By Tim Parks
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The protagonist of Tim Parks's Destiny is a disillusioned, fiftysomething journalist intent on writing a book about Italy's national character. It's not merely intellectual curiosity that has led Christopher Burton to this project: as an expat Continue
The protagonist of Tim Parks's Destiny is a disillusioned, fiftysomething journalist intent on writing a book about Italy's national character. It's not merely intellectual curiosity that has led Christopher Burton to this project: as an expatriate Englishman, he's also desperate to figure out the inhabitants of his adopted country, and more specifically, his Italian wife. "You cannot marry a woman in one language and think in another," he muses, convinced that what he once found vehement and exciting about her has been revealed as shallow and distasteful. Mistaken for a German in Italy and an American in England, the narrator beautifully articulates the dilemma of living amid a confusion of tongues. "Language is national destiny," he concludes, which would seem to be bad news for his marriage.
Meanwhile, Burton and his wife are confronted with another, nonlinguistic catastrophe. During a three-month stay in England, the journalist learns that his only son has committed suicide in Italy. His first emotion is not grief but a kind of relief--after all, it was mainly Marco's schizophrenia that kept the couple together. As they travel back home, however, his flamboyant wife begins to unravel, and punishes him by lapsing into a "miserable and uncooperative mutism."
Destiny is an astute study of the inappropriate behavior that accompanies grief, as well as a blistering look at a marriage of equals--at love's endless loss and retrieval. The fractured, claustrophobic narration perfectly suits Burton's mood, as he lurches from ugly confusion to sublime lucidity, even (or especially) in the presence of his son's corpse. "Marco is less remarkable in death than in life," he notes, and then continues: To my immense relief he was dressed. The corpse was dressed. My wife wasn't there. Dark trousers, blue sweater.... There were two or three heavy pieces of dark wooden furniture and a Sacred Heart on the near wall. A public space that apes the private, I thought, or the imagined private of a distant past. That saves you taking your late beloved home to lie under halogen light by the television. It all adds up to an intelligent, enthralling performance. And Parks, who has previously taken on the question of Anglo-Italian manners in Italian Neighbors and Europa, accomplishes his most wicked exploration yet of identity and our truly, madly, deeply conflicted motivations. --Cherry Smyth
- English Books
- Hardcover 248 Pages
- ISBN-10: 0436220881
- ISBN-13: 9780436220883
- Publisher: Secker & Warburg
- Publish date: 1999-01-01
- Dimensions: 193 mm x 903 mm x 1,418 mm Just how big is that?
- Also available as: Paperback , Audio Cassette , eBook
- In other languages: other languages Libros en Español , Libri Italiani