Tim Parks is the author of many novels, translations, and works of nonfiction, most recently Out of My Head: On the Trail of Consciousness and the novel In Extremis. (October 2019)

Follow Tim Parks on Twitter: @TimParksauthor.

IN THE REVIEW

The Rabelais of Naples

Salma Hayek as a queen eating the heart of a sea dragon in Matteo Garrone’s film Tale of Tales (2015), adapted from a set of stories by Giambattista Basile

The Tale of Tales, or Entertainment for Little Ones

by Giambattista Basile, translated from the Neapolitan and with an introduction by Nancy L. Canepa, with illustrations by Carmelo Lettere and a foreword by Jack Zipes

Tale of Tales

a film directed by Matteo Garrone
It starts with an act of indecent exposure. An old woman, maltreated and insulted outside the king’s palace, lifts her dress to reveal “a woodsy scene.” A series of events is set in motion that ultimately induces the king to call together the best storytellers of the realm to tell …

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 …

NYR DAILY

A Translation for Our Time?

A print of Samuel Johnson walking with James Boswell, published in The Graphic, December 1884

What is exciting about translation, then, is not the notion that it has delivered a hundred percent, or that the entire world of human feeling can be made available to us in our own idiom—a fantasy that will only induce complacency—but its encouragement to move toward, or at least become aware of, what we do not know; translation as a wake-up call, and an instrument to spur us to more effort, not to have us sit back and applaud another successful worldwide publishing phenomenon.

The Dying Art of Instruction in the Digital Classroom

Illustration of a philosophy lesson, from Ovid's Metamorphoses, by Chretien Legouis, France, fourteenth century

This year will be my last year teaching at the university; I’ve decided to throw in the towel three years before retirement age. There are a number of reasons behind this decision, but one is definitely the changed situation in the classroom. Even at post-graduate level, it is getting more and more difficult to feel that one has the attention of students or that something really useful is happening during the lessons.

A Reader’s Guide to Planes, Trains, & Automobiles

Honoré Daumier: The First Class Carriage, 1864

Even if some novels feel like supersonic flights and others like leisurely tours, there’s no doubt in my mind that the means of transport closest to the experience of written narrative is the train. On the plane, you are merely trapped in your seat and too distant from the land to have much experience of it. Aboard a steamer, you’re isolated in the monotony of the ocean. On a bus, you’re very much part of the traffic, in thrall to circumstance. 

Does Talking About Books Make Us More Cosmopolitan?

Paris, 1989

Often, when we argue about books, it’s as well to ask ourselves if there isn’t an issue of competence that divides us. Time and again, I’ve realized I’d better shut my mouth when someone points out something of which I was simply ignorant, something that shifts the whole picture. As an Englishman living in Italy, discussing Italian literature with Italians, this is perhaps inevitable. In this regard, arguing about books can have the function, however mortifying, of reminding you that for a book to happen more fully and satisfyingly, you will have to change.