As you all know by now, I have quite a penchant for Italian authors and whenever a new one crops up in this list I do become a bit excited. This is my first Tabucchi, although I have read a lot about him and now I can see why he’s talked about in literary circles.
Pereira is an overweight worrywart obsessed with death and routine. When he’s not dining on omelettes , he’s publishing translations of French short stories for a culture page for a third-rate Portuguese newspaper. It is 1938 Lisbon and war tensions are rising, plus the Salazar regime is taking hold on the country. Despite all this Pereira is blissfully ignorant and only receives a convoluted news update from the waiter in his favourite cafe.
Things change when he hires Montiero Rossi, a political runaway, as a features editor for the culture page. Slowly Pereira starts to realise what is actually happening around him and starts to control his obsessiveness and over eating. This is further accentuated by a week’s visit to a clinic (it’s also the novel’s highlight) where a doctor forces him to alter his life.
Pereira’s transformation is complete when Rossi is beaten to death by the secret police and he publishes an article detailing this brutal murder and leaves Lisbon for a new life (and naturally to escape persecution)
Without going into the usual reasons on why I found Pereira Declares an enjoyable read, I can say that it’s very rare to find a book which focuses on a serious topic and makes you laugh at the same time. It works on both levels and is definitely worth a read.