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Tucked in and under

Jenny Turner: Tim Parks, 30 September 1999

by Tim Parks.
Secker, 249 pp., £15.99, September 1999, 0 436 22088 1
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... Can this beautiful young model be thinking?’ Tim Parks asks at one point in this book. ‘One hopes not,’ the argument continues, as Parks’s narrator looks through an airline magazine, ‘You do not think, I thought, seeing pictures of people pleasure-making on the beach, perhaps in an advertisement for rum or Martini ...

Bats in Smoke

Emily Gould: Tim Parks, 2 August 2012

Teach Us to Sit Still: A Sceptic’s Search for Health and Healing 
by Tim Parks.
Vintage, 335 pp., £8.99, July 2011, 978 0 09 954888 1
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The Server 
by Tim Parks.
Harvill Secker, 288 pp., £16.99, May 2012, 978 1 84655 577 0
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... At some point in his mid-forties, the novelist Tim Parks developed a terrible pain, near-constant and located in embarrassing places: his lower abdomen and crotch. ‘I had quite a repertoire of pains at this point: a general smouldering tension throughout the abdomen, a sharp jab in the perineum, an electric shock darting down the inside of the thighs, an ache in the small of the back, a shivery twinge in the penis itself ...

Talking Corpses

Tim Parks: ‘Gomorrah’, 4 December 2008

Gomorrah: Italy’s Other Mafia 
by Roberto Saviano, translated by Virginia Jewiss.
Pan, 424 pp., £8.99, October 2008, 978 0 330 45099 7
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directed by Matteo Garrone.
October 2008
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... contraband, the deserted villas of arrested Camorra bosses. He attends the funerals of murder victims and the trials of their killers; he is in the street when Camorra communities raise barriers against police raids. But most of all Saviano wants to be at the scene of the crime: to see the shattered windscreens and the corpses riddled with bullets, to hear ...

Che pasticcio!

Tim Parks: Carlo Emilio Gadda, 20 September 2007

That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana 
by Carlo Emilio Gadda, translated by William Weaver.
NYRB, 388 pp., £8.99, February 2007, 978 1 59017 222 3
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... and again leaves us with an unsolved crime (in this case we are not even sure whether the victim will die or not). Many of Gadda’s shorter pieces turn out to be fragments of unfinished novels, or of almost finished novels that he broke up into fragments, a habit which has prompted critics and editors to spend a lot of ...

The Truth about Consuela

Tim Parks: Death and Philip Roth, 4 November 2010

by Philip Roth.
Cape, 280 pp., £16.99, October 2010, 978 0 224 08953 1
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... theme – he is unashamedly didactic. Death breeds fear and fear breeds religion and social timidity, which reduce us to an oppressed half-life from which we break out at our peril. Childhood may be relatively happy – it offers, as the young narrator Marcus tells us in Indignation, ‘unimperilled, unchanging days when everybody felt safe and settled ...

Rebel States

Tim Parks: Surrender by Gondola, 1 December 2005

The Siege of Venice 
by Jonathan Keates.
Chatto, 495 pp., £20, September 2005, 0 7011 6637 1
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... in his great study of the Italian Renaissance, ‘of that half-religious loyalty by which the legitimate princes of the West were supported.’ The removal of the apex of the medieval hierarchy did not lead to the system’s total collapse. In the 14th century, an attempt by the Florentine woolworkers to get rid of the wealthy oligarchs who had ditched the ...

Fresh, Generous, Colourful, Idyllic

Tim Parks: ‘Graziella’, 21 February 2019

by Alphonse de Lamartine, translated by Raymond MacKenzie.
Minnesota, 168 pp., £12.99, November 2018, 978 1 5179 0247 6
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... wide-open eyes stared now at the book, now at my lips, from which the story was flowing and sometimes at the gap between my lips and the book as if she were seeking the invisible spirit that was communicating to me. I heard her uneven breath stopping and starting, following the rhythm of the drama … By the time I ...

My Hermit’s Life

Tim Parks: Chateaubriand, 27 September 2018

Memoirs from beyond the Grave 1768-1800 
by François-René de Chateaubriand, translated by Alex Andriesse.
NYRB, 512 pp., £12.99, January 2018, 978 1 68137 129 0
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... I met with a farmer at the end of some fallow field, I would stop to look at this man whose seedtime was spent in the shadow of the same wheat among which he would soon be reaped.’ When the Memoirs are not ‘a registry of deaths’, they are a chronicle of exile. ‘On leaving my mother’s womb, I underwent my first exile,’ Chapter 3 begins. Baby ...

A Pair of Yellow Gloves

Tim Parks: Stendhal’s ‘Italian Chronicles’, 18 October 2017

Italian Chronicles 
by Stendhal, translated by Raymond MacKenzie.
Minnesota, 344 pp., £20.99, May 2017, 978 1 5179 0011 3
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... to shade the lily’. There were so many women in his life, so many incidents with women – the time he hid for days in a cellar to enjoy his beloved, the time he sprang from a cupboard to catch an unfaithful mistress in flagrante – that any Stendhal biography risks becoming a procession of them. From his mother, whose ...

Bloody Glamour

Tim Parks: Giuseppe Mazzini, 30 April 2009

Giuseppe Mazzini and the Globalisation of Democratic Nationalism 1830-1920 
edited by C.A. Bayly and Eugenio Biagini.
Oxford, 419 pp., £45, September 2008, 978 0 19 726431 7
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... insistence that a peaceful world depended on the spread of democratic republics, that makes him a timely object of study. The more, however, one reads the essays in Giuseppe Mazzini and the Globalisation of Democratic Nationalism 1830-1920, the less enthusiastic one feels about the man’s ideas, and the more fascinated by the man. Born in Genoa in 1805, his ...

Full of Words

Tim Parks: ‘Arturo’s Island’, 15 August 2019

Arturo’s Island 
by Elsa Morante, translated by Ann Goldstein.
Pushkin, 370 pp., £9.99, May 2019, 978 1 78227 495 7
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... Boötes, the Herdsman, in the northern sky! And that this name was also borne by a king in ancient times, the commander of a band of faithful followers: all heroes, like the king himself, and treated by the king as equals, as brothers. Unfortunately, I later discovered that that famous Arthur, king of Britain, was not a true story, only a legend; and so I ...


Gabriele Annan: Anita Desai, 27 May 1999

Fasting, Feasting 
by Anita Desai.
Chatto, 240 pp., £14.99, June 1999, 0 7011 6894 3
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... When Tim Parks reviewed Salman Rushdie’s latest novel, The Ground beneath Her Feet, in the New York Review of Books he grumbled ‘that the sheer quantity of events that crowd these 575 pages is such as to overwhelm any depiction of inner life or any mind’s attempt to grasp the half of them’. By the end of his piece he is thoroughly exasperated: ‘By making the double gesture of appearing clear-sighted and then filling his pages with supernatural incident and metaphysical muddle that could mean anything or nothing, Rushdie, and many like him [my italics], play to those who, while understandably unwilling to subscribe to any belief so well defined as to be easily knocked down, nevertheless yearn to have all the mystical balls kept perpetually spinning in the air before them ...

Tight in the Cockpit

Joanna Kavenna: Tim Parks’s ‘The Rapids’, 5 May 2005

by Tim Parks.
Secker, 246 pp., £15.99, March 2005, 0 436 20559 9
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... Tim Parks’s latest novel opens in the forests of the South Tyrol, where a group of white-water enthusiasts are taking a kayaking holiday. The river is overflowing with melt water from a thawing glacier, and the kayakers find themselves endangered by the force of the current, as the river runs ever faster and fuller ...


Tim Parks: Hugging a fraud, 19 February 1998

... peculiar about the mind’, ‘esiste o non esiste’ has come down to ‘exists or not’ this time. For some reason I’m not even worried about that now. For ‘precede ogni altro’ I’ve chosen ‘comes before’ rather than the cognate ‘precedes’. I’ve noticed I have a habit of going for the Anglo-Saxon where I can. Is this a valuable intuition ...

Beware Remembrance Sunday

Tim Parks: Graham Swift, 2 June 2011

Wish You Were Here 
by Graham Swift.
Picador, 353 pp., £18.99, June 2011, 978 0 330 53583 0
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... stairs and carried the shotgun out to the pick-up too. Jack and Tom were both in the yard at the time, but felt from the way their father was looking and moving that they shouldn’t speak. Then Michael went into the kitchen where Luke was by now confined to his blanket in a corner – beyond even padding his way to the door – and lifted him up and carried ...

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