Italian Life, a Modern Fable of Loyalty and Betrayal by Tim Parks
On his website Tim Parks insists that much of this novel is made up…and maybe that’s true. On the other hand, you can see why he’d need to say that.
To begin with, the reader is mainly laughing whilst shaking their head. But as the story unfolds, it begins to horrify and you realise that you don’t even know how that happened, the process by which the laughing stopped. The night before I finished it, I had an angry sleep. James’ boss, the Rector, is – put-downable, by which I mean the world would be a much better place without this scumbag. I laid in bed probably feeling about the same as Robert De Niro does the night before he does the scenes where he bashes people’s heads in with whatever sporting equipment he happens to be carrying at the time. BRING IT ON. Memo to PA: cancel my craps game in the morning. I’m playing baseball.
Another way of putting all this is that it’s very hard to believe it’s made up. It could scarcely feel more real. And, as is so often the case when I read literature set in Italy, I see my own childhood, which was quite brutal in parts, on the page. The irony being that my father perpetuated what he had intended to avoid when raising kids. Uggggh.
I have a friend who is Italian working in an Australian university after doing her PhD here. Although she is having a miserable time, as all academics are – the ones who do all the shitwork, not the management academics who take all the money – I do wonder if it is nonetheless a better scene than she’d be experiencing at her level in Italy. I must ask her.
This is my first Tim Parks, he’s a great writer who I suspect is undervalued for the reason we look down on so many talented people today. He is good at more than one thing and declines to specialise. He is a highly regarded translator, a critic of note, a writer of memoir, and last but not least a talented novelist. I’d never heard of him and nor had half a dozen other well and widely read people I asked. I’ve now collected half a dozen more by him from secondhand shops. I’m going to read the lot.