Pereira Maintains by Antonio Tabucchi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It was one of those days when I had a good meal; the fresh herbs, the right salt, the approachable variety, the generous portions, the nice host. I walked back home with a content smile. Upon unlocking the door, a whiff of scented potpourri filled my senses and I sunk on my couch thinking, ‘a day well spent, a tummy well fed.’ I, then, switched off the lights of the living room and yawned to usher in a good night’s sleep. I got up the next morning at the invigorating slant of the sunshine and was enveloped by a good feeling. My mom called up while I was sipping tea.
“How was yesterday? We couldn’t catch up.”
“It was good, mamma. A fruitful day at work.”
“And your dinner? I hope you ate something proper.”
“I did. In fact, a good meal at The Zephyr.”
She didn’t wait for me to finish. “Good meal? Aha! So, what did you eat away, my girl?”
And I blurted almost the same instant, “Oh I had a ………….. ermm ….. (gently crushing my eyelid)… hang on, I think….. (dropping my palms to my lap)… ah well, it was good and that’s enough for one outing, isn’t it, mamma?”
No, I am not aiming at your cupcakes. And I remember I am reviewing a book, a rather interesting novella about Dr. Pereira, a senior editor of culture page in an evening newspaper of Lisbon of 1930s, whose apolitical stand comes under fire when a passionate but troublesome young writer, Rossi, joins him as an assistant. The story was replete with its elements: a hesitant, awkward yet endearing protagonist, his ordinary life whose highlights were hidden in the contours of routine webs, a quirky bunch of colleagues and acquaintances whose frequent entries and exits rendered the story a velvet drape of drama, a politically charged environment that overshadowed the nascent cultural propagation and a constant, waging war between his givings and misgivings. I quite liked Pereira’s demeanor, a wise man on the other side of the age, living a life just so he can write about literature and talk about the same to his dead wife’s photograph. Rossi was a well-sketched representation of that aspect of human beings called habit which eventually draws us into the wells that our elders asked us not to peep into lest we fall prey to their bottomless depths. The excessive shots of lemonade, the chucklesome frown towards the caretaker, the impulsive surges of benevolence, the devout exercise for change, the unexplained reasons of bonding and the adrenaline rush of breaking through: they all had a current which when passed through me, left me in pleasant quivers. But once the current was off for good, I no longer contained the firm after-effects of the sensory pleasure; just like my meal which although left a good taste in my mouth, could not do enough to seal a signature dish or two in my mind, long after I had scrubbed the last morsel off the plate.
For me, the entire experience of witnessing Tabucchi’s Pereira to enact a slice of his life was like sitting in a new class with a moody teacher; there were days when his diction and grasp sparkled with the luminosity of an emerald that refuses to get camouflaged even in the greenest icicles of a dense banyan tree but there were also days when he garbled innocuously in a haphazard gait like an autumn leaf on a gusty evening. Such teachers can inspire if they strike us on a ripe day. Unfortunately, I remained in and out of sync with him with baffled alacrity.
But on a clear day, when the temperature is indulgent and the heart, happily asunder, spotting the little crevices in the simple, plain body of the creation, both edible and sensory, can be a revelation, I maintain.
[A 3.5 actually].
View all my reviews
[Image courtesy http://www.messagez.com ]