Pereira Maintains, a novel by Italian writer Antonio Tabucchi, may be slight in size but it is certainly big on impact. It’s one of those novels that, even though not a lot happens during the course of the novel, you get really drawn in to and in which the characters just seem very real.
It’s set in Lisbon in the late 1930s, when Dr. Pereira begins the task of editing the cultural pages on the small newspaper the Lisboa. He has the idea of writing advance obituaries for prominent writers of the time and enlists the help of a young man Monteiro Rossi after reading an article written by him on death which left him very affected. He lets himself in for much more than he bargained for, compelled to support Rossi in a world that is beginning to feel the effects of the Spanish Civil War and the coming of the Second World War, and which imposes consequences on those who try to oppose the changes.
I read this book a few weeks ago now but it has stayed with me. I know it is set in Portugal before the Second World War but I feel that Dr. Pereira is alive somewhere, if not in body then in spirit. The spirit of a man quietly questioning what is going on around him, wondering if he has the courage to stand up to it all. I actually want to pick this book up and start reading it again. I feel that in this country so much great literature passes us by, that we only get a small selection of foreign fiction. Perhaps I’m not looking hard enough – I’ll definitely be looking to read more translated fiction in future as this book has reminded me of why I love it so much!