Antonio Tabucchi

"It's Getting Later All the Time"

(Reviewed by Mary Whipple AUG 26, 2006)

"I am sending you an impossible greeting, like one who waves vainly from one bank of the river to the other knowing that there are no banks, really, believe me, there are no banks, there is only the river…We worried so much about the banks, and instead there was only the river.  But it's too late, what's the point in telling you all this?"

It's Getting Later All the Time by Antonio Tabucchi

Lovers of experimental literary fiction will celebrate this newly translated novel by "the most respected name in Italian fiction of the past twenty years." Antonio Tabucchi, winner of numerous European prizes and translated into eighteen languages, explores the limits of narrative as he traces his characters' searches for meaning, often through their connections with other people.  In this epistolary novel, as in many of his previous novels, he uses episodes from his own life to provide inspiration and narrative context for those moments in time which reveal his characters' emotional crises.

It's Getting Later All the Time features letters from seventeen different men to the women who have dominated their lives. As each man reminisces about his life and relationship with this lover, he reveals the circumstances of the inevitable breakup and how the broken relationship has haunted him for years ever after.  The eighteenth letter is written by a woman, a grand finale addressed to the men severally, which offers advice and puts their experiences into a wider context. 

The speakers live throughout Europe—on a Greek island, along a river in Italy, in Paris (with a side trip to Brazil), and one speaker has "not made" a journey to Samarkand (Uzbekistan).  They include a theatre director, a dying man, an architect, a faculty member, to a Jewish harpist who escaped war, a character actor, a composer, and a widower with two children.  Each is wrestling with a love story from the past and its continuing effect on his present.

Impressionistic and poetic, this novel is not a narrative in the traditional sense.  Abstract ideas and images, sometimes dream-like and sometimes nightmarish, reveal the lack of meaning in life and the suffering in the world.  More a series of existential memoirs or first-person stories than a novel, It's Getting Later All the Time examines our differing concepts of time and our different reactions to the past at various points in our lives.  Most of the speakers are involved in creative arts, and the novel also celebrates their creativity and the uniqueness of their individual creations.  Sometimes humorous, especially in the episode involving a 1980's interpretation of Hamlet, complete with Beatles music, the novel is also philosophical and self-conscious.  Free form prose, with one word suggesting an image which leads to still another image, takes the reader into a world of circular stories and repeating motifs.

European in its literary focus, this novel considers serious questions of identity, and it does not hesitate to flout the conventions of writing to accomplish the emotional effects for which the author obviously strives.  Providing a detailed Postscript, in which he explains the specific events from his own life which have inspired the episodes in this book, the author also provides an intimate view of the creation and development of a substantial work of literary fiction.   
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About the Author:

Antonio TabucchiAntonio Tabucchi was born in 1943 in Pisa, Italy. He is an Italian writer and academic who teaches Portuguese language and literature at the University of Siena, Italy. He is a master of the short story and novella and is considered a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Tabucchi is also an expert on the Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa. Although the poet died in obscurity, Tabucchi has published critical studies of his work and edited his work and has written about him. For Requiem, which he wrote in Portugese, he was awarded the Italian PEN Club Prize.

Tabucchi traveled widely and lived in India and Portugal before settling in his native Tuscany, where he holds the chair of Literature at the University of Siena.

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