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"...never an equilibrio interiore...",
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This review is from: Europa (Paperback)
Twice short-listed for prizes such as the Booker in 1997 and 2003, Parks has been overlooked too often to be fair to his literary talents. His book Judge Savage and his Italian murder mystery series Cara Massimina and Mimi's Ghost are my favourites of his work so far, but I have lots of other titles to try. This one has the background of the European Parliament and takes place over four days of a trip to Brussels to deliver a petition to put foreign language translaters on the same salary as Italian nationals doing the same job. We see everything from Jerry's consciousness. He is one of the delegates, and though he is an intelligent and attractive protagonist, he alternates between a brusquely non communicative and vaguely hostile attitude, and being one of the lads. The sexism is shockingly endemic; the girl students are "tottie," (a sneeringly abusive term for a group of girl students brought along to add their support to the project. Or alternatively, to provide the male teachers with entertainment). Jerry's friend, Vikram Griffiths and his dog Dafydd - a mongrel that Jerry dislikes on sight, the enigmatic and too-smooth Georg, and the creepily sexist, Colin are a few of the other tutors on the trip. What saves it from a bad Carry-On up The Alps sequence is the sad, witty, and sometimes excoriating freize of impressions, thoughts and memories that run through Jerry's mind.
Even though this is brilliantly rendered and reads with perfect and timely pitch, it can feel overwhelming. Many of his books use this relentless internal consciousness and do succeed in pulling off what must be a bit of a writing nightmare (to turn oneself into someone else in successive books!) Parks does it brilliantly - in at least two other fictions I can think of off-hand - the above named Judge Savage, and in Shear (also one of my favourite books).
Also aboard the Eurocoach is the woman with whom Jerry had a recent and torrid affair. (to some extent this relationship balances the sexism since she's largely been the one in charge here) But it's not over for her, and it's not over for him, however hard he tries to fight it. A tragedy lies in wait at the heart of this book. It is deeply involving, unexpectedly sad, discursive, sometimes sharply erotic, at other moments challenging and moving.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Jul 2013 15:44:19 BDT
Dan Smith says:
Good review - love your name by the way. I was a big Kokoschka fan in my youth.
In reply to an earlier post on 20 Jul 2013 15:48:45 BDT
Eileen Shaw says:
Thanks so much for your response. And I'm still a fan of Kokoschka.
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