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Pereira Declares: A Testimony Paperback – June 17, 1997
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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Antonio Tabucchi has accomplished a rare feat: a socio-political novel with a decided left-wing slant that succeeds as a thriller. It is told through the voice of an aging editor at a Portuguese newspaper in 1938 during fascist rule. A murder inspires the editor out of acquiescence, and an underground movement ensues. The book rose to immediate success in Italy in 1994, a time when Italian fascism resurfaced, and Tabucchi's timely antidote to that movement was no doubt a factor in the novel's popularity. But widespread appeal of the book had as much to do with the page-turning nature of the work as its politics--a testament to Tabucchi's ability on both fronts. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Set in the sweltering summer of 1938 in Portugal, a country under the Fascist shadow of its neighbor, Spain, Italian author Tabucchi's movingly restrained novel tells a tale of quiet, reluctant heroism. Dr. Peirera, the overweight, middle-aged editor of the cultural page of a second-rate Lisbon newspaper, wants nothing to do with European politics. He's happy to translate 19th-century French stories and write droll pieces commemorating famous authors and, in general, is content to believe "that literature was the most important thing in the world." His closest confidante is a photograph of his late wife. All this changes, however, when he meets Francesco Monteiro Rossi, a brash and oddly charismatic young subversive. As Pereira tells his wife's photo, Rossi is "about the age of our son if we'd had a son." Pereira gives Rossi work preparing obituaries for still-living writers; but Rossi focuses on the wrong writers or lingers on the political implications of their lives. "Completely unpublishable," is Pereira's usual response. And yet, he continues to pay Rossi, even after discovering that the young man is using the money to recruit for the anti-Franco International Brigade. The narrative gathers its strange power-a sense of administrative, banality-of-evil dread-from a simple device: it's told by an unnamed interlocutor and appears to be the report of a government official to a superior. Tabucchi (Little Misunderstanding of No Importance) expertly chronicles Pereira's ascent to consciousness, which culminates in a quiet and reckless act of rebellion.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
In 1995, Antonio Tabucchi, completely astonished, saw the multitude shouting in the streets against Berlusconi, brandishing "Pereira declares" which turned to be the book symbol of the left opposition. "A fat Portuguese became an Italian hero", the author summed up, smiling.
Pereira, our main character, is a journalist having his mid-life crisis. His wife died a few years ago and he regrets that they never had children. He’s aging, lonely, overweight. He writes about art and literature and seems so disconnected from the political winds that a couple of friends, one a priest, tell him “stop living in another world; go out and see what’s happening all around you.” At night he tells his wife’s photo about his day and asks her opinion about things.
Kind of accidentally he starts to get politically active in a big way. He hires a young man as an assistant who is assisting anti-fascist forces in Spain and trying to recruit Portuguese to fight. He has a beautiful girlfriend and a male friend who makes fake passports. The journalist reads the political writings of the assistant which he knows he can’t publish because of Portuguese censorship. But he starts helping them out by giving them money and housing them when they are running from the law. He sees the son he did not have in the idealistic young man and the beautiful, daring girlfriend doesn’t hurt the cause either. Inevitably, one night the Portuguese secret police come knocking and turn his world upside down.
I liked this passage: “Philosophy appears to concern itself only with the truth, but perhaps expresses only fantasies, while literature appears to concern itself only with fantasies, but perhaps it expresses the truth.”
And this response from his friend, the priest, after Pereira says he wants to make confession the next time he visits: “You don’t need to, replied Father Antonio, first make sure you commit some sin and then come to me, don’t make me waste my time for nothing.”
I liked the way the heavy duty political theme was interspersed with humor, mostly about Pereira’s struggles with his weight and diet. Every day he is challenged to get up stairs and hills, yet eats rich omelets and drinks eight glasses of lemonade that is half sugar. He goes to spas for thalassotherapy (seawater and seaweed treatments) as if he expects the weight to simply dissolve. The spa directors believe in working with his mind as well as his body despite resistance from Pereira. “Pretty soon you’ll start talking to your wife’s photograph,” he is told. Of course we know Pereira already does.
The book has an interesting background. “Pereira declares” is a mantra throughout the book, usually at chapter endings. But the book has also been translated into English as “Declares Pereira” and “Pereira Maintains.” The author is Italian and the book is translated from the Italian but he loved Portuguese culture, lived for periods in Portugal, and died there. He was famous in Italy for translations of Portuguese works into Italian, especially the work of Fernando Pessoa. This book was made into an Italian movie. It’s fairly short (135 pages) and held my attention all the way through. My thanks to Ian of Scotland for recommending this book to me.