Antonio Tabucchi week: two books and a movie

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know who Antonio Tabucchi was. When I first read (and loved) Pereira Maintains, he was already famous because of it. It was his one famous book, and the only one I knew, and I loved it.

But I didn’t know the first thing about Portugal, and I had a feeling that you needed to see those places to understand, truly, not so much the book as the author himself. How can you appreciate The Woman of Porto Pim if you have never been to Porto Pim in the first place?

OK, so this was only an excuse to show you a picture of our honeymoon to the Azores…

Except, I may be wrong. On rereading Pereira Maintains earlier this year, with all my newly-gained knowledge of all not enough things Portuguese, I liked it not nearly as much.

Pereira Maintains
Italian edition
as published by La Biblioteca di Repubblica, 190 pages
with a note by the author

Don’t get me wrong, I still did like it. As before, I liked the story of a middle-aged man suddenly revolutionizing (and risking) his life because he was fascinated by the love between a young couple. And more than before I loved the clean, no-frills style: it touched me as a well-balanced marriage between the principles stated by Calvino and the realism searched by Saramago.

But it felt too shallow. Now that I know a little about the Salazar dictatorship, I wish the book was stronger in denouncing it. Of course, this was written well after the facts (Tabucchi wrote that the whole idea of the novel came to him after he attended the funeral of a journalist who had to flee Lisbon because of the regime, and who had returned to Lisbon later, only to end his life completely ignored). And yet, it feels like Pereira Maintains dances over the historical situation without really dealing with it.

“According to Pereira”,
a movie by Roberto Faenza,
with Marcello Mastroianni (Pereira), Joaquim de Almeida (Manuel), Daniel Auteuil (Dr. Cardoso), Stefano Dionisi (Monteiro Rossi) and Nicoletta Braschi (Marta)

After re-reading the novel, I also re-watched the movie, and it was beautiful. I’m not an expert in cinema and I cannot really comment, but I always like a good Mastroianni interpretation! And I did feel that the movie filled up whatever was lacking in the book: I felt the social commentary much stronger here, and I was less annoyed by Pereira’s endless chewing over his soul.

I know, I know, I just showed my ignorance. Pereira’s reflections on his soul was one of the pillars of the book. And a key element in Tabucchi’s work. I know. (It’s just not for me.) And if I didn’t know, it was made clear when I read another novel by Tabucchi recently, Requiem.

Requiem: A Hallucination
Portuguese (original) edition
as published by Dom Quixote, 154 pages
with a note by the author translated by Pedro Tamen

As I was saying before, I don’t know nearly enough to appreciate this book for all its literary references. (Beware, because this is a novel for very cultivated people to appreciate!) But I was interested in its peculiarity: the language. This is the one book Tabucchi didn’t write in Italian but in Portuguese.

I have always been fascinated by people deciding to use a language other than their own. (Did you know that Mozart and his sister wrote to each other in Italian? There is a technical word in linguistics for this phenomenon, but I can’t recall it right now and I don’t have my linguistics texts with me — if anyone knows, I’d like to hear from you!) And I was completely, utterly taken in by Tabucchi explaining how he dreamt a dream in Portuguese, how he began to jot down notes about it in Portuguese, and how this book, stemming from that dream, could only be written in Portuguese. Because Portuguese was the language of his heart. Because he was redefining the concept of maternal language.

I feel like I am liking Tabucchi’s work for all the wrong reasons, but that’s fine with me 🙂

I wrote this post (although a bit late)
for the Antonio Tabucchi Week,
hosted by Caroline of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat.

Please check her blog for more Tabucchi content from other participants.

The good and the bad of translation

The good:

Want to read a good translation? Check out the 2012 finalists of the Best Translated Book Awards, chosen by the University of Rochester.

The bad:

I’m not a Potter-fan, have never been, and am even less so whenever I read how Ms. Rowling and all the Potter-establishment deal with translators. Read this horror “gorilla vs translator” story by the Hebrew translator of the series.

On British accents and Wondrous Words Wednesday

An online forum I participate in mentioned today this BBC article, which I believe is interesting enough a read to share with you: Why are fantasy world accents British? By Brian Wheeler

Aaand… I thought I had no new words to share today, but the article and the forum discussion provided me with two!

His US/British accent in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves was so jarring, and out of historical context, that it stood as a warning to all future directors.

Jar: v. 1 send a painful or uncomfortable shock through (a part of the body). Strike against something with an unpleasant vibration or jolt 2 have a disturbing or incongruous effect.


It’s all faux mediaeval codswallop.

Codswallop: n. Brit. informal nonsense.


(All definitions are taken from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary © 2008 via unless otherwise stated.)

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) and interesting (to us, again) words we encountered in our readings. See this week round-up at BermudaOnion’s blog!

Top 5 Bookish Movies I Dream of

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme for the list lovers among book bloggers, created and hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. Today the theme is free and I am picking one of the past themes I have not done yet: “Top Ten Books You Want to See Made into Movies”.

OK, really? I’m not a big movie-goer. Some of these may have already been made into movies that I never heard of.  And some have been made into movies, but pitifully so. But this is my list of books that have potential, given the right director and cast and effects. I think these could be made into great films!

So here goes, top ten books I would love to see on the big screen:

  1. Michael Ende, The Neverending Story: this one has had at least 3 movies made out of it, and they’re not terrible either. But the special effect techniques have evolved a lot since then, and I would love to see this re-made, more faithful to the book and with better effects. I dream of how beautiful the Ivory Tower would turn out to be, and I guess I would be too scared to look at Ygramul. And the sweetest scene would be… no, I cannot say that, it’s a spoiler 🙂 Oh, I guess I would prefer George Lucas to Tim Burton… sure, Burton could make a great job of it, but he would leave too strong a footprint!
  2. Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose: you saw this coming, right? The existing movie is… I’ll better not say anything or I’d become offensive. I’m sure there’s some good historical movie director who could give this another take and develop all the power of Eco’s novel! Please?
  3. Anita Nair, Mistress: all the mystery of India, music, theater and dance, plus love and secrets. This would work well with any director who is good at hinting and innuendos. No Bollywood-style, though, please!
  4. Markus Zusak, The Book Thief: I would love to see this transformed into a musical. It would be a good way to touch on the subject of Nazism and the Holocaust without disrespect but also while keeping it lighter. Just like Radu Mihăileanu did in “Train of Life”.
  5. China Mieville, Un Lun Dun: another trove of potential special effects… Or rather… I would love to see this animated, possibly by the people who did “Shrek 2”.

That’s all for now!