Stephen Durrant's Reviews > Requiem: A Hallucination

Requiem by Antonio Tabucchi
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Feb 27, 12

Read in February, 2012

Writers who choose to write novels or poetry in languages other than their native one intrigue me. The list of such writers in the modern period would be a long one, extending from Conrad (Polish/English), Beckett (Irish/French), Nabokov (Russian/English) and many others up to Nathalie Sarraute (Russian/French), Ha Jin (Chinese/English), Dai Sijie (Chinese/French), and Jonathan Littell (American/French). Antonio Tabucchi, the well-known Italian novelist, writes this novel in Portuguese and claims, moreover, that "a story like this could only be written in Portuguese." Unfortunately, I know too little about Portugal to comment on this curious statement. "Requiem" is a short dreamlike novel, which takes place in and around Lisbon. The narrator has a series of encounters with the dead, all in preparation for a midnight meeting with the late Fernando Pessoa, Portugal's greatest poet. His search seems to be for reconciliation, a sort of failed conquest of remorse: "I think herpes is a bit like remorse, it lies dormant within us and then, one fine day, it wakes up and attacks us, and then manages to go to sleep again, only because we've managed to suppress it, but it's always there inside us, there's no cure for remorse" (p67). This is a very short novel, well worth the hour or so it takes to read. The English of Margaret Costa's translation is clear and smooth. But how this small text reads in Tabucchi's Portuguese is something this reader will presumably never know.
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