceived.
The reprinting of the book in the pocket edition in 2013 suggests that L’Anomalia might have been quite successful in terms of selling power. According to journalist Gabriele Ametrano, the book was a literary sensation even before its publication: two major Italian publishers Mondadori and Rizzoli competed for its publication rights, which were eventually won by the latter.
Nevertheless, it is hard to quantify the success of L’Anomalia amongst its ultimate judges, the Italian readers. In fact, to date, precise figures on the number of sold copies do not seem to be available either on Rizzoli’s website or anywhere else. Some amount of public appreciation can be acknowledged by reading the positive comments left by readers on L’Anomalia’s official blog . On the other hand, a few less flattering comments are found on the same blog and other online platforms. For instance, the average rating of L’Anomalia on Googreads.com is 2.67/5, based on the opinions of 40 people who produced 21 ratings and 4 reviews.
Overall, the book is readable: the story is catchy and credible, the structure is unusual, all references to the real world are impressively accurate and the effort made by the writer to ensure internal coherence despite the co-existence of multiple narrative plans is striking. The topics chosen are also captivating. Moreover, the book seems effective in its purpose of presenting scientific notions to a non-specialised audience in a fairly accessible way.
L’Anomalia makes a decent first book for Pieraccini. However, maybe something could be improved on the stylistic level. Indeed, judging someone’s writing style is a delicate job: style is a combination of an author’s choice and his readers’ personal taste. For this reasons, the following stylistic analysis was written as objectively and professionally as possible.
From the very first page of the book, some questionable choices can be noticed in the use of syntax. In particular, some paragraphs lack commas, which makes it quite hard for the reader to absorb information and enjoy the rhythm of narration at the same time. As the plot develops, one would continue reading more for the cliff-hanging effect (sometimes dispersed by very long digressions and fragmented flashbacks) than for the beauty and balance of Pieraccini’s lines. Descriptions and digressions are often quite long and they sometimes contain technical details or architectural terms that most readers would not understand, with the result that, at some point, the narration becomes quite mechanical, heavy, even pedantic. In a few occasions, the reader is likely to get the feeling that the author focussed too much on enriching the book with his vast culture and correct use of language, thus neglecting the spontaneity, flow and – why not – the power of the “unsaid” that makes reading a creative pleasure.
Another point that could be improved in the novel is the use of language register in direct speech. The rigour that allowed Pieraccini coherently to shape the architecture of his novel did not always help him create plausible and genuine verbal interactions between his characters. Massimo, for example, tends to use a high-register not only when he interacts with other scientists, but also when talking to Fabio, Giulia and, sometimes, to himself. At times his language sounds artificially “elevated”, self-censored or even pedantic; on a few rare occasions, the register of Massimo’s speech unexpectedly drops to very colloquial expression and even cursing, which is likely to annoy the readers and to put them off.
It is not clear what anomaly the title of the book refers to, as the sources retrieved and analysed mention different reasons behind it. Pieraccini himself provided a first explanation. In a blog article titled Perché il titolo “L’Anomalia”? [Why the title L’Anomalia?],the author admits that the reader is likely to find many meanings behind such an elusive title: the Catt anomaly, a paradox of physics studied by one of the characters, but also a data network anomaly that Fabio discovers at the beginning of the story, and many other links to various anomalies animating the lines of the book. However, as Pieraccini states in the same article, his favourite explanation is a more general one that permeates the whole book: science itself is an anomaly.
In her article about L’Anomalia, journalist Laura Montanari explains that the books was titled after the Catt anomaly, which she summarises as “a sort of paradox of electromagnetism”.
However, in a July 2011 interview, Pieraccini revealed that the original title of his book was supposed to be L’Anomalia di Escher. The Escher Foundation, however, refused to give the author the right to use Escher’s name in the title, which, as a consequence, was necessarily shortened.
Pieraccini, therefore, seems to have willingly left multiple doors open for a reader to make analogies, including one to the Catt anomaly; soon ,though, the author admits that the main reference behind the title of L’Anomalia is in fact Escher, not Catt. It could be argued, therefore, that Catt’s work is not so central in Pieraccini’s book; however, a further look at the book’s content may lead us to reconsider such conclusions.
First of all, in the whole book, Catt is mentioned 13 times, while Escher’s name appears in 8 separate occasions (pp. 48, 57, 151, 152, 153, 222 and 295). Catt appears as early as in Chapter 4, where it is explicitly associated with the word “anomalia”. Escher’s name, on the other hand, does not appear until the following chapter, where it is merely mentioned as part a book title (p. 48). In the following chapters, Escher is mentioned again as the author of Drawing Hands (scientist Wheeler says that Escher’s Drawing Hands is his idea of the universe: we men generate the world and reality auto-generates; p. 57) and Belvedere (p. 151). In this last case, Pieraccini comments on the illusion created by Escher through the use of perspective; for this purpose, he mentions the word “anomalia”, which for the first time is positioned relatively close to Escher’s name (but not as close: in fact, 4 lines separate them). At pages 152 and 153, Pieraccini never states the word “anomalia” explicitly, he only paraphrases it. The link between Escher and the concept of anomaly is even less obvious at page 222, when the author compares the roofs and domes of Erice with Escher’s art work. The same considerations apply to the reference to Escher at page 295. Therefore in the book the concept of anomaly seems to be as strongly connected to Catt’s name (if not more strongly) as to Escher’s.
Other than being more explicit in the book, one may argue that the association of “anomalia” with Catt is perceived as stronger because of the circumstances of usage of the phrase itself. On the one hand, “Anomalia di Catt (Catt anomaly)” is an actual collocation (mainly known and used in the scientific world), meaning that there is a high chance for the words “anomalia” and “Catt” to appear together in such a sequence; on the other hand, this does not necessarily apply to “anomalia di Escher”, which is rarely found in search engines as a collocation and it is not an encyclopaedic entry. On top of that, if one focuses on readers with a decent scientific background (after all, should they not feel more attracted to a scientific thriller than other readers?), it is reasonable to expect that they would more likely associate the title L’Anomalia with Catt’s name, rather than Escher.
Therefore, one could maintain that the presence of Catt is still (indirectly) prevalent in the title.
When and how was Catt mentioned in L’Anomalia?
Ivor Catt is mentioned in the following parts of the book:
- Chapter 4 (pp. 40-44):
Massimo has a chat with Kaposka and learns that he is currently working on the Catt anomaly. In the conversation that follows, Massimo criticises Catt and his views on classic electromagnetism (p. 41), while Kaposka defends him. As Fabio does not know about the Catt anomaly, Massimo and Kaposka explain it to him.
When Kaposka leaves, Fabio asks more and Massimo states that despite being interesting, the Catt anomaly is not a real problem, but rather a mental experiment. Massimo also admits that classic electromagnetism has not found a solution to the Catt question yet.
- Chapter 15 (pp. 125-126)
When scientist Prokopenko asks what the Catt anomaly is, Fabio replies “Poltergeists and other idiocies”.
- Chapter 20 (p. 161)
In a conversation between Massimo and Fabio, Massimo lists some revolutionary scientists such as Copernicus, Maxwell and Einstein. Fabio adds Catt’s name to the list (“…and Ivor Catt, the electronic engineer who challenged classic electromagnetism” p. 161). Massimo says he might be right, but also points out that there is a very fine boundary between a revolutionary scientist and a crank.
Kaposka is the one who defends Catt – he is even studying him at the time of his conversation with Massimo. Kaposka calls Catt a “genius” and justifies Catt’s opposition to the academia by observing that all scientific geniuses went against the academia at one point.
Massimo is the one who contrasts Catt. He thinks that Kaposka is out of his mind for studying him and even more for saying it aloud. He openly and heavily criticizes Catt for comparing classic electromagnetism to “poltergeist and idiocies of the kind”. By doing so, Catt has put himself in the position of a heretic, Massimo says. But later on (p. 161), when Fabio suggests that Catt might be a revolutionary genius, Massimo admits that he may be one.
When Catt’s name is first mentioned (pp. 40-41), Fabio has never heard of it, so his position in the conversation is neutral. In a second occasion, Fabio at first reports Massimo’s views by quoting Catt himself (“poltergeists and other idiocies”; pp. 125-126), but later suggests to Massimo that Catt might be a genius.
The two main characters in the book are Massimo Redi and Fabio Moebius. Other important characters are Giulia Perego, Alexander Kaposka and Colonel Craig. In this section a brief analysis will be carried out for each of them.
Many details allow us to draw parallel between Massimo and the author. On the one hand, Massimo Redi is a university professor in his late thirties. He studies microwaves but also shows a vast knowledge of other domains such as art, philosophy and literature. On the other hand, Pieraccini (born 1968) is professor of Electronics at the University of Florence and an active researcher in the field of microwaves. The impressive amount of historical, literary and artistic references scattered in L’Anomalia suggests thatPieraccini’s interests and knowledge might go well beyond physics.
Further comparison between Redi and Pieraccini is clearly encouraged by their first names: indeed, “Massimo” is strikingly similar to the author’s name “Massimiliano”. While the same level of assonance cannot be found in their surnames (“Redi” as opposed to “Pieraccini”), a deeper analysis unveils a more subtle correspondence between the writer and his “creature”. As a matter of fact, the surname Redi finds a historical precedent in Francesco Redi, a XVII century scientist from the Italian city of Arezzo (Tuscany), namely Pieraccini’s hometown. Wikipedia describes Francesco Redi not only as a respectable scientist and a rationalist of his time, but also as a fine contributor to XVII-century Italian poetry. In light of Francesco Redi’s connections to the scientific and literary world, it seems natural that Pieraccini borrowed his surname and applied it to Massimo, the character who most resembles the author in the whole book.
After such considerations, drawing an analogy between Pieraccini and Massimo would be a natural reaction for the reader. But can we truly classify Redi as a faithful portrait of the writer in his actions and thoughts? In other words, how credible is Massimo Redi’svoice if one seeks to infer Pieraccini’s view on Catt by reading L’Anomalia?
In a blog post, Pieraccini wrote that he did not want Massimo to be a hero or a genius, just an honest scientist as Francesco Redi was. On the one hand, Massimo had to be able to guide readers through the theories and mysteries of science, but on the other hand, he had to be a “human” character who makes mistakes and is sometimes caught by surprise.
With regards to this, a brief acknowledgement of Massimo Redi’s flaws may successfully discourage the reader from identifying him as either Pieraccini’s perfect reflection, or a classic hero. For instance, in chapter 1, Massimo reflects on his own limits as a scientist. He is able to explain complex concepts in a simple way and has successfully published a few scientific articles, but he is definitely not a genius, nor an important scientist; he even wonders if he fits in the mediocre category that Enrico Fermi calls “third class scientists” (pp. 18). Moreover, he appears to have some form of physical impairment: despite not being 40 yet, he is not only short-sighted but also far-sighted and will soon need two pairs of glasses, which makes him quite sad (p. 16).
Later, as the plot develops and the increasing flashbacks cast more and more light on Massimo’s past, he turns out to be a former alcoholic (pp. 45, 285) and an occasionally violent partner (pp. 283), who hits Giulia after a fight triggered by her infidelity and subsequently falls into alcohol abuse. At the same time, Massimo is constantly tortured by resentment for his failed relationship with Giulia. His emotional unrest is constant in the book, from the first time he sees Giulia in Erice after a long time (pp. 45), to the pain that still crushes him as he talks about Giulia with secret agent Mario, several months after her death (pp. 320-323).
Ultimately, Massimo proves unable to find a solution to Kaposka’s and Giulia’s murders without a great deal of help from Fabio and agent Mario. On top of that, Massimo’s own life would come to an end in chapter 37, if it was not for his student (the professor nearly falls down from a cliff, but Fabio promptly appears, grabs his arm and saves him; p. 291).
Therefore, Massimo is far from being a hero in the traditional sense, or even a modern version of Sherlock Holmes or William of Baskerville. At most he could be compared to the professor who finds himself involved in the mysterious murders of the Da Vinci Code,although Massimo does not seem to be as useful during investigations. Ultimately, Massimo might still be a realistic representation of the author to some extent, but it feels somehow unlikely that he is the one and only character that Pieraccini selected to convey his own views and opinions to his readers.
Massimo’s imperfection diminishes his credibility as Pieraccini’s sole spokesperson, but it is not the only factor doing so: Fabio Moebius’s role is fundamental in this sense. As Pieraccini himself explains in his blog, Fabio was born as a minor player, nothing much more than a sidekick to the ‘hero’ Massimo. In the making of the book, however, Fabio developed into a more complex character and ended up contributing tremendously to the plot on various levels.
His surname “Moebius” is easily linked to German mathematician August Ferdinand Möbius, who discovered the Möbius strip. However, the reason behind using “Fabio” as a first name is unclear. The original meaning of the name is thought to be “broad bean” or “broad beans farmer”, which does not seem functional either to the depiction of the character or to the story. If the choice of the name “Fabio” was really a symbolic one, it might be linked by assonance to “Phoebus” (“bright”), an epithet that ancient Greeks and Romans used for Apollo, god of light. In this sense, character Fabio Moebius may represent enlightenment: a light that is cast first of all on the investigation (Fabio’s confident use of technology ultimately leads him and Massimo to the murderer), but also a light infused in Massimo’s career (his first published article is the one that Fabio helped him write) and more generally in the field of scientific research. It might be worth noting the description of Fabio on his graduation day: “On the stage, in his jeans and t-shirt, he seemed to shine light like a sun upon the grey faces of the professors…” (p. 27). Furthermore, let us not forget the vitality and excitement that Fabio shows as a researcher, which complement Massimo’s poised and methodical approach (pp. 25-26).
Lastly, Fabio possibly brings some light in Massimo’s emotionally broken life. In a number of occasions, Redi shows a fatherly attitude towards Fabio (for instance, at page 27, Massimo feels extremely proud of his student on the day of his graduation: or again, at page 31, Massimo warmly greets Fabio with a hug after a long separation). Massimo himself realises that in his relationship with Fabio he tends to behave more like a father with his son, rather than a professor with his pupil (p. 56). Moreover, in light of their opposite characters, the professor seems to find revitalising balance in his interactions with the student, for whom contradicting Massimo seems to be a sort of personal mission (as described for instance at page 22: confronted with such a passionate student, Massimo anticipates each class with the same excitement that athletes feel before a match).
Indeed, Fabio’s association with light becomes paradoxical if one considers the young man’s tendency to fall into dark moments (but also hours, days or months; p. 29) of depression. The disease ultimately brings him closer to many geniuses, from scientists to artists, as Pieraccini points out in the book (p. 305).
Whichever the meaning behind Fabio’s name is (if any: after all, it might just have been randomly picked by Pieraccini amongst some of his students or acquaintances), the author declared that the character Fabio Moebius is his way of doing justice to the numerous good students whose efforts are not publicly recognised in Italy. As a matter of fact, Italian mass media tend to generalise when it comes to evaluating the performance of Italian university students, which results in them being mainly portrayed as lazy and superficial, without taking into account the virtuous ones.
Fabio therefore embodies the student, a brilliant but fragile one, as contradictory as he can be. He is the opposite of Massimo in terms of mind set (p. 25); he has a very narrow culture (being totally ignorant of literature, philosophy and history; p. 26) and aims at finding superficial connections rather than seeking deep meanings. Although Massimo acknowledges Fabio’s lack of culture and depth, he likes his student and admires his mental agility and intuition. Fabio therefore does not seem to obey the widespread logic of “expert, therefore always right” professor as opposed to “ignorant, therefore mainly wrong” pupil, which sometimes is still found in Italian universities. Fabio’s narrow culture or lack of methodology does not make him wrong, but just different from Massimo’s expectations (and those of other professors of his generation). Indeed, it is a positive difference, which brings success and discovery whenever matched with its opposite: not surprisingly, both the solution of Massimo’s investigation and the publishing of his first article on Nature are the results of Massimo and Fabio’s joint effort.
Moreover, Pieraccini here remains faithful to the spirit of the international scientific community (which he recreates in Erice) by depicting Fabio as a transparent, curious character who is not afraid of seeking answers and stating his own opinion before the most famous scientists in the world. For example, as soon as Fabio arrives in Erice he approaches Wheeler and has a lively conversation with him until late night (p. 57).
Giulia Perego is the main female character and the only femme fatale of L’Anomalia.
Her first description (p. 45) underlines her beauty and elegance, but as the story develops the reader also learns about her extraordinary intelligence. With an IQ of 130, shared by only 2% of the population (p. 85), Giulia is depicted as equally sexy and smart. Her story is learnt through Massimo’s flashbacks. When she is a student in Massimo’s course, the professor enchants her with his interesting classes and by lending her a book on Gödel, Escher and Bach. After university, she becomes a researcher in biotechnology and works in her father’s laboratory. An energetic scientist and a workaholic, Giulia even builds a super computer in Massimo’s flat to work from home. A friend of Massimo ultimately warns him against her tremendous intelligence.
Coming from a broken family, Giulia is also emotionally unstable. She seems to be in constant need of sexual attention to feel accepted and appreciated as a woman. Giulia starts a relationship with Massimo while she is still with her boyfriend (p. 88). When Massimo finds out, they have a fight and she leaves him, stating that their relationship had been nothing more than sex from the start (p. 156). Some time later, Giulia breaks up with her boyfriend and goes back to Massimo. They start living together but she never unpacks nor officially introduces Massimo to her family.
Giulia’s emotional unrest emerges clearly from her long melancholic silences during the day, as well as a few episodes when she bursts into tears with no apparent reason in the middle of the night (p. 264). In a similar occasion, Giulia admits that she has been unfaithful more than once and Massimo reacts violently. He shuts her out of his life. Giulia keeps coming back but Massimo painfully rejects her. Eventually she stops calling, and they never meet again until the seminar in Erice.
In a blog article, Pieraccini states that Giulia is the first character that he had built in his mind even before starting to write L’Anomalia. He drew inspiration from by Marie Curie, whom he describes as radically different from the scientist depicted in textbooks: she was in fact not only incredibly intelligent, but also terribly obsessive. Marie Curie never renounced her femininity, despite often being the only woman among many male colleagues; she was indifferent to her husband’s love and at same time totally crazy for her lover. Constantly swinging between waves of enthusiasm and times of depression, she was eventually admitted in a psychiatric hospital. Although Giulia Perego shares just a few of these traits, the similarities between her and Marie Curie are remarkable.
A very dynamic character, Giulia is in constant need of adrenaline, be it in the form of sports (she likes running early in the morning and swimming for long hours) or sexual attention. This is probably the reason why she enters a risky triangle with victim Kaposka and murderer Craig (she has an affair with both of them) in Erice, which ends up with her death. Her lifeless body is found naked and tied to the Pope’s bed.
If agent Mario’s theories are correct (pp. 329-332), Giulia’s role in the story is very similar to that of Gilda Senatore in Ettore Majorana’s disappearance case. Gilda was an incredibly beautiful and intelligent woman belonging to the group of scientists coordinated by Enrico Fermi. Before mysteriously disappearing, Ettore Majorana gave her a folder that could never be retrieved officially. Similarly, according to agent Mario’s interpretation, Giulia might have helped Kaposka disappear and she might have hidden some highly confidential information that he had passed on to her. Giulia’s biotechnological skills allow her her to create a much smaller container than Gilda’s folder. As a matter of fact, she crafts a nanotube and implants it under Massimo’s skin without him suspecting anything.
As for the Catt anomaly, Giulia never comments on it nor mentions it. It is not clear if she is aware of it.
L’Anomalia opens with a flashback on Kaposka’s youth in Pripyat. He is the first character to appear and, like Giulia, his role in the plot is fundamental but his presence in Erice is very limited: most of his story is told through flashbacks.
If one leaves out the scene when Kaposka’s lifeless body is found, the only occasion in which Kaposka interacts with the plot is at the welcome party in Erice. He is described as tall and slim, a pale, young-looking man, arguably in his forties (p. 39).
Much more space is devoted to Kaposka in flashbacks: from his experience at Chernobyl nuclear station, after which he issues a concerned report on the inadequate security measures of station, to his subsequent return to Pripyat with Olga’s help. A flashback stretching over chapters 29 and 30 is devoted to his mission as an employee of Biopreparat in Vozroždenie Island.
Later he is recruited in the Nunn-Lugar programme – the reason why he is killed by Putin and his men, according to Olga (p. 181). Therefore, despite being the first and main supporter of Catt in the book, he does not seem to be murdered because of it, but rather because of his links with the Nunn-Lugar programme.
Later, agent Mario presents to Massimo another theory on Kaposka’s disappearance: the agent speculates that his death might have been faked with the help of Zichichi and Giulia to allow Kaposka to disappear and to free him from a difficult situation (pp. 319-320).
Overall, despite his (supposed) death and his controversial interest in biochemical weapons, Kaposka is portrayed as a brilliant scientist. After all, Biopreparat trust him enough to send him alone to Vozroždenie Island, and American secret services are aware of his worth as a scientist when they recruit him in the Nunn-Lugar programme. Therefore, if Kaposka is really studying the Catt anomaly, we can assume that the Catt anomaly is well worth the attention of scientists of his calibre.
Colonel Craig first appears at page 51, after the welcome party in Erice. He greets Massimo with a smile and they start chatting. Craig is described as a polite, affable and smart US officer with broad shoulders and a brilliant scientific mind.
Later on, the reader finds out that Craig is not just an officer: he is actually a NSA agent working at the American military base hidden in the Torri Pepoli hotel in Erice (pp. 297, 321). Massimo and Fabio find out that he murdered Giulia Perego after they retrieve some quotes taken from the Bible that link back to the crime scene from his Blackberry (pp. 292-294, 297). As agent Mario points out later, Craig is a very controversial man whose scientific mind set somehow co-exists with his extremist religious views (p. 327). According to agent Mario’s theory, Craig’s religious views are behind the theatrical scene that he sets up in the Pope’s room, with Giulia’s body tied to the bed and the room flooded with water.
Despite clearly being Giulia’s murderer, Craig never gets arrested, because, according to agent Mario, the NSA dissolved all investigations after the murder in order to protect him (p. 323).
Craig never comments on the Catt anomaly nor mentions it. It is not clear if he is aware of it.
The Immobility of Science
In Chapter 31, scientist György Köves maintains that Science is dead. He points out that for the past 50 years there have been no real discoveries or scientific revolutions, just pointless research which makes scientists look rather like butterfly collectors (p. 252). Massimo, scientist Jean-Pierre Molyneaux and brilliant String Theory expert Brian Grooves try to prove him wrong, but their comments are rejected. Köves adds that Newton saw far because he was on the giants’ shoulders, while the scientists of their generation cannot see far because the giants are crushing them. He maintains that there is nothing else to discover for them: Science is declining (p. 254). Molyneaux tries to argue that there have never been so many scientists, and Köves replies by opening a new, controversial chapter on the nature of scientific research funding.
Earlier in the book, Massimo explains his own view on the slowdown of scientific development, which he partially imputes to patents (p. 53). As a matter of fact, he explains, patents might have been useful in the XIX Century to protect inventors, but now patenting something has become very easy (if one has enough time to waste and money to spend, one can patent virtually any absurdity, then wait for someone to produce it and collect the royalties, Massimo says; p. 53). As a consequence, patents are only useful for big companies to slow down scientific development (p. 53).
Moreover, Pieraccini explores the difficult reception of revolutionary discoveries by the academia when he creates a conversation between Massimo and Kaposka on Catt (p. 41). Is it worth noting that Massimo calls Catt ‘a maverick’ who has been openly contrasting the academy for years, but Kaposka replies that contrasting the academia has always been a prerogative of scientific geniuses (p. 41).
The Military Funding of Scientific Research
At page 255, Köves points out that the reason why science is dying is because funding has been cut for scientific research after 1993, when the plans for the construction of the SuperCollider were abandoned. According to Köves, during the Cold War scientists benefited from a certain ambiguity in that they received almost unlimited funds for their research, although they were able to state that their scientific work had no military purpose. However, with the Clinton administration, funds were suspended (p. 256).
This is not the first time Pieraccini brings up the topic of scientific research being funded by the military. In Chapter 2, for instance, Massimo asks Fabio to do some research involving a great amount of sophisticated equipment and admits that the project is financed by the military (p. 25). Later on, after meeting Colonel Craig, Massimo reflects on the fact that the military has been funding (directly or indirectly) most of last century’s scientific research.
Other themes found in the book, such as the debate on nuclear energy or the relationship between science and religion, were left out from the present analysis as they did not seem strictly relevant to it.
Conclusion: What does L’Anomalia tell us about Pieraccini and Catt?
Understanding whether Pieraccini’s final judgement on Catt’s scientific views is a positive or a negative one is not easy. After all, some characters of L’Anomalia support Catt (Kaposka and lately Fabio), some of them criticise him sharply (Massimo and Fabio), and ultimately the question is left unsolved, with Massimo neither agreeing on the fact that classic electromagnetism should be re-evaluated based on the Catt anomaly, nor denying that Catt is actually a revolutionary genius.
Against such a blurred background, I have tried to reflect on the likelihood of three different scenarios based on the data I have collected so far in this analysis.
First scenario: Let us optimistically suppose that Pieraccini is PRO Catt.
In his book, Pieraccini might have chosen to draw attention on Catt in order to make his case known to the readers and to defend his point of view before the academia. After all, Pieraccini has chosen a title for his book that recalls the phrase “the Catt anomaly” before anything else. Moreover, not only Catt is depicted in positive terms by Kaposka and Fabio; the debate that Pieraccini sets up in Erice on the immobility of science (p. 252) seems to be sympathetic towards Catt’s situation, as it brings up issues such as the difficulty for scientists to propose theories that disrupt tradition (‘There is no scientific genius who is not in contrast with your academia!’ Kaposka says; p. 41), or even the interests behind conservatism (patents are only useful to big companies to slow down scientific development: science progresses despite them, Massimo says; p. 53).
What does not fit within this first scenario is the fact that Pieraccini leaves his characters’ debate on Catt unsolved instead of openly conveying his support to Catt. That way, Pieraccini might have chosen to mask his own views to protect himself against criticisms by the academia; alternatively, we could suppose that his opinion on Catt is not so positive after all, which leads us to the next scenario.
Second scenario: Let us suppose that Pieraccini is AGAINST Catt.
This would explain the sharp criticism that Massimo expresses against Catt during his conversation with Kaposka. If Pieraccini’s aim was really to oppose Catt, though, it would be difficult to imagine why the author subsequently conveyed a confident defence of Catt through Kaposka’s mouth (especially if we accept Kaposka as a scientifically respectable source). In light of this, a third scenario might provide a more balanced and perhaps a more realistic explanation to the dilemma.
Third scenario: Let us assume that Pieraccini’s position towards Catt is more NEUTRAL.
In other words, rather than supporting or opposing Catt, Pieraccini’s primary intentions might be to raise the Catt question again or, alternatively, to simply exploit it in his own interests (for instance, to boost his scientific knowledge, to add one more anomaly to his book…). Whatever the reasons for mentioning Catt, in this scenario Pieraccini is not trying to convey his own opinions on him. This would explain why the characters in the book have mixed opinions on Catt. It would also explain why Pieraccini mentioned the Catt anomaly as one of the references that the readers might spot in the book, but not as the primary reason for the title L’Anomalia. Ultimately, this would also explain why Pieraccini did not feel the need to close the debate on Catt with a definite answer: he has his own opinion on the matter, but that opinion is simply not important in the book. Or is it?
The author of the present analysis would like to express some personal impressions on the matter. These impressions are based solely on the reading of L’Anomalia and on interviews and blog articles relating to it. What follows is the humble impression of an impartial reader.
Pieraccini is fascinated by anomalies in science. He has built an entire book around inexplicable facts, illusions, theories, misunderstandings and likely alternatives. As the Catt anomaly fits well in the list, Pieraccini decided to use it primarily for fictional purposes. On the other hand, something seems to suggest that Pieraccini might also be sensitive (maybe even sympathetic?) towards Catt’s case. He seems to tribute great respect to the academia as an institution, but at the same time he is well aware that the biggest scientific advancement in history were made in opposition to the academia itself. Pieraccini’s book leaves the reader with the impression that, after all, Catt might be a victim of the unfair treatment that academia has reserved to him. Nevertheless, it is unclear whether or not Pieraccini thinks that it would be the case to re-evaluate (or rather, de-evaluate) classical electromagnetism as a solid frame to keep basing research on. What seems clearer is that Pieraccini would maintain the stance that a solution to Catt’s paradox is likely to exists in classic electromagnetism – although such solution has not been found yet, rather than putting the system in jeopardy and himself in contrast with the academy. He fears that, if he did so, the scientific community might marginalize him as it happened to Catt. As a consequence, Pieraccini would not openly approve the terms in which Catt described classic electromagnetism, not even if he secretly admired Catt for doing so. Therefore, it is not surprising to read in Pieraccini’s blog:
La sola idea di travisare un fatto scientifico a fini narrativi mi fa venire i brividi. D’altra parte ne va della mia reputazione. E l’Accademia su queste cose non scherza. Non ho nessuna intenzione di fare la fine di Catt… o di Kaposka!
Ultimately, considering his attempt to create a book with a complex structure where multiple points of views are presented and where the end is left open to the reader’s interpretation, Pieraccini might even nurture mixed feelings for Catt. Like Massimo, he probably would not exclude that Catt might be a genius (and therefore, arguably, right in his positions). When in doubt, Pieraccini chose to build the book in a way that would protect himself against any possible accusation of opposing the academia.
All considered, would it sound very unreal to hear Pieraccini himself say:
“Look, I do not know if Catt is right or wrong. I do not have the answer. However, I will not openly contrast the academia as he did, because I do not want to lose my job and credibility.”…?
 Occhini, L. 2011. L’Anomalia. Informarezzo [Online] 2 August 2011. Available at: http://www.informarezzo.com/permalink/8276.html [Last accessed: 27 March 2016]
 Massimiliano Pieraccini a Tempostretto.it: «La scienza è spesso illusoria come un quadro di Escher». Tempostretto [Online] 27 July 2011. Available at: http://www.tempostretto.it/news/romanzo-massimiliano-pieraccini-tempostrettoit-scienza-spesso-illusoria-come-quadro-escher.html[Last accessed: 27 March 2016], and
Montanari, L. (2011) Così trasformo la matematica in un thriller. La Repubblica Firenze [Online] 24 May 2011. Available at: http://firenze.repubblica.it/cronaca/2011/05/24/news/cos_trasformo_la_matematica_in_un_thriller_l_anomalia_debutta_in_libreria-16698428/?refresh_ce [Last accessed: 27 March 2016]
 Pieraccini, M. 2013. Torna L’Anomalia! Massimiliano Pieraccini L’Anomalia Il Blog [Online] 4 November 2013. Available at: http://anomalia-blog.rizzoli.eu/2013/11/04/1110/ [Last accessed: 27 March 2016]
 Pieraccini, M. 2011.Thriller Scientifico. Massimiliano Pieraccini L’Anomalia Il Blog [Online] 15 November 2011. Available at: http://anomalia-blog.rizzoli.eu/2011/11/15/thriller-scientifico/ [Last accessed: 27 March 2016]
 Ametrano, G. L’Anomalia di Massimiliano Pieraccini (Rizzoli). Esercizi di Stile [Online] Available at: http//www.gabrieleametrano.com/wp/anomalia-massimiliano-pieraccini-rizzoli/ [Last accessed: 27 March 2016]
 Massimiliano Pieraccini L’Anomalia Il Blog. [Online] Available at: http://anomalia-blog.rizzoli.eu/ [Last accessed: 28 March 2016]
 http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11783450-l-anomalia [Last accessed: 28 March 2016]
 Pieraccini, M. 2011. Perché il titolo “L’Anomalia”? Massimiliano Pieraccini L’Anomalia Il Blog [Online] 19 May 2011. Available at: http://anomalia-blog.rizzoli.eu/2011/05/19/perche-il-titolo-l%E2%80%99anomalia/ [Last accessed: 27 March 2016]
 Montanari, L. (2011) Così trasformo la matematica in un thriller. La Repubblica Firenze [Online] 24 May 2011. Available at: http://firenze.repubblica.it/cronaca/2011/05/24/news/cos_trasformo_la_matematica_in_un_thriller_l_anomalia_debutta_in_libreria-16698428/?refresh_ce [Last accessed: 27 March 2016]
 Massimiliano Pieraccini a Tempostretto.it: «La scienza è spesso illusoria come un quadro di Escher». Tempostretto [Online] 27 July 2011. Available at: http://www.tempostretto.it/news/romanzo-massimiliano-pieraccini-tempostrettoit-scienza-spesso-illusoria-come-quadro-escher.html[Last accessed: 27 March 2016]
 Francesco Redi. Wikipedia [Online] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francesco_Redi [Last accessed: 28 March 2016]
 Pieraccini, M. 2011. Massimo Redi. Massimiliano Pieraccini L’Anomalia Il Blog [Online] 2 July 2011. Available at: http://anomalia-blog.rizzoli.eu/2011/07/02/massimo-redi/ [Last accessed: 28 March 2016], and
Occhini, L. 2011. L’Anomalia. Informarezzo [Online] 2 August 2011. Available at: http://www.informarezzo.com/permalink/8276.html [Last accessed: 30 March 2016]
 Pieraccini, M. 2011. Fabio Moebius. Massimiliano Pieraccini L’Anomalia Il Blog [Online] 15 June 2011. Available at: http://anomalia-blog.rizzoli.eu/2011/06/15/fabio-moebius/ [Last accessed: 1 April 2016]
 http://www.nomix.it/significato-nome/fabio.php [Last accessed: 1 April 2016]
 Pieraccini, M. 2011. Fabio Moebius. Massimiliano Pieraccini L’Anomalia Il Blog [Online] 15 June 2011. Available at: http://anomalia-blog.rizzoli.eu/2011/06/15/fabio-moebius/ [Last accessed: 1 April 2016]
 Pieraccini, M. 2011. Giulia Perego. Massimiliano Pieraccini L’Anomalia Il Blog [Online] 29 May 2011. Available at: http://anomalia-blog.rizzoli.eu/2011/05/29/giulia-perego/ [Last accessed: 1 April 2016]
 Here, your is arguably used by Kaposka with a mocking purpose, meaning “your dear academia”. This does not mean that only Italian academia is taken into account, as Kaposka most likely refers to the international one.
 Pieraccini, M. 2011.Il mondo reale. Massimiliano Pieraccini L’Anomalia Il Blog [Online] 24 May 2011. Available at: http://anomalia-blog.rizzoli.eu/2011/05/24/il-mondo-reale/ [Last accessed: 1 April 2016]
 English translation: Just the idea of twisting a scientific fact for narrative purposes makes me shudder. After all, my reputation would be at stake. And the academia does not take these matters lightly. I am absolutely not going to end up like Catt…or like Kaposka!
http://www.ivorcatt.co.uk/x5as2.pdf “Although its author argued with conviction for many years, it has a clear and satisfactory solution and it can be considered indubitably just an apparent paradox. Nevertheless, it is curious and very intriguing, and able to capture the attention of students.” – Pieraccini
The Pieraccini novel “L’anomalila”; Massimo has a chat with Kaposka and learns that he is currently working on Catt’s anomaly.
“La sola idea di travisare un fatto scientifico a fini narrativi mi fa venire i brividi. D’altra parte ne va della mia reputazione. E l’Accademia su queste cose non scherza. Non ho nessuna intenzione di fare la fine di Catt… o di Kaposka!
English translation: Just the idea of twisting a scientific fact for narrative purposes makes me shudder. After all, my reputation would be at stake. And the academia does not take these matters lightly. I am absolutely not going to end up like Catt…or like Kaposka!”
.... .... in the room next to Massimo’s, they find the lifeless body of Alexander Kaposka.