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By Nanni Balestrini


This book is unique as no other novel can claim to be: one of 109,027,350,432,000 possible variations of the same work of fiction. A love story with infinite possibilities



Inspired by the legend of Tristan and Isolde, Tristano was first published in 1966 in Italian. But only recently has digital technology made it possible to realize the author’s original vision. The novel comprises ten chapters, and the fifteen pairs of paragraphs in each of these are shuffled anew for each published copy. No two versions are the same. The random variations between copies enact the variegations of the human heart, as exemplified by the lovers at the center of the story.

The copies of the English translation of Tristano are individually numbered, starting from 10,000 (running sequentially from the Italian and German editions). Included is a foreword by Umberto Eco explaining how Balestrini’s experiment with the physical medium of the novel demonstrates ‘that originality and creativity are nothing more than the chance handling of a combination’.

Read Nanni Balestrini’s interview with Lizzy Davies in THE GUARDIAN here


“The emotional highs and lows of the story are all the more touching for being framed within Balestrini’s subtle, understated language.” – Juliet Jacques, NEW STATESMAN

“Balestrini’s experiment focuses on attacking the twin myths of the creative genius and culture as property.” – RHIZOME

“Goodbye Gutenberg. Many alternative ways of spreading the adventure of literature are emerging. This exercise by Balestrini is absolutely central.” – LA STAMPA

“Finally the historical impasse between literature and new media… turns into an opportunity to create something radically new.” – Aldo Nove, IL SOLE 24 ORE

“Balestrini has created with Tristano a kind of poetry of the language … promoting language to the role of protagonist, that is of hero, and where in traditional novels language voices the hero’s thoughts and actions, in this new Tristano language voices itself and celebrates its wide number of opportunities and movements.” – Angelo Guglielmi, L’UNITA

“The most impressive feat of publishing in ages.” – BLACKWELL’S OXFORD


Nanni Balestrini was born in Milan in 1935 and was a member of the influential avant-garde Gruppo 63, along with Umberto Eco and Eduardo Sanguineti. He is the author of numerous volumes of poetry, including ‘Blackout’ and ‘Ipocalisse’, and novels such as ‘Tristano’, ‘Vogliamo Tutto’, and ‘La Violenza Illustrata’.

During the notorious mass arrests of writers and activists associated with Autonomy, which began in 1979, Balestrini was charged with membership of an armed organization and with subversive association. He went underground to avoid arrest and fled to France. As in so many other cases, no evidence was provided and he was acquitted of all the charges.

He currently lives in Rome, where he runs the monthly magazine of cultural intervention ‘Alfabeta2’ with Umberto Eco and others.


Paperback, 128 pages / ISBN: 9781781681695 / February 2014 / $25.00 / £14.99 / $28.00CAN

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