One of the most intriguing and appealing character studies in recent European fiction.” -Kirkus Reviews

Concise, intense and original, Antonio Tabucchi’s prize winning novel set in Portugal during the Spanish Civil war, was written in 1994 and won the Premio Campiello in Italy.  The 1996 film version of the novel starred Marcello Mastroianni as Pereira in one of his final cinematic roles.

A journalist and a widower, Pereira is a good person, but he’s getting old and his heart is struggling due to his diet of too many omelettes aux fine herbes, and a dozen sugar-laced lemonades every day. His doctor insists he must address his health issues as a matter of urgency, but what about his spiritual health? Why is he dogged by a pressing need to repent, and for what?

To a woman he meets on a train he insists that “it isn’t easy to do one’s best in a country like this for a person like me, you know I’m not Thomas Mann, I am only the obscure editor of the culture page of a second rate evening paper, I write up anniversaries and translate nineteenth century French stories, more than that I cannot do.” But can he, in all conscience, simply stand by and persist with his apolitical stance towards the fascist Salazar regime when Jewish businesses are being attacked and a local activist sympathetic to the Republican cause in Spain has been murdered in cold blood?

In a culture where state censorship is normalised, inevitably self-censorship follows and in the words of Pereira’s conformist newspaper boss:

“It is we who must be vigilant, we who must be cautious, we journalists who are versed in history and culture, we have to keep a watchful eye on ourselves.”

As politics and world events begin to intrude on Pereira’s professional and personal life, can he dispense with caution and find the strength to carry out a small yet significant act of individual courage?


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