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

Leave Novelists Out of Fiction

Jonathan Wolstenholme: Shakespearean Scholar, 2003

Very likely, the war years did offer Samuel Beckett images and experiences that, stripped of context, he would make universally powerful, but speculatively reconstructing the context to then color it with the melodrama Beckett assiduously pared away hardly seems a helpful exercise. It is the reductio ad absurdum of this strange form of fiction that would have us consume our literary heroes in a conveniently palatable sauce. We should read our great authors, not mythologize them.

Consciousness: An Object Lesson

Giorgio Morandi: Large metaphysical still life, 1918

Manzotti: Perhaps it’s time to ditch the word “consciousness” and simply talk about experience….Your body is such a thing and when your body is there, an apple is there, too. Not an apple reproduced like a photo in your head. An apple there on the table, in relation with your body. Parks: So, anything the body experiences as an effect—which is to say, anything it experiences—is an object?

The Hardening of Consciousness

Jean Cocteau: The Ram, 1900-1963

Manzotti: In declaring consciousness the “hard problem,” something extraordinary, and separating it from the rest of the physical world, Chalmers and others cast the debate in an anti-Copernican frame, preserving the notion that human consciousness exists in a special and, it is always implied, superior realm. The collective hubris that derives from this is all too evident and damaging.

The Books We Don’t Understand

Aherontas River, Epirus, Greece, 1989

What is going on when a book simply makes no sense to you? Perhaps a classic that everyone praises. Or something new you’re being asked to review. I don’t mean that you find the style tiresome, or the going slow; simply that the characters, their reflections, their priorities, the way they interact, do not really add up.