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Pereira Declares: A Testimony by Antonio…

Pereira Declares: A Testimony (1994)

by Antonio Tabucchi

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (36)  Spanish (8)  Dutch (3)  Italian (3)  Swedish (2)  French (2)  Finnish (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (56)
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Pereira Maintains was a fortuitous find on the New Books shelf at the library, and it was not until I visited Goodreads when drafting this review that I discovered it was one of the 1001 books I’m supposed to read before setting off for The Great Library in the Sky. It was there at Goodreads that I also discovered that the book was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 1997, and won numerous European prizes including the Premio Viareggio (1994), the Premio Campiello (1994), the Prix Jean-Monnet de littérature européenne du département de Charente (1995), the Aristeion Prize (1997) and the Premio San Clemente for Novela Estranxeira (1997).

In my copy of 1001 Books it has the title Pereira Declares, a Testimony but I like the Canongate title better. The novel is narrated by an unspecified narrator, each chapter introduced by and peppered with the words ‘Pereira maintains’. Someone is reporting Pereira’s testimony, but the reader never knows who the narrator is, or who he is reporting to, or the circumstances under which Pereira came to give this testimony, willingly or otherwise. The word ‘maintains’ suggests that Pereira is sticking to his story despite pressure to alter it. This adds to the sense of menace as the story proceeds.

1001 Books tells me that Italian author Antonio Tabucchi has spent most of his life in Lisbon where he is a professor of Portuguese literature. His descriptions of the city are evocative, even for someone like me who’s only been there once and only for a couple of days.

On that beauteous summer day, with the sun beaming away and the sea-breeze of the Atlantic kissing the treetops, and a city glittering, literally glittering beneath his window, and a sky of such blue as never was seen. (p.1)

The city is literally glittering because of what I dubbed The Perilous Paving, for which Lisbon is famous. This paving – unique to Portugal and its former colonies – can be very beautiful though often they are just laid in alternating colours. They are made up of thousands of small squares of shiny paving stones not much bigger than the palm of a child’s hand, and there is no pretence at laying them evenly or flat. I discovered this as soon as I ventured outside the hotel – where the surface consisted of smooth, glassy undulating waves with the occasional missing stone presenting particular peril for anyone silly enough to wear high heels. Tabucchi’s story is set in high summer, where his protagonist is often sweating in the heat as well as in fear, but these tiles must be very slippery indeed in the rain.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2018/02/01/pereira-maintains-by-antonio-tabucchi-translated-by-patrick-creagh-bookreview/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Jan 31, 2018 |
“[…] but I feel I must tell you that originally, we were Lusitanians, and then came the Romans and the Celts, and then came the Arabs, so what sort of race are we Portuguese in a position to celebrate? The Portuguese Race, replied the editor-in-chief, and I am sorry to say Pereira, that I don’t like the tone of your objection, we are Portuguese, we discovered the world, we achieved the greatest feats of navigation the world over, and when we did this, in the 16th century, we were already Portuguese, that is what we are and that is what you are to celebrate, Pereira.”

In “Pereira Declares” by Antonio Tabucchi.

I read this in a Portuguese translation from the Italian more than ten years ago, if memory serves me right, I haven't come across anything quite like it and I still have a place in my heart for portly, perspiring Pereira with his omelets and his quiet, but subversive, decency. This time, this wonderful translation by Patrick Creagh just made my day.

In a narrative that does not want a puzzle, Tabucchi uses a very similar resource to the one used by Isaac Bashevis Singer: that of telling alien stories supposedly collected from conversations with real people, and not hiding it in the book's writing. “Pereira Declares” is a book that walks slowly, seeking to situate the scenario through which the characters walk, without extending the descriptions but worried to leave the reader with significant details about the characters, as, for example, the custom of Pereira to take Lemonades and the same path every day. Alongside this, there is a concern for more philosophical discussions, or at least the ones that foster deeper reflections. One can use as an example both the theory of the confederation of souls and the hegemonic hegemony proposed by Dr. Cardoso as well as Pereira's trajectory. There is also Tabucchi 's sensitivity to perceive and bring to light two issues that I consider to be praiseworthy remarks by “Pereira Declares”: the portrait of the dialectic relationship between the subject and the world, and the capacity to demonstrate the darkest tentacles of the status quo – in this case, Salazar’s Portuguese dictatorship. The relation between subject and world is drawn in the contours of the historical situation of Portugal and the existential situation of Pereira. There is much of the world in Pereira, and much of the dilemmas of Pereira in the world. The tension embodied in the dictatorial political moment is experienced by the character through the psychological state with which he turns things around. The dispute between the hegemonic selves in the confederation of the souls of Pereira is the dilemma that many live under dictatorships: to stay quite in the name of personal security or to risk everything in the name of something greater? The postures in dispute within Pereira are metaphors of this state of tension, which Tabucchi was able to capture with mastery. The persona of Pereira and his psychological characters express very well this question: he incorporated a routine discipline of fearful respect, a fear hidden even in the choice of French tales that he would like to translate. And Tabucchi made this a veiled critical observation, because just when Pereira leaves aside his mediocre habits, he becomes the target of Salazar agents. The testimony of Pereira was made literature by Tabucchi, but he’s also able to extrapolate the conception of literature as an aesthetic object, reinvigorating the power of narratives as devices of reflection as much as objects and aesthetic exercises. ( )
  antao | Aug 31, 2017 |
1938 Portugal; a lonely, elderly, widowed journalist meets a young, idealistic rebel who reminds him of the child he never had. Pereira ignores the growing censorship and police state until the rebel is killed in his apartment. Then Pereira acts in the only way he know how, through words. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
Pereira is a newspaperman in Lisbon in 1938. Under Portugal's right-wing dictatorship, newspapers are expected to show their loyalty by supporting Portugal's volunteers on the Nationalist side in the Spanish Civil War and by praising Portugal's unofficial allies, fascist Germany and Italy. But as the editor of the culture page, Pereira considers himself aloof from all of that. He is concerned with affairs of the body and the soul, not with politics, and is content to publish his translations of French short stories and the obituaries of great writers.[return][return]That trouble is headed Pereira's way is hinted by the construction of the novel itself. It is as though a skeptic were reading a testimony dictated by Pereira, interjecting "Pereira declares this" and "Pereira declares that" every so often. Pereira's priest and his doctor warn the editor that he won't be able to stay neutral forever. And, sure enough, when the assistant editor he hires turns out to be something other than what he claims to be, Pereira's hand is forced.[return][return]Much of the appeal of this short novel is in the character of Pereira himself. He is an honest, unassuming, paunchy widower who loves his omelets and his lemonade. Like so many of us, he rationalizes against giving up the food he loves for the sake of his heart and his waistline. Similarly he rationalizes against giving up his placid comforts to take a stand on behalf of what he believes. [return][return]Most novels about life under a dictatorship are tragic and depressing, but Pereira Declares manages to not only have a serious message, but to be light and uplifting at the same time. This brilliant look at life in Europe on the eve of World War II is highly recommended. ( )
1 vote Dolmance | Oct 28, 2015 |
A delight to read. Short novel about the rotund Pareira, longtime journalist now working the culture pages of an obscure Lisbon newspaper. Under a doctor's care for heart trouble, he can't overcome his frequent dosing of omelots and sugary lemonades. He hires a flimsy young man to write obituaries for famous writers not yet deceased (you read correctly), who turns out to have troubling connections to events underway in neighboring Spain (this is late 1930s). Pereira meantime translates French literature for the paper, though his "vive le france" attitude puts him at odds with political winds. He innocently overlooks the danger that orbits him, resulting in scenes both ominous and comical. Unique story, well told, smooth reading in translation. ( )
1 vote ThoughtPolice | Oct 7, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tabucchi, Antonioprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Creagh, PatrickTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fleischanderl, KarinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hamid, MohsinIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Melander, VivecaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Pereira maintains he met him one summer's day.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0811213587, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:08 -0400)

Set in the sweltering summer of 1938 in Portugal, a country under the fascist shadow of Spain, Pereira Maintains tells a tale of reluctant heroism.

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