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Tucked in and under

Jenny Turner: Tim Parks

30 September 1999
Destiny 
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?’ TimParks 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 ... that for all ...

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 TimParks 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 ...

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 the 13th century, Florence banned its noble families from holding public office and instituted a republic. The names of a few hundred select citizens were placed in leather bags and every two months a new government was drawn by lot. In more conservative Venice, a group of nobles simply elected one of their number doge for life. There was no question of hereditary succession. Even where there were ...

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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... Despite his eighty years (1893-1973) and many publications, an air of incompletion lingers about the work of Carlo Emilio Gadda. His most popular novel, That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana, is an unfinished murder story. His best work, Acquainted with Grief, is again unfinished 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 ...

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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Gomorrah 
directed by Matteo Garrone.
October 2008
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... When Lot lived in Sodom and Gomorrah,’ Peter wrote in his Second Epistle, ‘he was oppressed and tormented day after day by their lawless deeds.’ Having grown up in Naples, Roberto Saviano is similarly tormented and oppressed. Gomorrah is his account of the lawless deeds of the Camorra, the Neapolitan Mafia. Conveniently assonant as the two names may be, the crimes of Naples are not those we ...

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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... On 22 February 1854, James Buchanan, then the American ambassador in London but soon to be president of the US, celebrated George Washington’s birthday with a dinner to which Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi were invited. At Mazzini’s request other leading revolutionaries were present: Kossuth (Hungary), Worcell (Poland), Ruge (Germany), Herzen (Russia) and Ledru-Rollin (France). Together ...

The Truth about Consuela

Tim Parks: Death and Philip Roth

4 November 2010
Nemesis 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 280 pp., £16.99, October 2010, 978 0 224 08953 1
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... In the 1980s I translated some of the late novels and stories of Alberto Moravia, elderly but still prolific. These books, which abandoned observation of society for concerns with ageing and sex, did not get a good press and have since disappeared from the shelves, while Moravia’s earlier work will be a part of Italian education for decades to come. Translating, I was struck by the almost cavalier ...

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, 978 1 78227 495 7
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... Given​ the current enthusiasm for the practice of literary translation, the frequent claims that this or that English version captures or even surpasses the original, one might suppose that there is little point in reading a foreign novel in the original language. Yet some literary styles remain elusive in translation. The characters in Elsa Morante’s masterpiece, Arturo’s Island, are bewitched ...

Fresh, Generous, Colourful, Idyllic

Tim Parks: ‘Graziella’

21 February 2019
Graziella 
by Alphonse de Lamartine, translated by Raymond MacKenzie.
Minnesota, 168 pp., £12.99, November 2018, 978 1 5179 0247 6
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... Ecstasy​ and chastity. In Alphonse de Lamartine’s two most famous novels, a young man and woman seem to feel for each other what we usually think of as romantic love, but never become lovers, don’t kiss and hardly touch. The ostensible reasons for this are social and moral. In Graziella, the class difference between the young French aristocrat and the Neapolitan fisherman’s daughter makes marriage ...

Sugar-Sticky

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 TimParks 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 ...

Tight in the Cockpit

Joanna Kavenna: Tim Parks’s ‘The Rapids’

5 May 2005
Rapids 
by Tim Parks.
Secker, 246 pp., £15.99, March 2005, 0 436 20559 9
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... TimParks’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 ...

Prajapati

Tim Parks: Hugging a fraud

19 February 1998
... concept, is it not? I’d hate to look up some English translation of the Sanskrit and find it said, ‘There was nothing before the mind.’ Mere chronology. Prajapati. Mahidasa Aitareya. Calasso. Parks. Tongueless, Sanskrit, Italian, English. I think about this improbable chain of communication. Prajapati, the Progenitor. Surely his state of pure mind was enormously different from the buzz of my ...

Dangerous Faults

Frank Kermode

4 November 1993
Shear 
by Tim Parks.
Heinemann, 214 pp., £13.99, August 1993, 0 434 57745 6
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... This is TimParks’s sixth novel. He has also done some serious translation – Moravia, Calvino, Calasso’s The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony – and written a lively book about his life in Italy. And now, by way ...

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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... Perhaps the finest piece of storytelling in this novel has to do with the death of a dog. Three characters are involved: Michael Luxton, a taciturn dairy farmer; Jack, his elder son, aged 26; and Tom, his much younger son, approaching his 18th birthday. The old sick dog, named Luke, was originally just a farm dog, then for many years Jack’s close companion, but now more recently Tom’s. The events ...

On and off the High Road

Tim Parks: Anglomania in Europe

27 May 1999
Voltaire's Coconuts 
by Ian Buruma.
Weidenfeld, 326 pp., £18.99, March 1999, 0 297 64312 6
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... Italy has just come to the end of another referendum campaign. Two general elections ago a new system of voting was introduced. Instead of the extreme form of proportional representation in force since 1948, a first-past-the-post system was introduced for 75 per cent of the seats in the lower house, while 25 per cent would continue to be allotted on a proportional basis. The recent referendum proposed ...

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