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.
 (May 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 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.

Can a Translation Be a Masterpiece, Too?

An engraving, nineteenth century

A translation can indeed be creative and “important,” but it is the creativity of astute accommodation and damage limitation, the “importance” of allowing as much as possible of that original to happen in the translator’s culture. To imagine, however, that Henry James could ever be to the Italians what he is to us, or Giovanni Verga to us what he is to Italians, is nonsense.

Is Literary Glory Worth Chasing?

King Darius I (circa 550-486 BC) receiving gifts in one of his palaces, twentieth century

Is writing worth it? Does it make any sense at all to pursue literary glory? Are the writers we praise really the best anyway? In 1824, the Italian poet and philosopher Giacomo Leopardi decided to take on the subject in a thirty-page essay, of kinds. In fact, he puts his reflections somewhat playfully in the mouth of Giuseppe Parini, perhaps the finest Italian poet of the eighteenth century, a man from a poor family who spent all his life seeking financial and political protection in the homes of the aristocracy. What follows here is nothing more than a brief summary of what he says. Judge for yourself how much of this rings true today.