27 June, 2012

Declares Pereira by Antonio Tabucchi (1994)

There is a gradual awakening as you read this fine novel that clues you in on how the story will end, but this only makes the main character, Dr Pereira, more endearing. Set in Salazar's Portugal in 1938, Dr Pereira is a lonely, affable widower working as an editor at a small Lisbon newspaper. Uninterested in politics, he is nonetheless drawn to a left wing resistance group, a dangerous move in a fascist-friendly state. Answering why he takes this risk is central to understanding this deceptively simple novel, something Pereira's actions ultimately illuminate in an unforgettable way.

11 June, 2012

Chéri by Colette (1920)

I’ve had a bad run with French literature of late, but Chéri has put an end to that. This story of an aging courtesan and her young, rich boy toy was scandalous in its day but now comes across as well, quite charming really. Colette's wry and sharp observations of pre-war high society Parisian petulance and vanity, along with its apparently carefree pleasures, are a delight. Of course all this was soon to be obliterated forever by WW1, and it is change and loss that sit emphatically at the heart of this wonderful novel.