Tim Parks is the author of many novels, translations, and works of nonfiction, most recently Life and Work: Writers, Readers, and the Conversations Between Them and the novel In Extremis. (November 2017)

Follow Tim Parks on Twitter: @TimParksauthor.

IN THE REVIEW

How Mary Anne Became George

The Transferred Life of George Eliot: The Biography of a Novelist

by Philip Davis
A sonnet sequence is traditionally addressed to a lover and recounts a turbulent, romantic love. Mary Anne Evans, writing under the pseudonym George Eliot, is perhaps unique in having dedicated such a sequence to her brother, Isaac Evans. Published in 1869, when the novelist turned fifty, the poems focus on …

Mr. Smith Goes to Rome

A poster celebrating the Italian Air Armada’s transatlantic flight from Rome to Chicago for the 1933 World’s Fair

The “Mito Americano” and Italian Literary Culture Under Fascism

by Jane Dunnett, with a foreword by Massimo Bacigalupo
What was America to Italy and Italy to America during the twenty years of Fascist rule? Arriving in Italy to live in 1981, and learning Italian very largely by reading the works of writers who had come through Fascism, I soon became familiar with the accepted view of literary life …

A Game of Love and Chance

Ramon Saizarbitoria in Donostia, the Basque name for San Sebastián in northern Spain, 2015

Martutene

by Ramon Saizarbitoria, translated from the Basque by Aritz Branton, and edited by Cecilia Ross
A middle-aged married mother flying from Heathrow to Bilbao becomes fascinated by a bearded man boarding the same plane. When a bag he’s holding breaks, spilling books into the aisle, she gives him a good strong Harrods bag and helps gather the books up. Grateful, and despite the crowd of …

Montaigne: What Was Truly Courageous?

Remarking on a painter he had hired to decorate his house, a man whose habit was to fill in the empty spaces around his central painting with “odd fantastic figures without any grace but what they derive from their variety,” Montaigne draws a comparison with his own writing. “And in …

NYR DAILY

How Best to Read Auto-Fiction

Leo Tolstoy with his wife, Sophia (Sonya), in the garden at Yasnaya Polyana, circa 1890

In 1887, Tolstoy went back to fiction and wrote The Kreutzer Sonata. In that novella, a man who holds exactly Tolstoy’s extreme views on sex (that it is utterly disgusting), and whose courtship and marriage in every way described corresponds to the author’s own biography, kills his wife in a fit of jealousy when he assumes (probably wrongly) that she is betraying him with her handsome violin teacher. Was this wishful thinking? Was it a warning to himself of what he might be capable of? Was it an exploration of the relation of his extreme views to real behavior?

Do Flashbacks Work in Literature?

Max Ferguson: Time (oil painting), 2006

Is there no merit or sense in the flashback as a literary device? Didn’t Joyce use it? And Faulkner? Or David Lodge, for that matter? Or John Updike? Or going back before Austen, Laurence Sterne? In which case, can there really be, as Colm Tóibín appears to suggest, an association between the flashback and “our unhappy age”?

Italy: ‘Whoever Wins Won’t Govern’

Silvio Berlusconi, himself barred from elected office until 2019, campaigning for his party, Forza Italia, in Rome, February 11, 2018

The Italians go to the polls on March 4, and from outside, it might look as though there are major, exciting, and, above all, dangerous developments in the offing: the return of the octogenarian Silvio Berlusconi, the rapid rise of anti-establishment Five Star Movement, the ever more aggressive rhetoric of the xenophobic Northern League. Yet the perception among most Italians is that the political system is simply too dysfunctional and blocked for much to happen at all.

Consciousness and the World

Herbert List: Spirit of Lycabettus XIII, Athens, Mount Lycabettus, 1937

Parks: You mean, essentially, that we are objects, and objects “take place,” rather than act. Manzotti: We are part of the physical world, hence objects. What else could we be—immaterial souls? As for identity, we are what we are because we are identical with a portion of the world that has come together over the years in a certain way. The traditional separation of subject and object that underpins all standard thinking on consciousness and identity lies at the heart of our troubles as individuals and as a society.