The Birdcage Archives

Thursday 17 November 2011

Pereira Declares

Hello Gentle Reader

Antonio Tabucchi is an author of two countries. There is native homeland of Italy, and the country of his love, Portugal. Many authors are like this. The Nobel Laureate in Literature of two thousand and nine, Herta Muller is a native Romanian writer. Born in Nitzkydorf in Romanian’s Banat region, Herta Muller identified more with the culture and language of German, rather then that of her home country of Romania – she did not learn to speak Romanian until the age of fifteen. Ivo Andric the ninteent-sixty one Nobel Laurete in Literature – at the time was a Yugoslavic writer – however his works dealt primarly with Bosnia; and has often been called a Bosnian writer; however others have said he belongs to the Serbian writing tradition, others claim him to the Croatian literary scene. Gao Xingjian the Nobel Laureate of Literature in the year two thousand, is a born Chinese-novelist, playwright, critic and painter; however he has French citizenship and has been identified with France since his self-imposed exile from China, since the late ninteen-eighties. Then there is the author Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio the Nobel Laureate in Litearture of two thousand and eight, who has dual citizneship in both France and Mauritius. When J.M.G Le Clezio was young his mother and brother joined his father Nigeria. J.M.G Le Clezio studied in England, then moved to the United States of America to teach, after finishing and recieving his Masters from the University of Provence. J.M.G Le Clezio then served with the French Military in Thailand – J.M.G Le Clezio finished up his service with the French Army in Mexico. Afterwards J.M.G Le Clezio lived with some natives in Panama. However J.M.G Le Clezio is primarly a French author. The world is full of these kinds of authors. Authors living in exile, authors who have found homes in other countries. Antonio Tabucchi is no different. An author from Italy who has a great fondness and love for Portugal, and his greatest influence is the Portugesse writer Fernando Pessoa.

“Pereira Declares,” by Antonio Tabucchi takes place, in Portugal in the white city of Lisbon. It concerns itself with the obese Doctor Pereira, a journalist who writes and edits the culture page of the independent evening news paper, which has no political leanings and influences. However Doctor Pereira is awakened into political consciousness, when he meets the young man and political dissident and anti-fascist, rebellious writer Montiero Rossi. Set in the summer of nineteen-thirty eight, it is a summer of political uncertainty in both Spain and Portugal – yet Doctor Pereira is all but unaware of this entire stifling political situation. However Doctor Pereira knows all too well that the politics of Antonio Salazar has engulfed the country of Portugal much like the heat of the summer has. Celeste the caretaker of Doctor Pereira’s office where he works on the Culture page of the news paper; he suspects of being a police informant. However this does not break his apolitical languor and love and enjoyment of translating French stories, eating omelettes and drinking lemonade.

“Pereira Declares,” is more than just a simple title of this book. Much of this book itself are declarations of the fictional character which further adds to the title of the book: “Pereira Declares: A Testimony.” In some form or another he just explains or testifies, what has lead up to the events of the novella. Upon reading an article by Montiero Rossi about death, Doctor Pereira decides to contact the author of it, in order to write advanced obituaries of writers of their time who could die at any unexpected moment, and so the obituary could be on hand to publish it as necessary. The first obituary that this young writer presents to Pereira is, far too political for his times – it’s on the poet Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca. Through this novel Pereira often contemplates his own existence, his soul, his need for repentance, confessions, and his good Catholic – or at least his semi-good Catholic faith; and why he does not sack Montiero Rossi, for not being able to produce any publishable articles for the news paper in the current political environment and atmosphere of the time. However Pereira, continues to support the young man Montiero Rossi with his own money.

Pereira’s existence really is not all that disturbed by much of what is going on. Not the constant unpublishable obituaries by Montiero Rossi, or his constant lugging of neither his obesity around; nor the political environment of Portugal, or the constant spying – or presumed spying of his office caretaker Celeste. Pereira continues to translate French stories, into Portuguese, and publish them into the news paper. Upon translating a story into the Portuguese and placing them into instalments into the culture page of the news paper. Upon heading out the spa and seeing an old friend Sylvia Pereira gets into a slight argument about the political atmosphere of the time. The argument is slightly distressing towards Pereira, and he leaves the spa. Upon a consultation with his doctor again Pereira leaves towards a spa, of natural remedies for his obese suffering. There he meets Doctor Cardoso, who proves to be an interesting confidante in those times of great political suffering – the political atmosphere as stuffy and sweltering as the heat of summer itself. Doctor Cardoso has a great conversation with Pereira about a theory of the soul, and how it is not an individual part of the body but rather a collective group of other smaller souls, and how the soul can change. Now according to Father Antonio (another confidant and friend) this is heresy to the “T,” and that it does no good to think of the soul in such ways. It is not good Catholic faith. However it proves to be an interesting conversation on the entire concept of the soul, and the concept of people changing and whether or not people can change. Doctor Cardoso is a doctor who has specialized in dietary medicine and psychology, and this is what has lead to the conversation between the literary loving and gourmet food addict, to have a conversation on the concept of the soul itself. Doctor Cardoso is one of the many people who encourage to wake the sleeping and rather lazy Pereira from his apolitical apathetic languor and lounging and to take up some arms or awaken a sense of consciousness and to realize the inhumanity and unequal and disturbing unfairness of the current political regime.

Upon publishing a story with the words “vive la France,” at the end, his editor and chief of this news paper, is placed in a bit of a unhappy situation, with is fellow members of the political atmosphere of Portugal. He is disgusted and enraged by Pereira translating such a story and is growing a bit weary of him publishing French stories – see how France is not an ally of Portugal and is very critical of Germany; who is an ally of Portugal but as Pereira points out they are not allies, to which point the editor and chief points out that they may not be allies but there are strong sympathies held, and that the stories are not doing any good for the paper, and are hurting the editor and chief in a political stance. From there Pereira is to allow the editor and chief to look at all the culture pages, before they are to be printed, and furthermore, he is to stop translating and publishing stories by French authors, and should move onto authors from Portugal, and show the papers patriotism and nationalist stance. Though Pereira declares or rather questions by stating to himself, that the paper is independent. But this only further nudges the lounging Pereira from his pool of apathy. He no longer is given the pleasure of watching the events pass him by, he now is placed into the events. He realizes the paper has its own anterior agenda, in the political game, and that his love of good literature is not good for the political position of the paper, and that his love of the food is not good enough for his health.

The final straw however is finally pulled through when Pereira’s home is intruded upon by “political police,” who rudely mock his sexuality, his obesity, and his profession. They hold a gun at his head. Inform him that it would be a great pleasure to shoot him in the wind pipe. All this over Montiero Rossi, the odd young man who had just waltzed into Pereira’s life who had changed Pereira’s life from a life of smallness and simple pleasure and political apathy to a life of realized consciousness. To a life where he was forced to make decisions and do what he had to do and do it as necessary in those times, no longer able to lounge in his usual life of literature and find food, but is forced to take up small acts of heroism, and in the end, his final act of heroism is an act of changing the soul itself.

It is a beautiful character portrait by the author Antonio Tabucchi and it was an enjoyable book. It would have been a lot lovelier to see a lot more scenic landscapes of Lisbon and Portugal, itself, and a bit more in depth of the characters, but then it kind of loses some of that lustre that is has now. It was a splendid books however, a delightful book. One that sacrificed scenic portraits and more in depth characterization for what it was able to give now. A lovely and worthy novel, of Antonio Tabucchi’s love of the country of Portugal, and his contempt for authoritarian states of government, dictatorships – but it also expresses his love and desire for everyman to do the right thing, even if they are the smallest acts of courage.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

M. Mary

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