TAMARA by Eeva Kilpi


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From Finland--an impotent, partially paralyzed professor's account of his relationship with cool-warm Tamara, who has her life neatly divided into work (psychiatric counseling), sex (casual beddings with various bozos), and a permanent relationship: her emotional tie to the professor (""I love you like a devastated landscape""), even if he is only an ""emergency solution. Continuity for the time being."" Though the professor is eager to please Tamara in any number of inventive ways, ""no other part of me would do for her except the one that was not available,"" so she checks in regularly with detailed reports on her encounters with gentleman friends known as ""Checks,"" ""The Communist,"" and ""The Capitalist."" And the professor--like Tamara's weekly, rather welcome obscene phone caller--must become ""a specialist in orgasms of the imagination."" This frustrating but workable status quo collapses, however, when Tamara finds more than sexual satisfaction with one of her married lovers. ""He means to me what I mean to you,"" she tells the professor, and a stay in a rented country house does nothing to alleviate her lovesickness or his jealousy. And when Tamara's great new love cavalierly tosses her aside, there is nothing left of her original bond with the professor to return to. It is difficult to tell to what extent Kilpi's prose gifts have been diminished by translation, but the wry and lyrical rhythms that do come through are sufficient to keep this surprisingly tender tale from becoming either lurid or foolish--even in such risky moments as when the professor writes Tamara's name on the bedsheet, using her menstrual blood. Kilpi's sensitive stylishness cannot, however, lend real weight or energy to what is at best a rather blurry, vaguely touching symphonie pathètique.

Pub Date: May 26th, 1978
Publisher: Delacorte