Saturday, December 8, 2018

Antonio Tabucchi's Time Ages In A Hurry

Antonio Tabucchi was an Italian professor of Portuguese who taught at the University of Siena. Probably his most famous novel is Pereira Declares (also translated as Pereira Maintains) which is set in Portugal in the early years of the Fascist dictator Salazar. In it the detached and literary Pereira gradually begins to resist the Fascist regime. It is a great novel.

Tabucchi died in 2012 and until then I used to see his name on shortlists for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Time Ages In A Hurry is a book of nine short stories that came out in Italian in 2009 and was translated into English, by Martha Cooley and Antonio Romani, in 2015. The stories relate, as you might guess from that brief synopsis of Pereira Declares, at the intersection of the personal and the political.

For example, "Clouds," my favorite of the stories, is a dialog between tired Italian ex-soldier in his 40s and a precocious young girl. We gradually learn that she's an orphan, from Peru and adopted by an Italian family, and he served as a peacekeeper on that very beach where there is now the resort where they're staying. Presumably this is Croatia, though it's never specified.
-Don't you like going in the water? she asked. I think it's special.
-Special? the man repeated.
-My teacher told us we can't use awesome for everything, that sometimes we might say special, I was about to say awesome, for me going in the water at this beach is special.
In another, an elderly Jewish father in a Tel Aviv nursing home is visited by his son; the son is on a research sabbatical in Rome; the father is only intermittently aware he's no longer in Bucharest.

A public defender of political cases in Communist Poland is pained at the ironic joke of his career, but still manages to do good.

A Stasi agent looks up his own file and discovers his wife had been sleeping with his boss.

László, a Hungarian officer from a military family, manages to hold off the Russians for three days in 1956, even though everyone knows it pointless. That military action is the defining moment of his life.

Very good.

European Reading Challenge. Hungary is the one of those I still need.

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