Monteiro Rossi’s Obituaries from Pereira Declares

Pereira’s final declaration of conscientization by the end of Antonio Tabucchi’s novel is one of the best conclusions I read in recent months. After years of apolitical indifference to the socio-political realities of his times, Pereira pens a parting piece that seethes with righteous anger over the death of his companion Monteiro Rossi at the hands of fascist thugs. He finally writes his name following the article after months of remaining anonymous with his translations of French stories:

Journalist Assassinated

His name was Francesco Monteiro Rossi, his father was Italian. He contributed articles and obituaries to this newspaper. He wrote texts on many great writers of our time, including Mayakovsky, Marinetti, D’Annunzio, Lorca. His articles have not yet been published, but perhaps one day they will be. He was a spirited young man who loved life, and instead it fell to his lot to write about death. A task he never shirked. But last night death sought him out. While he was dining with the editor of the culture page of the Lisboa, Dr. Pereira, the writer of this article, three armed men forced their way into the flat. They stated that they were Political Police, but produced no documents to support their claim. It is almost unthinkable that they were official political officers, because they wore civilian clothes, and moreover it is to be hoped that the police in this country do not employ such methods. My conviction is that they were gangsters acting with the complicity of persons in high places, and the authorities would do well to enquire into this ugly business. Their leader was a skinny little person with a moustache and a small goatee. The other two addressed him as Captain, and he several times called them by the name. These names, unless fictious, are Fonseca and Lima. They are both tall, powerful men of swarthy complexion and apparently low intelligence. While the skinny man kept the writer of this article covered with a pistol, Fonseca and Lima dragged Monteiro Rossi into the bedroom to carry out what they called an interrogation. The present writer heard blows and smothered cries. Then the two men returned and said their work was done. The three of them hurriedly left the present writer’s home, threatening him with death if he disclosed the occurrence. The present writer hastened to the bedroom but could no more than ascertain the decease of young Monteiro Rossi. He had been beaten to pulp, and the blows, inflicted with a cosh or the butt of a pistol, had smashed his skull. His corpse is to be found on the second floor of number twenty-two, Rua da Saudade, the residence of the present writer. Monteiro Rossi was an orphan and had no relatives. He was in love with a beautiful sweet girl whose name is unknown to us. We only know that she had a copper-colored haired and loved literature. To this girl, should she read this, we offer our sincerest and deepest affection. We urge the competent authorities to maintain careful vigilance over these episodes of violence which under their wing, and perhaps with the direct complicity of certain persons in high places, are today being perpetrated here in Portugal.

PEREIRA

His last act before the open ended finale is descriptive of how much the novel’s protagonist has changed from a fence-sitting cultural editor of an evening paper to an active opponent of the Portuguese Salazarist regime. In the end, Pereira’s obituary for Rossi takes on the tone and language of the obituaries written by Rossi for the newspaper but never published by Pereira because of their incendiary content.

On Lorca:

“Two years ago, in obscure circumstances, we lost the great Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca. He was assassinated, and suspicion rests on his political opponents. The whole world is still wondering how such an act of barbarism could have been perpetrated.”…Pereira read doggedly on. Dangerous, he declares, the article was dangerous. It spoke of the hidden depths of Spain, of the rigidly Catholic Spain which Lorca had made the target of his shafts in The House of Bernarda Alba, it told of the “Barraca”, the traveling theatre which Lorca brought to the people. At which point there was a long panegyric on the Spanish working classes and their longing for culture and drama which Lorca had satisfied.

On Marinetti:

Death of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti

With Marinetti dies a man of violence, for violence was his muse. He began his career in 1909 with the publication of a Futurist Manifesto in a Paris newspaper, a manifesto in which he idealized war and violence. An enemy of democracy, bellicose and militaristic, he went on to sing the praises of war in a long eccentric poem entitled Zang Tumb Tumb, an onomatopoeic description of the Italian colonialist wars in Africa. His colonialist beliefs also led him to acclaim the Italian invasion of Libya. Among his writings is another nauseating manifesto: War: the World’s Only Hygiene. His photographs show a man striking arrogant poses, with curled moustaches and an academician’s cloak covered with medals. The Italian Fascists conferred a great many on him because Marinetti was among their most ardent supporters. With him dies a truly ugly customer, a war monger…

On D’ Annunzio:

Exactly five months ago, at eight in the evening of March 1st 1938, died Gabriele D’Annunzio. At that time this newspaper did not have a culture page, but we are now in a position to speak of him. Was he a great, this Gabriele D’ Annunzio whose real name incidentally was Rapagnetta? It is hard to give an answer, because we are his contemporaries and his works are still too fresh to us. Perhaps it makes better sense to speak of the figure of the man which intertwines with that of the artist. First and foremost, then, he was a Bard. He was also a lover of luxury, high society, magniloquence, action. He was a great decadent, a despoiler of the laws of morality, a devotee of the morbid and the erotic. From the German philosopher Nietzsche he inherited the myth of the superman, but he reduced it to the will to power of would-be aesthetic ideals which he exploited to construct the colorful kaleidoscope of a unique and inimitable career. In the Great War he was an interventionist, an implacable enemy of peace between nations. He achieved provocative feats of arms such as his flight over Vienna in 1918, when he scattered leaflets in Italian all over the city. After the war he organized the occupation of the city of Fiume, from which he was later expelled by Italian troops. Retiring to Gardone, to a villa which he himself named Vittoriale degli Italiani, he there led a dissolute and decadent life, marked by futile love affairs and erotic adventures. Fernando Pessoa nicknamed him Trombone Solo and maybe he had a point. Certainly the voice which comes over to us is not that of a delicate violin, but a brassy blare, a blustering trumpet. A life far from exemplary, a poet high-sounding and grandiose, a man much tarnished and compromised. Not an example to be followed, and it is for this very reason that we recall him here.

On Mayakovsky:

ANNIVERSARIES

Eight years ago, in 1930, the great poet Vladimir Mayakovsky died in Moscow. He shot himself after being disappointed in love. He was the son of a forestry inspector. After joining the Bolshevik party at an early age he was three times arrested and was tortured by the Czarist police. A great propagandist for the Russian revolution, he was a member of the Russian Futurist group, who are politically quite distinct from the Italian Futurists. He toured his country on board a locomotive reciting his revolutionary poems in every village along the way. He aroused great enthusiasm among the people. He was an artist, designer, poet and playwright. His work is not translated into Portuguese, but may be obtained in French from the bookshop in Rua do Ouro in Lisbon. He was a friend of the great Einstenstein, with whom he collaborated on a number of films. He left a vast opus of poetry, prose, and drama. In him we celebrate a great democrat and a fervent anti-Czarist.

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2 Comments

  1. This book has been on my wish list. I’ve heard of it from a friend who prefers it – its apparently more direct resistance to fascism – over Nazi Literature in the Americas.

    1. hehehe, i believe the two have their own merits. :) while both are humorous, that of Bolano’s is still more innovative in form. even with the obvious potshots at fascism, it is oozing with cynicism. it gets caught in the pessimistic view of contemporary capitalism as the end of history. yes, Tabucchi’s novel offers a more powerful critique of an oppressive order. it has a more optimistic and forward-looking outlook and for that i also like it better than Bolano’s.

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