The opening lines of Maintains Pereira, a novel by Antonio Tabucchi, here translated by Patrick Creagh, foreshadow a resurrection of sorts.
In the bloody days of Salazar's dictatorship in Portugal, two young and desperate lovers enlist the help of Pereira.
Pereira is an unlikely protagonist, a conservative widower, obsessed by death and his obesity, who will find the will to live again, by changing the desperate couple's fate.
And putting his life on the line, Pereira will taste youth and drink adventure in the shadow of military oppression.
And he'll learn what it's like to have something worth dying for.
"Pereira maintains he met him one summer’s day. A fine fresh sunny summer’s day and Lisbon was sparkling. It would seem that Pereira was in his office biting his pen,the editor-in-chief was away on holiday while he himself was saddled with getting together the culture page, because the Lisboa was now to have a culture page and he had been given the job. But he, Pereira, was meditating on death. On that beauteous summer day, with the sun beaming away and the sea-breeze off the Atlantic kissing the treetops, and a city glittering, literally glittering beneath his window, and a sky of such a blue as never was seen, Pereira maintains, and of a clarity almost painful to the eyes, he started to think about death. Why so? Pereira cannot presume to say. Maybe because when he was little his father owned an undertaker’s establishment with the gloomy name of Pereira La Dolorosa, maybe because his wife had died of consumption some years before, maybe because he was fat and suffered from heart trouble and high blood pressure and the doctor had told him that if he went on like this he wouldn’t last long. But the fact is that Pereira began dwelling on death, he maintains. And by chance, purely by chance, he started leafing through a magazine. It was a literary review, though with a section devoted to philosophy. Possibly an avant-garde review, Pereira is not definite on this point, but with a fair share of Catholic contributors. And Pereira was a Catholic, or at least at that moment he felt himself a Catholic, a good Roman Catholic, though there was one thing he could not bring himself to believe in, and that was the resurrection of the body. Of the soul yes, of course, for he was certain he had a soul; but all that flesh of his, the fat enveloping his soul, no, that would not rise again and why should it?, Pereira asked himself. All the blubber he carted around with him day in day out, and the sweat, and the struggle of climbing the stairs, why should all that rise again? No, Pereira didn’t fancy it at all, in another life, for all eternity, so he had no wish to believe in the resurrection of the body. And he began to leaf through the magazine, idly, just because he was bored, he maintains,and came across an article headed: ‘From a thesis delivered last month at the University of Lisbon we publish this reflection on death. The author is Francesco Monteiro Rossi, who graduated last month from the University of Lisbon with a First in Philosophy. We here give only an excerpt from his essay, since he may well make further contributions to this publication."
from Maintains Pereira by Antonio Tabucchi (translated by Patrick Creagh)