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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Pereira Declares
(Declares Pereira)
(Pereira Maintains)

Antonio Tabucchi

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To purchase Pereira Declares

Title: Pereira Declares
Author: Antonio Tabucchi
Genre: Novel
Written: 1994 (Eng.: 1995)
Length: 136 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: Pereira Declares - US
Pereira Maintains - UK
Pereira Declares - Canada
Pereira prétend - France
Erklärt Pereira - Deutschland
Sostiene Pereira - Italia
Sostiene Pereira - España
  • A Testimony
  • Translated by Patrick Creagh
  • Italian title: Sostiene Pereira
  • US title: Pereira Declares
  • UK title: Declares Pereira
  • New (2010 ed.) UK title: Pereira Maintains
  • Made into a movie, Afirma Pereira, in 1996. Directed by Roberto Faenza, and starring Marcello Mastroianni, Daniel Auteuil, and Marthe Keller

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Our Assessment:

A- : powerful, understated novel

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Financial Times . 15/11/2010 Ian Thomson
FAZ . 15/11/1995 Gustav Seibt
The Guardian . 20/10/1995 Sousa Jamba
The Independent . 22/10/2015 Leyla Sanai
The NY Times Book Rev. . 21/7/1996 Lawrence Venuti
The Observer . 21/11/2010 Ophelia Field
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Fall/1996 Irving Malin
Salon A 14/5/1996 Trey Graham
Sydney Morning Herald A+ 8/1/2011 Peter Craven
The Telegraph A 8/11/2010 Michael Arditti
TLS A 13/10/1995 Jonathan Keates
TLS . 10/3/2000 Lawrence Venuti
TLS . 5/11/2010 Frank Burbage
TLS . 7/1/2022 Chiara Marchelli
World Lit. Today . Summer/95 Anthony Costantini

  Review Consensus:

  Generally positive, though a number of opinions are not clearly expressed. Note also various interpretations of why Pereira is "declaring" throughout the book.

  From the Reviews:
  • "This new edition in English is almost identical to the one issued in 1995 under the title Pereira Declares, and it grips from start to finish. In pages of lucid prose, Tabucchi conjures a shadowy atmosphere in late 1930s Lisbon, when cultural life lay under the dull hand of authoritarian surveillance." - Ian Thomson, Financial Times

  • "Das Bedeutungsvolle und Hintersinnige, mit dem Tabucchis Büchlein kokettiert, machte es dann auch für nichtitalienische Literaturfreunde reizvoll, denen vor allem die Machart gefiel." - Gustav Seibt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "The power of this slim book is inversely proportional to its size and modest, unassuming tone. (...) Tabucchi's spare prose is elegant. Its economy, and the growing sense of foreboding, seize the reader's attention and leave palpable threats hanging. (...) Creagh's translation is, for the most part, fluid and unobtrusive though there are rare clumsy touches." - Leyla Sanai, The Independent

  • "Pereira Declares is certainly a work in the high esthetic mode, a historical novel cast in delicately evocative prose and filled with witty references to the great figures of modern European literature. In it Italians could examine their political consciences through an artful image of another country's past. The novel is worth reading not simply because it is ingenious and moving, but because it links politics, commerce and good writing in a way that's rare in this country." - Lawrence Venuti, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Growing apprehension, however, is assisted by something oblique and disjointed in the prose -- the slight lag behind words and phrases experienced even in excellent translations." - Ophelia Field, The Observer

  • "Why does Tabucchi stress the word declares? He suggests that, even though we don't recognize our little rituals, we are, in effect, declaring ourselves to Others !" - Irving Malin, Review of Contemporary Fiction

  • "(A) brief, absorbing and ultimately cathartic story of personal heroism in the face of political tyranny." - Trey Graham, Salon

  • "It helps that all the voices, from the bland, arrogant editor-in-chief to that of an assassin, are plausible and familiar. And somehow it's this chorus of plausibilities that makes Pereira Maintains into the extraordinary work it is. (...) Pereira Maintains is a ravishing literary performance, dark and dazzling in execution and convincing in its depiction of human life pushed up against the puppet shows of the worst things in the world. It has a gravity and a moral seriousness that leave most fiction in the shade and Tabucchi shows a mastery of exposition that makes this book a compelling political thriller that is also, with no ambiguity in the world, a remarkable work of art." - Peter Craven, Sydney Morning Herald

  • "Pereira Maintains is a concise, intense and original novel. First published in 1994, it is reissued here in a ludic translation by Patrick Creagh. Tabucchi now takes his place alongside Irène Némirovsky, Sándor Márai and Stefan Zweig as one of the great Continental rediscoveries for English-speaking readers of recent years." - Michael Arditti, The Telegraph

  • "An ardent and perceptive Lusophile, the author has neatly contrived both to assume a specific second skin of Portuguese experience during the late 1930s and to present Declares Pereira as something much more general to our shared awareness, a novel about humane responsibilities within a political framework." - Jonathan Keates, Times Literary Supplement

  • "(T)his elegant translation into English done by Patrick Creagh in 1995, retains the work's startling originality. (...) Pereira Maintains remains as engrossing as important." - Frank Burbage, Times Literary Supplement

  • "By the tale’s end, Pereira’s perspective has shifted, and so has ours: what we had assumed was a simple story about an old, harmless man turns out to be a powerful indictment of authoritarian government. The climax is unexpected and exhilarating." - Chiara Marchelli, Times Literary Supplement

  • "(T)he presence of the political element affects the content as well as the structure and language." - Anthony Costantini, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       This slim novel is set in the summer of 1938, in fascist Portugal. The dictator Antonio Salazar and his regime are a presence, as is, across the border, equally ominously and casting a broader shadow, Franco and the Spanish Civil War.
       The title refers to a recurring feature of the book: it is presented as a series of declarations by Pereira. "Pereira declares ..." this and then that. It may sound annoying, but Tabucchi (and translator Creagh) manage it extremely well, make it an effective and even haunting device.
       Dr. Pereira is in charge of the culture page of a newspaper, Lisboa, and he tries not to concern himself too greatly with political matters. He lives comfortably, a widower who enjoys literature and eating well. He seems satisfied with the small life he leads.
       Impressed by an article he reads by a Monteiro Rossi Dr. Pereira contacts the young author and offers him a job to "write advance obituaries on the great writers of our times", so that material would be on hand if and when these people actually died. The first piece Monteiro Rossi brings him is on the Spanish poet Lorca, and it is far too political to publish in the climate of the times.
       The sparring between the careful Dr. Pereira and the irresponsible and troublemaking (so Dr. Pereira) Monteiro Rossi continues. Despite the young man's unwillingness and inability to conform to the standards the newspaper editor (or rather the political circumstances) requires, Dr. Pereira tries to be of help to him.
       Pereira continues to translate French stories for publication in Lisboa, dutifully submitting them to the censor for approval. However, even he can't ignore the political situation entirely, and it is brought home to him by his young activist friend. Monteiro Rossi is much more involved in the events of the times, dangerously so, and he suffers the consequences. Staying at Dr. Pereira's the authorities catch up with him before he has time to flee.
       Dr. Pereira is witness to the outrages perpetrated in his home, and it moves him to action, a final noble deed of heroism.
       Tabucchi's understated book is an eery evocation of Fascist Iberia. Harmless Dr. Pereira, whose main pleasures are the enjoyment of fine food (there's a lot of eating in this book) and 19th century French literature, is out of touch with the difficult times. It is a very human portrait, and the final generous gesture shows even such a common, apolitical man capable of the necessary small acts of heroism that such times demanded.
       An impressive, moral book, accomplishing a great deal without hammering home any message too hard. Tabucchi presents his story very well -- it is a fine read throughout. Recommended.

       Note: various reviewers have voiced various opinions regarding the reason why Pereira's story is related in this declarative manner ("Pereira declares ..."). Trey Graham suggests (in Salon) that "gradually, it becomes clear that this narrative is some Salazarist bureaucrat's report on the Pereira-Monteiro Rossi affair, the distillation of an interview (interrogation?) that must perforce have occurred after the events it describes." Irving Malin comes to quite a contrary conclusion (in the Review of Contemporary Fiction, see quote above). Part of Tabucchi's art is, of course, the open-ended ambiguities he likes to leave his readers with. The end is not as clear as either of these two reviewers suggest -- possibly they are correct, but there seems no certainty either way (or some other way). And that is the way it should be.

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Pereira Declares: Reviews: Sostiene Pereira - the movie: Antonio Tabucchi: Other books by Antonio Tabucchi under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Italian literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Italian author Antonio Tabucchi lived 1943 to 2012.

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