Academic journal article Italica

Il Gioco del Rovescio: Bassani's Gli Occhiali D'oro and Tabucchi's Sostiene Pereira

Academic journal article Italica

Il Gioco del Rovescio: Bassani's Gli Occhiali D'oro and Tabucchi's Sostiene Pereira

Article excerpt


"Tutto, in tremila anni di storia letteraria e stato gia raccontato. Nonostante questo, quando ci si mette alla scrivania a scrivere, si racconta una storia sempre in modo diverso"

(Tabucchi, Conversazione con Antonio Tabucchi)

In an interview given to Giovanni Palmieri in 1994, shortly after the publication of his novel Sostiene Pereira, Antonio Tabucchi acknowledged that scholars and reviewers are often able to trace in his works "borrowings" or influences of which he himself was not aware. And so, in that particular interview Tabucchi reported Cesare Segre's comments on the presence of Antonio Machado in the novel--a presence of which Tabucchi claimed he was not conscious but "evidentemente apparteneva al [suo] inconscio di scrittore" (Palmieri, "Intervista ad Antonio Tabucchi" 27). (1)

In the same interview, as well as in his review of Tabucchi's novel which is published with it, Palmieri suggested a connection between Tabucchi's Pereira and the Giacomo Pereira protagonist of Italo Svevo's play Degenerazione. In addition to the family names, the two characters appear related by their obsessive musing on death, their (planned or eventuated) treatment in a hydrotherapy clinic, their contacts with doctors familiar with psychoanalytical theories, and their addiction to smoke, sugared lemon drinks, or herb omelettes--an addiction each tries in vain to abandon ("Una fine non tutta annunciata" 26). Tabucchi claimed ignorance of that particular play by Svevo as well, but maintained that the connection was of great interest. In fact, toward the end of the interview Tabucchi invited reviewers and scholars to trace in his works "tutti i nodi romanzeschi a me sconosciuti o da me non risolti" (Palmieri, "Intervista ad Antonio Tabucchi" 27).

Academics appear to have wholeheartedly accepted Tabucchi's invitation and challenge. The study of intertextuality, which Julie Sanders defines as "how texts encompass and respond to each other both during the process of their creation and composition and in terms of the individual reader's [...] response" (2), has in fact been a very prolific and insightful field of research for Tabucchi's scholars. Martin McLaughlin, for example, has identified in the eleven stories of Il gioco dei rovescio intertextual references to ten writers, ranging from Pindaro and Shakespeare to Hemingway and Virginia Wolfe. And for the eleven stories of Piccoli equivoci senza importanza, McLaughlin lists, among others, references to Sophocles, Proust, and Baudelaire. (2)

In the same article, McLaughlin has stressed the considerable number of intertextual references that can be found in Sostiene Pereira, and mentioned in particular the four stories which the novel's protagonist translated for publication--or possible publication--in the Lisboa: an unidentified story by Maupassant; Balzac's Honorine; Daudet's story "La derniere classe"; and finally the first chapter of Bernanos's Journal d'un cure de campagne. These translations by Pereira represent, according to McLaughlin, "il lento risveglio della sua coscienza" (39), moving in succession from a story of love and death, to a tale of repentance, onto a subsequent political message, and finally (to use Pereira's words) to "un libro serio, etico, che trattava di problemi fondamentali" (175). (3)

Fernando Carmona Fernandez, on the other hand, has successfully argued that several aspects of Sostiene Pereira remind readers of Camus's L'Etranger: the short length of the two novels; the use of short chapters; a plot concerning a character whose life is changed by an unexpected event; a narration which plays between first and third person; the setting of the stories in approximately the same time frame; and the existential dimension of the works (161-162). (4)

To the "ever-expanding network of textual relations" (Sanders 3) which previous scholars have identified in Tabucchi's 1994 novel, I will add a further one which has remained until now undetected: Giorgio Bassani's 1958 short novel Gli occhiali d'oro. …

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