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Pereira Maintains [Paperback]

Antonio Tabucchi
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
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Book Description

21 July 2011
In the sweltering summer of 1938 in Portugal, a country under the fascist shadow of Spain, a mysterious young man arrives at the doorstep of Dr Pereira. So begins an unlikely alliance that will result in a devastating act of rebellion. This is Pereira's testimony.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books (21 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847679366
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847679369
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 98,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


A masterpiece --Mohsin Hamid

The most impressive novel I've read for years --Philip Pullman

Close to being a perfect novel --John Carey

Tabucchi now takes his place alongside Irene Nemirovsky, Sandor Marai and Stefan Zweig as one of the great Continental rediscoveries for English-speaking readers in recent years --Daily Telegraph

It goes on getting better in one's head after one has stopped reading it
--Diana Athill

About the Author

Antonio Tabucchi is one of Italy's most acclaimed contemporary writers. Born in Pisa in 1943, Tabucchi is the author of twenty novels and short story collections, nine of which have been translated into English, together with numerous essays and plays. Twice shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize, he has been awarded many prestigious prizes, including the Prix Medicis etranger for Indian Nocturne and the Premio Campiello, the Premio Viareggio and the Aristeion Prize for Pereira Maintains. Emeritus professor at the University of Siena, he has taught at Bard College in New York, the Ecole de Hautes Etudes and the College de France in Paris, and currently divides his time between Paris and Lisbon.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A literary page turner 16 Nov 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This novel has been described as a literary page turner and having read it I agree totally with that statement. It is immediately obvious why the novel is called 'Pereira maintains' although the reason why this should be so is left ambiguous at the end of the story. Despite the lead character's apparent political naiveté, which seems odd given that he was a crime reporter for thirty years, you do empathise with his situation. In many ways Dr Peirera's own lack of poltical awareness is a reflection of wider Portuguese society in the late 1930s which was very much a dark period in the history of Portugal. This is a world you are drawn into because of the author's skilful writing - in terms of his prose style and storytelling. Both sad and uplifting this is undoubtedly one of the very best novels I've read in recent years.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 1930s Portugal 31 Jan 2011
By elkiedee VINE VOICE
This short novel by the Italian writer Antonio Tabucchi is set in Lisbon, Portugal in 1938. Salazar's government at the time was sympathetic to fascism, as represented by Mussolini's regime in Italy and General Franco's forces in the Spanish Civil War.

Pereira is a journalist working for a small evening paper and has been asked to set up a culture section. He does not think of himself as particularly political, just a man getting on with a rather dull, unsatisfying job and mourning his dead wife. Maybe he can promote the literature and values he loves without causing any trouble in his new position - he translates a 19th century Balzac story from French for inclusion in the paper.

Then he reads an article by a young man and offers him work, a decision which is going to shake up his life. Monteiro Rossi turns out to be totally set on writing unprintably subversive articles extolling the revolutionary political views of his heroes. Pereira is soon introduced to his attractive and fiercely opinionated girlfriend Marta.

Pereira quickly finds himself committed to supporting these young dissidents and their views, whatever the cost to him. The story is told using the phrase "Pereira maintains" several times on each page - he is trying to explain what happened, as if he was sucked in despite himself.

There is a lot to think about within this book, and it has made me want to find out more about Portuguese history, in the context of Europe in 1938 and the looming war for or against fascism. Pereira has been trying not to take sides, but in the story he feels compelled to take the side of what he feels is right, at any cost.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER
This novel demonstrates why my previous policy of avoiding novels translated into English is a mistake. In the same way, to assume that such a short, very readable novel must be lightweight is another error.

Impeccably translated from Italian, this subtly humorous story with a growing underlying sense of menace captures Lisbon in the summer heat of 1938, as Portugal slides into fascist dictatorship on the coattails of its aggressive neighbour, Spain, under the influence of Franco.

Punctuated with the refrain, "Pereira maintains", this is the testimony of a journalist employed in a sinecure to produce the new weekly cultural page for a small newspaper, "The Lisboa". Sunk into a dull routine, overweight and unhealthy, Pereira's life revolves around eating "omelettes aux fines herbes", drinking sugary lemonade at the Cafe Orchidea, and communing with a photograph of his dead wife.

Since he is a humane man with principles, he is gradually forced out of his ostrichlike state by the examples of repression which become increasingly hard to ignore. A carter is murdered by the police for being a socialist, but staff on "The Lisboa" are too scared to report the story in the boss's absence: information on the real state of affairs has to be gleaned from listening to the BBC or obtaining a foreign newspaper. An attractive woman whom Pereira meets on a train confides that she is planning emigration to the US, because she is Jewish. The office telephone system is altered without warning so that all calls come through the nosy female caretaker, clearly a police spy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pereira Maintains 24 Aug 2012
Set in pre-war Portugal, Pereira Maintains is about Dr Pereira, editor of the culture pages of a mediocre weekly newspaper, ageing and lonely and struggeling with his health. By a series of coincidences he meets Monteiro Rossi, a young man on the edge of the Spanish resistance movement against Franco. The times are tense, Europe is about to erupt into a bloody war and these are not the times to be associated with young vagrants with doubtful political affiliations. Yet Pereira find himself drawn to Rossi and his friends, an attraction which will eventually lead this little story to a brave and dramatic conclusion.

This is a small book which might feel slow and uneventful at times, but suspense it not Tabucchi's motive. It is a hearbreaking glimpse into Dr Preira's life where we get a very human perspective of the choices he makes. We meet a man who, at the tail end of his life, is desperately lonely since his wife died. He is mourning for the children they never had and dreaming wonderful dreams of his youth while his overweight body slowly lets him down. Pereira is a lost, weak and vulnerable old man.

The narration is unique - it reads alost like a witness statement. The phrase 'Pereira maintains' is repeated throughout this book, giving us the sense that he is being pressed on the accuracy of his account. At the same time, it has a finicky, tentative tone of an old man. It pays attention to the weather and what he is eating, how he sleeps - all things an old man would be concerned with. It fits Pereira perfectly - He is hesitant and timid, he prioretizes his comfort and is startled by small changes in his routine. It is a perfect process of character creation, which makes his final act of rebellion even more impressive.

This book has a slow build and a quick finish - As long as you take it for what it is, and as long as you are not expecting a fast-paced political thriller, there is no reason why you shouldn't enjoy this book as much as I did.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece
It is not just the gripping story or the lovingly painted portret of Pereira,who talks to a photograph of his late wife. Read more
Published 6 days ago by I. B. M. Hoogstad
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, I maintain.
Great story, set at a nice pace and beautifully written. Interesting and difficult period of history. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Dominic H. King
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read
A great read, beautifully written, superb translation! A subtle and profound account of the repercussions of the Spanish Civil war in Portugal.
Published 3 months ago by Tamara Haggard
4.0 out of 5 stars An unusual story
This is a story of the day to day life of a competant journalist in Portugal in the 1930's. The early stages of the book are very placid detailing the daily toil of this widower... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Terry Higgins
5.0 out of 5 stars A real discovery
A real discovery this that was recommended by a friend. The narrative is unusual in that appears to be the record of some kind of judicial interview. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Peter
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost perfect
The Spanish Civil War is thundering on. The prospects for the Republicans are not looking good. Mussolini, Hitler, and Salazar (Portugal's dictator) are helping Franco to defeat... Read more
Published 5 months ago by ADAM
1.0 out of 5 stars irritating
The constant refrain "Pereira maintains" is so irritating, as well as pointless, that I didn't finish this book, despite the rave reviews.
Published 5 months ago by Miss D. Nicol
4.0 out of 5 stars A Surprisingly Good Read
This book was an unexpected joy. I found it difficult to read at first; the main character was not particularly attractive and the pace of the novel was slow and meandering so... Read more
Published 6 months ago by yvonne crampin
4.0 out of 5 stars Lisbon 1938
Set during the reign of Salazar which continued until gthe 1970's. Times of suppression and secret police. It captures the dangers of the time. Written in the 3rd. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Ann Maguire
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
I greatly enjoyed reading this book.. It is a good story and will keep you engrossed. I recommend it. Read it.
Published 10 months ago by Douglas Blackstock
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