Europa PDF/EPUB Á Paperback

Europa PDF/EPUB Á Paperback
  • Paperback
  • 272 pages
  • Europa
  • Tim Parks
  • English
  • 25 December 2019
  • 155970506X

Europa❮Reading❯ ➾ Europa Author Tim Parks – Essayreview.co.uk At the midpoint of his life, Jerry Marlow finds himself on a bus from Milan to Strasbourg, taking stock of the wreckage strewn behind him a failed marriage, a daughter going astray, and an affair that At the midpoint of his life, Jerry Marlow finds himself on a bus from Milan to Strasbourg, taking stock of the wreckage strewn behind him a failed marriage, a daughter going astray, and an affair that has left him both numb and licking every wound, self inflicted or otherwise Even his teaching job is in peril And what lies around the next bend There are times when the most appalling premonitions seem all too plausible, yet the pull of hope cannot be resisted Fueled by Marlow s scalpel sharp commentary, Europa bristles with ferocious wordplay and a vision of the sexes as honest as it is incorrect.


About the Author: Tim Parks

Born in Manchester in , Tim Parks grew up in London and studied at Cambridge and Harvard In he moved to Italy where he has lived ever since, raising a family of three children He has written fourteen novels including Europa shortlisted for the Booker prize , Destiny, Cleaver, and most recently In ExtremisDuring the nineties he wrote two, personal and highly popular accounts of his life in northern Italy, Italian Neighbours and An Italian Education These were complemented in by A Season with Verona, a grand overview of Italian life as seen through the passion of football Other non fiction works include a history of the Medici bank in th century Florence, Medici Money and a memoir on health, illness and meditation, Teach Us to Sit Still In Tim published his most recent non fiction work on Italy, Italian Ways, on and off the rails from Milan to PalermoAside from his own writing, Tim has translated works by Moravia, Calvino, Calasso, Machiavelli and Leopardi his critical book, Translating Style is considered a classic in its field He is presently working on a translation of Cesare Pavese s masterpiece, The Moon and the BonfiresA regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books, his many essays are collected in Hell and Back, The Fighter, A Literary Tour of Italy, and Life and Work Over the last five years he has been publishing a series of blogs on writing, reading, translation and the like in the New York Review online These have recently been collected in Where I am Reading From and Pen in Hand.


10 thoughts on “Europa

  1. says:

    Shortlisted for the 1997 Booker Prize, Europa by Tim Parks is a rather unusual book, at least in British literature, with a distinctive European sensibility, and a very strong influence of the great Thomas Bernhard, but flavoured with a strong sense of, at times rather crude, humour and eroticism and a dash of Eurotrash and Mind Your Language I enjoyed the book but several Goodreads and personal friends were unimpressed and I would steer those interested in this novel to Parks s next novel, Des Shortlisted for the 1997 Booker Prize, Europa by Tim Parks is a rather unusual book, at least in British literature, with a distinctive European sensibility, and a very strong influence of the great Thomas Bernhard, but flavoured with a strong sense of, at times rather crude, humour and eroticism and a dash of Eurotrash and Mind Your Language I enjoyed the book but several Goodreads and personal friends were unimpressed and I would steer those interested in this novel to Parks s next novel, Destiny instead.Europa begins I am sitting slightly off centre on the long back seat of a modern coach crossing Europe And this in itself is extraordinary For I hate coaches, I have always hated coaches, and above all I hate modern coaches, not just because of the strong and nauseating smell of plastics and synthetic upholstery, but because of the way the supposed desires of the majority are now foisted upon everybody I mean myself in the form of videoscreens projecting from beneath the luggage rack every six seats or so, and of course piped music oozing from concealed loudspeakers.Our narrator is Jerry Jeremiah Jerry, as people have frequently called me Marlowe, who teaches English at the language school of the University of Milan He is a reluctant member of a group of fellow professor and supporting students a gaggle of young girls and a motley of feckless foreigners whingeing about the job they d be lucky to lose travelling to Strasbourg to put a discrimination case to the European Parliament, as they are on lower salaries and less secure tenure than the Italian nationals at the University that their employment contracts are still considerablysecure than in their home countries is, they argue, beside the point.Jerry himself isconcerned with brooding over the disastrous end of a love affair having first broken up his marriage and then soon after split up with his lover, after physically hitting her when he discovered she d had another affair He s still infatuated with his former lover, another language professor from the university, and also on the trip indeed the reason he decided to join Why don t you turn your mind inward now, I suddenly decide, to resolve this once and for all, to confront, once and for all, these moments of sudden and tremendous alienation, so that you can then clear your thoughts and turn them freely to the pressing questions of your colleagues and your job and your future and your ability to maintain in the manner to which they are accustomed the family you have left, not to mention the wider issues of Italy and of Europe and of how you should behave on this trip in this coach where you are going to support a cause that not only do you not believe in but which you do not even remotely care about, since the only thing you care about, I tell myself, quite ruthlessly now, however much you might like to care about other things, as for example the new furniture you must choose for your flat, and the small car you would like to buy, and your daughter, yes, your daughter, the only thing you care about, I tell myself, is her, or rather what happened to you with her.The her here as he cannot bring himself to even say her name until the closing words of the novel If I never say her name, although I think of little else but her, it is partly because that name is still so powerful that its very articulation causes an emotional seizure, an immediate tension that I feel physically, but also and perhapsimportantly, because by never saying it I keep it that way, I prolong its power, I prevent its dilution in repetition, the way a word like Europe has been diluted into thin air with all the times everybody says Europe this and Euro that, though once it was the name of a girl a god became a bull to rape and half the heroes hoped to find.Meanwhile the lecherous male professors attempt to seduce the students, with Jerry both observing sardonically but ultimately participating, bestowing on them crude sobriquets worthy of an adulty version of the Walliamsictionary These girls are so young, Georg s wink said, while she and since I can t remember her name, can t remember whether she even told me her name, I m going to call her Plaster cast tottie, as if I was speaking of a conquest to Colin, because that kind of vulgarity cheers me up, if only by reminding me how callous and downmarket I can be yes, Georg winked while Plaster cast tottie, or perhaps just Plottie, explained that she would never get to forty because there were so many diseases and wars and things Georg smiled again and admitted he was forty three.Jerry is a rather arrogant character, poking fun at the over eagerness of those keen to embrace the Euro ideal, but engaging is his own cod philosophy he s keen on quoting the classics You are arrogant, I tell myself You are irretrievably arrogant You are obsessed by the notion that you are somehow superior to every task you have been allotted and every person you have shared your life with This has to stop, I told myself You have to stop.Although despite himself he gets dragged into the professors petition to the European Parliament, even being appointed the official spokesman How it came about that these tasks were entrusted to me, how it came about that I, so incongruously, accepted this trust, and above all how it came about that I agreed to do so under her technical guidance and supervision, to the extent that I have already talked to her for several minutes about the exact composition and competence of the Petitions Committee and the political orientation of the dozen or so Italian Euro MPs who RSVPed our invitation to attend a meeting intended to voice our grievances to an audience who might see some small advantage in currying our favour since EC nationals can now vote for Euro MPs in their adoptive countries these are things that I am not sure I can fully explain, though they may have to do with the whisky I shared with Vikram Griffiths at the front of the coach as we drove across Switzerland, the exhilaration of finding a hand on my knee as the matter was discussed over dinner, my quotation, cruel but apropos, of Benjamin Constant, when Barnaby Hilson offered his own candidature as representative in a falsely self deprecating attempt to resolve the deadlock between Dimitra and Vikram, and, last but by no means, as they say, least, my belated awareness, heightened perhaps by a disastrous phone conversation with my daughter, that I am once again on the edge of a tremendous psychological abyss, that the next two days, and in particular, the fourth of the fifth though I have been unable to find the number 45 anywhere in my room , could prove fatal if I do not somehow break out of the suffocating isolation which brought me within an inch of striking the woman I love, I hate, in a crowded coach beneath the bearded smile and dubbed pieties of an American actor I have always loathed, thinking back on an incident of two years before that involved the sexual preferences of a man who appreciated that the only way to unite Europe was to run backwards and forwards across it with an army.A word on the voice and the rather obvious influence On his own website Parks introduces this novel, and his next as follows Europa and Destiny are very much a pair, as are a number of my earlier novels By now I was after something radically new in terms of structure, rhythm and voice Both novels are feverish and fast, equally engaging emotionally and intellectually Europa runs a disastrous love affair against a trip to the European Parliament, Destiny presents a man trying to leave his Italian wife of thirty years after the announcement of the suicide of their only son But funny, I promise you One couldn t bear to write these stories without the humour.And in an interview in the Daily Telegraph in 2003 he expanded on this change of voice I ve been looking for a long time for ways to change stylistically I wanted to find a voice that would really be new and different It s a voice of obsession And it s a voice of exclusion Basically I was interested in dealing with a particular state of mind, the state of total disillusionment and outrage with just the simple fact that in this case is exemplified by the faithlessness of this woman, but also his own faithlessness and the way the world changes and the way it isn t what you wish it to be.Although while new to him, the voice has a rather clear influence as observed by Adam Mars Jones in the Observer 6 April 1997 Very much in evidence, though not referred to directly, is the Austrian arch pessimist Thomas Bernhard as much a maximalist as Beckett was ever a minimalist At times Bernhard s supremely powerful ghost seems about to wrestle Tim Parks to the floor, but then as Harold Bloom has pointed out in his speculations on the anxiety of influence, it is only the powerful writers who are worth taking on, and Parks is still standing at the end of the book.Anyone who uses the long sentence to express misanthropy is likely to be in Bernhard s shadow, but in the case of Europa the homage could hardly beclear Here are the same arias of denunciation, the same rancorous idealism raging against the modern world and all its debasements, the same disgusted relish of clich last, but by no means, as they say, least the same obsessive mulling over past events.Every now and then in the course of their vast paragraphs, Bernhard s narratives would direct their anger inwards, but it was possible to feel that they were turning the knife on themselves largely for a change of pace Parks goes further in this line one passage in particular in Part Two which starts off as a savaging of anonymous hotel d cor with particular reference to a reproduction Picasso on a wall in Strasbourg, move on from Bernhard pastiche to something new, with Jerry s realisation that his hatred of the image is in part a projection of something he hates in himself.At one point, Tim Parks comes up an exemplary description of his borrowed method when he refers to those increasingly frequent conversations where one feels that one must reconstruct the entire history of Western thought just to know the undesirable parts down again, say absolutely everything in order to say anything at all Parks derives from Bernhard a rigour and a thickness of texture highly unusual in British writing, a mixture not conventionally readable, but thoroughly compelling.Towards the end of the book, there is a slight concession to melodrama when a writer gets as much as this out of minor incidents, conventional plot developments seem redundant, and Bernhard for one hardly bothered with them But Tim Parks must be congratulated on a major feat of literary digestion, and a snake that has eaten a goat is entitled to a few hiccups.Interestingly Parks chose to respond to that review on his website not denying but defending his choice Perhaps I can just add my ha pennny s worth on the relationship with Bernhard First, there were elements typical of Bernhard already in my writing, particularly Goodness, before I came across the Austrian author So, no doubt he came as a revelation, and clearly his voice is so strong that one thinks twice before borrowing from it Three things persuaded me it was possible First, I had read this German author in Italian, whereas I write in English This translation at two removes guarantees a certain transformation Second, Bernhard never wrote about sex, and this story is a story of erotic obsession Third, aside from Holzfellen, Bernhard, as Mars Jones remarks, uses little plot My work has always been extremely densely plotted, and this because I actually feel life is dense with surprise and incident and revelation In this regard it is a misreading to suggest that there is a concession to melodrama at the end of the book The narrator s memories are full of melodramatic incident, his state of mind constantly threatens a possible explosion in action The irony that that action eventually comes from elsewhere, unpredicted by anybody, only suggests that perhaps other individuals close to the narrator are going through the same mental hell, perhaps worse, without his being aware of it, as no one is aware of his predicament.Not a novel that all will enjoy an unlikable first person narrator is a difficult trick to pull off and, in contrast to Bernhard s narrators, Jerry is closer to unlikable than dislikable but worthwhile A 4 star 3.5 read for me but rounded down to 3 as I d strongly recommend his next novel Destiny over this as a stronger example of Parks s skill, one where the emotionally and intellectual engagement is dialled up and the inappropriate humour dialled down

  2. says:

    There was a till receipt left as a bookmark between page 86 and 87 of my second hand copy of this novel I cannot help but assuming that page 87 is as far as the former owner of Europa managed to get And, if so, I don t blame him or her.Actually I would prefer reviewing the till receipt than this book, at least for a moment For, believe it or not, the till receipt can tell us something important about this novel.First of all, it s a French till receipt implying that the former owner of my copy There was a till receipt left as a bookmark between page 86 and 87 of my second hand copy of this novel I cannot help but assuming that page 87 is as far as the former owner of Europa managed to get And, if so, I don t blame him or her.Actually I would prefer reviewing the till receipt than this book, at least for a moment For, believe it or not, the till receipt can tell us something important about this novel.First of all, it s a French till receipt implying that the former owner of my copy of Europa was either a Frenchmen or someone who spent some time in France I would pick the French nationality of the owner, though, as the grocery he she made is a big one and includes a list of items I have never heard about, something that only an authentic Frenchman or Frenchwoman might be familiar with, such as Cidoupeche 2L VDP rouge Thon Miette X2 Mir Poudre Coul St Hubert By the way, any idea on what they could be Not to mention some classic gourmet products like Pate brisee Creme fraiche Baguette 250gSecondly, it has to be said that the prices reported in the till receipt are still in French Francs meaning that this huge grocery for a total amount of 671.00 FRF was done before the Euro coming on 1st January 2002 Unfortunately, no date is provided either at the bottom or at the top of the receipt But this hardly matters.My deduction is that this 1998 Vintage edition of Tim Parks book was purchased at some point in the three years after its publication, read or half read and then left untouched on a shelf for the following 10 years before its former owner now relocated in the UK gave it to the Helen Douglas charity shop were I bought it on 14th January 2012.This assumption of mine is based on the fact that the ink on the receipt is still very easy to be read at least 11 years after having been printed By coincidence I saved some receipts of the little groceries I made in Berlin on 2002 and Oslo on 2005 and in both cases, the ink on the paper has almost faded away because it was sometimes exposed to light and air and breath and the skin of my fingers.This leads me to think that this French receipt was kept inbetween page 86 and 87 of Europa for no less than 9 10 years without being exposed in the meantime.Now, let s come back to the book.Does the fact that the former owner of Europaa Left a bookmark at approximately one third of the book b Never re opened the book at that page c Gave the book to a charity shop in the UK.suggest you anything True, the book could have been brought from UK to France and then again to the UK, or perhaps never left the British isles welcoming a French receipt till as a bookmark between 2000 and 2001 most likely.But the very fact that the former owner of this novel decided to get rid of it without even giving it a second chance ten years after being done with it, casts a shadow on the quality of the book itself Which, I must admit, looked poor to me.Tim Parks wrote a very disturbing novel about a coach trip from Milan to Strasbourg in the mid 1990s putting himself in the shoes of a British university lecturer in Italy which is pretty much what Mr Parks did during his long Italian life.Whereas a few characters are interesting and the exhausting monologue of the protagonist has his pros and cons, where Europa utterly fails is in delivering a convincing plot and a realistic portrait of a bunch of Italian girls in their 20s traveling with their professors to the European Parliament.There is this awful, awful scene with the girls dancing in their coats in the square below Strasbourg impressive cathedral by night and singing aloud Sei un mito by 883 a horrible Italian pop song of the 1990s, which I found deeply embarrassing.Let s face it I was 12 years old when that song came out and had it as the soundtrack of many a school trip by coach, but nobody ever sung the song aloud And we were kids.I think that Tim Parks failed here I m not saying that a bunch of 20 something Italian girls in the mid 1990s attending university was living in an ivory tower, but please Tim don t make them look like half wit morons in order to remark the intellectual superiority of your alter ego justifying his soft spot for naughty sex.I am sorry to say that, but Europa was a very disappointing reading.Just let me find another till receipt and I will bring the book back to the charity shop where I bought it I hope someone will enjoy a bit of archaeology as a well welcomed distraction before reaching page 86

  3. says:

    I can understand that not everyone can appreciate this book, because this is a particularly intense, feverish work all the time we are enclosed in the head of the 45 year old Jerry Marlowe, a man with a lot of issues and one big, life consuming obsession his one time French mistress Both are lectors at the University of Verona, Italy and in this book they are together with colleagues and students in a bus on their way to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, to protest against the Itali I can understand that not everyone can appreciate this book, because this is a particularly intense, feverish work all the time we are enclosed in the head of the 45 year old Jerry Marlowe, a man with a lot of issues and one big, life consuming obsession his one time French mistress Both are lectors at the University of Verona, Italy and in this book they are together with colleagues and students in a bus on their way to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, to protest against the Italian Government Throughout the book we get a constant flow of thoughts and observations by Jerry, about all kinds of themes It is a misanthropic jeremiad Jerry full of self pity, self doubt and self deception, in which Jerry constantly jumps between time and place from his failed marriage and the now 18 year old daughter that he has ended up with, to the passionate affair that he had with his French colleague and that was the highlight of his life , until she unexpectedly took another lover from the many one night stands he had with female students since then, to his job at the university that actually doesn t interest him any, from the petition that they are going to do in Strasbourg and which he sees as futile, to the colorful bunch of colleagues and students who are on the bus, and finally to the awkward institution the European Parliament in Strasbourg they are on their way to now.Europe in this book stands for all kinds of social constructions that are part of a man s life a family marriage, a profession, a company or institution, a country and or a minority group, and so on Men or women derive their identity from these constructions, and crystallized in 1 person these form quite a complex whole, with its own myths, outward appearances and self deception And amidst this complex whole, that is constantly on the move and changing a person needs to define him herself again and again, and see that he can continue to stand upright Parks develops this theme in a masterful way, all through the eyes of Marlowe who is increasingly sinking deeper into a quagmire of despair, but in his outward actions tries to cling to social conventions and group compulsion his flat macho behavior with his English colleague Collins for example But, in the end, under the influence of some dramatic events he comes to a catharsis and puts himself back on the map of life.The style in which this book is written is quite demanding for a reader the stream of consciousness permanently swirls through the different layers sometimes no less than 5 different time layers are concentrated in 1 long sentence That s heavy, but it works, and it gives a really sublime effect Proust, Joyce, Svevo, Faulkner, Bellow and apparently also Thomas Bernhard are obvious influences But for me Jerry Marlowe is a worthy, end twentieth century successor of the man from the underground by Dostoevsky, still the key work to understand the desperation of modern man I m looking forward to readingby Parks

  4. says:

    Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 1997For me, this is not a book that has aged well Even in 1997, its narrator s view of women must have been at best politically incorrect, even in an era that gave birth to lad mag culture.The narrator is Jerry Marlow, a British university lecturer working in Milan University He agrees to join a party of other lecturers and supporting students on a coach trip to Strasbourg to present a petition to the European Parliament claiming that it is unfair not to give v Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 1997For me, this is not a book that has aged well Even in 1997, its narrator s view of women must have been at best politically incorrect, even in an era that gave birth to lad mag culture.The narrator is Jerry Marlow, a British university lecturer working in Milan University He agrees to join a party of other lecturers and supporting students on a coach trip to Strasbourg to present a petition to the European Parliament claiming that it is unfair not to give visiting lecturers the same tenure their Italian colleagues are entitled to This may seem fair enough as material for a novel, but we soon hear that the lecturers have dubbed the coach the shag wagon , as most of the young students are female This sexual objectification of the students is relentless and continues throughout the book Jerry forgets their names and refers to them using nicknames all of which end in Tottie Jerry s real interest is with a French fellow lecturer also on the coach who has recently ended an affair with him that goes back several years and caused Jerry to leave his wife and daughter This colleague is generally referred to as She or her and he only brings himself to name her in the final sentence of the book There is also a political element to the story but it lacks any real depth.What may have led the jury to shortlist the book is the style it does have elements of a Thomas Bernhard misanthropic rant, and uses a lot of long sentences, but Marlow s attitudes reminded me muchof the work of Kingsley Amis.Overall I found this one disappointing and would not recommend it

  5. says:

    A jeremiad is a literary lament, a plaintive, pessimistic harangue on the state of the world Appropriate, therefore, that the narrator of this book should be called Jeremiah, as he spends fruitless days on a trip bound for disaster scrutinising his life, and disliking intensely what it amounts to so far He sways between reason and paranoia, between self loathing and self righteousness, between recognition and obfuscation of his motives and desires I liked the voice, the long, winding sentence A jeremiad is a literary lament, a plaintive, pessimistic harangue on the state of the world Appropriate, therefore, that the narrator of this book should be called Jeremiah, as he spends fruitless days on a trip bound for disaster scrutinising his life, and disliking intensely what it amounts to so far He sways between reason and paranoia, between self loathing and self righteousness, between recognition and obfuscation of his motives and desires I liked the voice, the long, winding sentences, the tone and the wry, dry insight that eventually comes through Man suffers, but comes out the other side of that suffering wiser and perhaps even better too

  6. says:

    Yes, that it was a mistake, I reflect that it was a big mistake to have come on this trip, I have never doubted from the moment I agreed to it, and perhaps even before, if such a thing is possible Or let s say that the very instant I took this decision was also the instant I recognized, and recognized that I had always recognized, that coming on this trip was one of those mistakes I was made to makeI read this book after joining a Goodreads group re reading the 1997 Booker shortlist Yes, that it was a mistake, I reflect that it was a big mistake to have come on this trip, I have never doubted from the moment I agreed to it, and perhaps even before, if such a thing is possible Or let s say that the very instant I took this decision was also the instant I recognized, and recognized that I had always recognized, that coming on this trip was one of those mistakes I was made to makeI read this book after joining a Goodreads group re reading the 1997 Booker shortlist After deciding to join the readalong and ordering all the book I then researched the 1997 Booker to see that even discounting the perennial Booker trend to bemoan either the state of English language literature or the incompetence of the judges selections, the 1997 year does seem to have been universally acknowledged as something of a low point even by the judges themselves and that I was mistaken if I had felt this re read would introduce me to six classics of literature.At the same time, I know that I like nothing better than a Booker shortlist discussion so was bound to join in against my better judgement The above very early quote from this book therefore was I felt almost perfect.It is from the first party narrator Jerry Marlow an English lecturer at Milan University The trip on which he has come is a small group of fellow mainly male language lecturers and a larger group of almost entirely female students who are mounting some form of protest to the European parliament which is in its rather ridiculous rotation at Strasbourg about an infringement of their EU guaranteed employment rights by their Italian employers.Whereas some of the other members of the party seem fired up for the cause, Jerry has really joined as an ill judged chance to reflect on the break up of an affair his ex lover being on the trip seems to have prompted him joining and the early wreckage of his family life due to the affair while perhaps having sex with some of the students.The leader of the party is a Welsh Indian which I assume is some kind of hilarious reference by Parks to the rather tired observation that many English people when trying to impersonate an Indian accent, end up lapsing into a Welsh one If you find that observation funny or you think being no longer a child you might still enjoy the 1970s sitcom Mind Your Language then you may well enjoy the humour in this book.Being in Jerry s head is like reading an extended Rod Liddle column for example early on Jerry describes a book he is given by his daughter astiresome thing written by a woman who can think of nothing better to do with her very considerable talent than prolong a weary dialectic which presents the authorities as always evil and wrong and her magical realist, lesbian, ethnic minority self and assorted revolutionary company as always good and right and engagedI had actually made the Rod Liddle comparison very early on and then some pages later when I found that the narrator imply he has hit his lover it was settled for me and I found the book an uncomfortable place to be after that in the mind of a crude, sexist, misanthropic entitled narrator for which I think the author has to take some blame When the actual assault took place I lost interest in the book.The writer struggled to make money as a novelist but did, post Peter Mayle, make a good living writing non fiction books about Italian life one of which A Season With Verona I believe I enjoyed it was just before I started recording my book reviews He is best known for these books in the UK He writes excellent column on literature and translation for which he is best known in the US.And he is also a talented novelist it seems that his follow up Destiny had the strengths of this book, but few of the weaknesses He is best known for his novels in for example Germany.This was not I fear however far from his finest moment and 1997 far from the finest year of the Booker

  7. says:

    Tim Parks Europa is not an easy book Stylistically and pychologically it makes considerable demands on the reader The whole narrative is captured as an obsessive, splintered internal monologue Despite being on a journey from one European city to another, there is an overwhelming impression of stasis as we are pinned down to listen to a voice that is relentlessly drawing itself further in an abyss of self doubt and reprove Jerry Marlowe, the protagonist, is an archetypal one dimensional man Tim Parks Europa is not an easy book Stylistically and pychologically it makes considerable demands on the reader The whole narrative is captured as an obsessive, splintered internal monologue Despite being on a journey from one European city to another, there is an overwhelming impression of stasis as we are pinned down to listen to a voice that is relentlessly drawing itself further in an abyss of self doubt and reprove Jerry Marlowe, the protagonist, is an archetypal one dimensional man He doesn t believe, doesn t want to believe in anything His intellectual achievements, job, marriage and relationships are cause for ceaseless, sardonic appraisal Least of all he believes in a Europe that has turned into a figment of our tired, postmodern imagination It s a world where words have lost their meaning, dwellings have turned into floodlit non places, and people have delegated their civil rights to faceless technocrats Marlowe s erotically charged affair with a sophisticated French colleague is a divisive beacon in this process of psychological dissolution It represents both the apex of his life and the inevitable expulsion from paradise.As the journey progresses, Marlowe s distress and disorientation deepens Parks masterfully juxtaposes this emotional maelstrom with a strand of black comedy Marlowe s co travelers including a mongrel dog named after medieval Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym form a microcosm in which quite a few of the lowly human impulses ego centrism, greed, prejudice, debauchery, vanity, stupidity are showcased in what at times approaches pure slapstick Ultimately this slightly vulgar insouciance and the tragic outcomes that seem to be associated with it only reinforces the mood of despair that pervades this Swiftian novel.Tim Parks seems to be an enormously versatile writer This is the third novel from his hand that I have read in addition to Dreams of Rivers and Seas, Teach Us to Sit Still and they all provided a different reading experience But without exception these are brilliantly written, intellectually satisfying and emotionally rewarding books

  8. says:

    I have mixed feelings as I reflect on my reading of Europa On the one hand, it s not a huge amount of fun to spend a couple of days inside the head of a misanthropic, sexist and sometimes vulgar narrator, especially one who acknowledges that he has hit his lover But on the other hand, there is something fascinating about the writing style that kept me reading a book that I might otherwise have put down see also my review of Hurricane Season where I felt exactly the same way It s a kind of s I have mixed feelings as I reflect on my reading of Europa On the one hand, it s not a huge amount of fun to spend a couple of days inside the head of a misanthropic, sexist and sometimes vulgar narrator, especially one who acknowledges that he has hit his lover But on the other hand, there is something fascinating about the writing style that kept me reading a book that I might otherwise have put down see also my review of Hurricane Season where I felt exactly the same way It s a kind of stream of consciousness narrative that often mixes several different story threads into single, prolonged sentences some of these go on for several pages , with themes that circle around and phrases that repeat again and again I imagine it is a style that is not everyone s cup of tea, but I liked it enough to want to continue reading what is often rather distasteful subject matter.Jerry Marlowe gets on a coach to travel to Strasbourg He is part of a delegation heading to that city to protest to the European Parliament about the treatment of foreign language teachers, these ones from Milan University but they believe they represent a wide cause Jerry tells himself he has no interest in this cause he has, he tells us and persuades himself, no desire to keep his job What motivates him to take part in this trip is her, a French woman who was his mistress until their relationship fell apart see the aforementioned violence and for whom Jerry decided to leave his wife she is not named until the final sentences of the book On the coach, we meet a number of other characters, some, like Vikram Griffiths, very much larger than life Vikram is the nominal leader of the group, an inveterate womaniser and drinker, a Welshman with an Indian mother who claims to be the only coloured member of Plaid Cymru There s also Georg, Colin the character I found least likeable of all of them in the book and many others, mostly young, attractive female students who are the targets of the men mentioned The might be on a journey to make a political stand, but the men have other things on their mind most, if not all, of the time Once in Strasbourg, events take a dramatic turn.This turn of events in the second half of the book is interesting because it comes out of nowhere, really We spend all of the novel in the mind of our narrator, and it can be a depressing and self obsessed place to be Then suddenly the main dramatic event comes from a different character The implication seems to be that the wretchedness and self loathing we see in Jerry is felt by others and it is simply that none of them is really aware of how the others feel.Whilst the first half of the book feels rather confusing and heavy going, in the second half things seem farfocused The review in the Boston Sunday Globe says What follows is not only an excursion into the vast mindscape of jealousy with its rich veins of loss, anger and disgust, but also a sustained meditation on modern awfulness The novel might be considered a latter day Lamentations against the exaltation of unity, standardization and replication, against the clap trap of problem solving, consequenceless responsibility and the incessant moralizing that, when not utterly irrelevant, is fraudulent and self serving to the core Like the prophet Jeremiah, Jerry can t deplore the ways of the world without making brooding observations on his own suffering his observations on the state of Europe resonate powerfully with his reflections on the history of his terrible love affair.Yes, it is as depressing as that sounds.That review goes on to say As he showed most spectacularly in his last novel, Shear, Parks is a master at uniting character and plot with subtly recurrent themes, at deft allusions and resonances between inner and outer action Here the themes are the large ones of unification and openness, so called, in both Europe where they are a travesty and a boondoggle and in his love affair, where he had deluded himself into thinking the two of them as being one in spirit and passion, where she had insisted on honesty The novel is shot through, too, with smaller,cunning themes, ones such as the role of Napoleon in both Europe and Jerry s tumultuous affair.So, it s an impressive piece of writing about a dismal subject Tricky to rate, so I ll go down the middle

  9. says:

    This wasn t the most easy to read follow the narrator is meandering and at times somewhat pretentious in his allusions and should probably have irritated me with the nature of relatively little happening, and relatively much being thought talked about I guess however unlike where the domestic nature of some introspective novels has bored me in the past I appreciated this because I saw some similarities between the messed up early mid forties male protagonist at the centre of this story an This wasn t the most easy to read follow the narrator is meandering and at times somewhat pretentious in his allusions and should probably have irritated me with the nature of relatively little happening, and relatively much being thought talked about I guess however unlike where the domestic nature of some introspective novels has bored me in the past I appreciated this because I saw some similarities between the messed up early mid forties male protagonist at the centre of this story and less desirable aspects of myself This made for an interesting, darkly funny, and absorbing tale about foreign language lecturers in Italy travelling with students to Strasbourg to petition the EU about employment law I can see how some folk might find it repetitive and immature, the characters unlikeable and predictable, but for me it worked

  10. says:

    No we can t all just love and accept one another neither nationally nor personally I am a sucker for Tim Parks brand of cynicism, especially in relation to traveling and multiculturalism Only after acknowledging the boundaries of our upbringing and our guilty boorish pride, can we honestly relate to something or someone foreign.Brilliant exposition, picking up clues regarding this guy s situation from his stream of consciousness was a thrill Once I had all the information, it did get a bit No we can t all just love and accept one another neither nationally nor personally I am a sucker for Tim Parks brand of cynicism, especially in relation to traveling and multiculturalism Only after acknowledging the boundaries of our upbringing and our guilty boorish pride, can we honestly relate to something or someone foreign.Brilliant exposition, picking up clues regarding this guy s situation from his stream of consciousness was a thrill Once I had all the information, it did get a bit repetitive, but by that point I was so drawn into his obsession, it only seemed appropriate

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