In the High Peaks

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Antonio Tabucchi! 1943-2012. And Pereira Declares.

Perhaps I should have known that the Italian author Antonio Tabucchi died this past March at the age of 68. Perhaps someone or Caroline mentioned it. But, for whatever mental lapse that is the cause, learning of Tabucchi's passing was a shock for me today. He was only 68. Just think of the books this prolific writer still had inside him. I mourn him.

I loved reading Pereira Declares, as I mentioned in a previous post. I'll be frank; I don't think this was a political novel at all, despite its setting in Salazarist Portugal--1938. Pereira was Every Man, as far as it goes. He had literary passions, he loved his omelettes aux fines herbes despite his serious cardiac condition, he was lonely without his deceased wife and spoke to her framed photograph throughout the day, and yes, he had detached himself from the thrum of real life and the real world, whatever they are. And I think Tabucchi is emphasizing that point. Real life, so what? What difference does it make to a man whether he's involved in real life? And what is that anyway?

So when the young rebel Monteiro Rossi insinuates himself into Pereira's life, Pereira opens the door, despite his protests that he wants nothing to do with Rossi and whatever the young man is doing. That declaration is a smokescreen. Deep down, without Pereira being fully conscious of it, he's longing for meaningful human contact. As time passes, it becomes clear that Pereira is desperate for it, desperate enough to put himself in harm's way without a second thought. And when it comes to that, he rises to the occasion, swinging with both fists.

I'm not going to belabor the summary of a plot, because Pereira Declares is a character study, and an enjoyable one at that. I won't label it fascinating or intense. It was to my mind a quiet character study, and I loved that.


  1. One reviewer stated she was disappointed when she re-read this as in her mind she thought of it as political but it failed in that department.
    I read other reviews and it seems that the novel was read as an anti-Berlusconi statement in Italy and not that much really about Salazar. Seems to make sense as well.
    I mentioned his death, yes but it didn't really sink in until this week and I'm now very sad too. It seems he was ill for a log time. It would have been great to get a chance to meet him. Now that is gone forever.
    Thanks for joining.

  2. Great post! I agree that it's not a political novel. Maybe that's why I was a bit disappointed on rereading it this year, I was expecting more political and social commitment.
    But it's a novel about character, and about "longing for meaningful human contact" (as you so nicely put it), and I love that.

  3. I read this earlier in the year and loved it, Judith. And while I agree with you that it's mostly "a quiet character study" about a guy looking for meaningful human contact, I guess I differ with you about whether I'd consider it a political novel or not: I think Tabucchi managed to write at least two kinds of novel here. It was a very rich reading experience in any event. Cheers!

  4. Richard,
    Thank you for dropping in and sharing your ideas. Now I'm eager to find your review of Pereira Declares to see what you thought about its political aspects. I'd love to know more about what you think.

    I'll look forward to visiting your blog tomorrow!


  5. It's been a couple of years since I read Pereira Declares. I loved it. Pereira is a kind of brother of Fernando Pessoa's literary heroes who take no interest in a Vita activa. But the political circumstances force him - against his will - to take a stand. Yes, for me that's a very political novel. Loved the movie with Marcello Mastroianni as Pereira (his last role if I am not mistaken).