PEREIRA DECLARES by Antonio Tabucchi


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 The theme of political commitment is explored from an unusual and rewarding perspective in this moving short novel, set in Fascist-ruled Portugal in 1938, by the Italian author of Requiem (1994), etc. Its unsuspecting hero is Dr. Pereira, a former Lisbon crime reporter who now edits the ``culture page'' of the cautiously apolitical newspaper Lisboa. Pereira himself eschews political opinions, but finds he's drowning in them after he hires a young university graduate, Monteiro Rossi, to write ``advance obituaries of great writers who might die at any moment.'' The latter writes ``nothing but raving revolutionary stuff''--he can't help himself; Pereira, declaring Rossi's effusions ``unpublishable,'' fills the page with his own translations of favorite writers. But Pereira is soon overtaken by events; involved against his will in his protÇgÇ's dangerous affairs; accused of concealing treasonable sentiments in the stories (by Balzac and Daudet) that he innocently translates; and pushed toward a gesture of defiance that brings the novel to a wonderfully satisfying and surprising end--because we could not have guessed him capable of it, and because we do anticipate his fate, which Tabucchi refrains from specifically disclosing (the story is narrated by an unidentified interrogator whose repeated phrase crediting the Doctor's statements under questioning give the novel its' title). Pereira is a marvelously complex creation: An aging widower who talks to his dead wife's photograph, overweight, timid, afflicted with a heart condition, self-indulgent, yet fundamentally moral, even courageous. The raising of his consciousness proves every bit as convincing as it is awkward and hesitant. One of the most intriguing and appealing character studies in recent European fiction, and easily the best work of Tabucchi's to have appeared in English translation.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8112-1319-6
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: New Directions
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1996


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