The Parrots Hardcover – Jul 4 2013
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"This very funny satire about the stuffy little world of literature could be set anywhere... It's a hoot, written with a shrewd eye for the absurdity of certain literary egos." - The Times
"A five-star satire on literary vanity ... A wonderful, surprising novel with a rich payload of emotion behind the caricature." - Metro
"Very funny ... lucidly translated." - Lucy Popescu, Huffington Post
"[Bologna's] smart new novel ... [has a] smooth, knowing narrator ... shrewd and precise, often comic, with a cool eye for the truth of these characters', Daniel Hahn, Independent
"A satire of Swiftian rancour... the parrots of the title act as apt metaphors for the endless churn of appropriation and pastiche that passes for literary originality... Bologna has a gift, preserved in Howard Curtis's crisp translation, for the comically jolting simile." - Nat Segnit, TLS
"A scathing satire about the murky world of Italy's prestigious literary awards... Bologna paints a comically grim picture of a culture of back-stabbing and deceit." - Financial Times
"Tacks between high literary majesty and good hard slapstick without ever capsizing... scintillating... that rarest of books: a damn decent novel about writers... terrific." - Samuel Ashworth, Brooklyn Rail
About the Author
Filippo Bologna was born in Tuscany in 1978. He lives in Rome where he works as a writer and screenwriter. His debut novel How I Lost the War is also published by Pushkin Press.
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The machinations they endure to attain the prize and the outcome which gives them each what they deserve if not want, will not have you guffawing, but will make you smile at the ways of the muses and especially fate. As I said the reader must have at least a modicum of interest in the publishing world to enjoy this book, printed alas on my Kindle reader, and not superior stock as the Master would have wished.
Much like "The Invisible Player" by Giuseppe Pontiggia, which deals with academia "The Parrots" takes you through the souls of writers who we see as rather venal men.
This is a neat idea for a plot but rather spoiled by over-stylised writing which is just a little too pleased with itself. What might have been a biting satire on the place of awards in the arts instead emerges as little more than a smug exercise in modern writing. And what was with the parrot?
Regrettably, this book turned out to have more beak than bite. But here's the thing with translations: is it the author's failing or the translator's? Without the ability to read the original, it's impossible to know for sure.
The Beginner, The Writer and The Master compete for a prestigious book award. To win the award they have to ensure enough votes for their books. All three desperately wants the accolades and will do anything required to gather enough support.
Even if it meant that “If you’re not capable of creating a work of art, you have to become a work of art.” They soon will discover that self-indulgence can only be successful if the social architecture of their environment allows them to succeed. Death, illness, women, workers and pets become Dionysiac metaphors for their personal ambitions and soon prove to be the factors they should have considered important enough, in the first place, in their quest for fame and fortune.
One of them demanded to win, one expected to win and one hoped to win. Not that all three of them acted out of free will. On the other hand, some temptations simply had to be yielded to, with unimaginable consequences.
The morphology of the book industry is such that their choices of agents, publishers and editors played a major role in the sinister outcome of the event. All three formed part of formidable teams, either acting as instigator or victim in their own plots. Whatever they envisioned for their destiny made them aware that the hardest part of any life, even a glamorous one, is to find one's feet and stay standing.
Some of them won't find their feet in their quest to seek self-justice. One of the contestants had to address a complex dilemma for which there was no easy solution, only a dramatic outcome. The surprising twist in the end almost make this book a thriller. Almost, but not quite! All three of them established some fundamental truths to feed their egos, such as
: ..." suffering is a leper who walks with bells on his feet..."
"Life is too short to be devoted to suffering, people who suffer want to suffer, suffering is an invention of man: above the clouds the sun is always shining".
The narrative skill used in the book, makes it an informative, often poetic, as well as entertaining read. Numerous phrases caught my imagination, such as:
" His thoughts were watered by wine, fermented by the first sunshine of spring. "(paraphrased)
"When we are old we may say wise things, but when we are young we say true things."
There are little gems like the following line inserted into The Writer's brain when thinking of his admirers.
For some unknown but human reason, recognizing
themselves in a character in a novel made it possible
for them to recognize themselves as individuals in the
real world. It was like a literary Eucharist that
signified their rebirth, their transition to a new
life. (loc 325)
And this thought from The Beginner:
Before closing the door, attracted by the moist
emptiness, he would stand there for seconds on end
listening to the hypnotic hum of the refrigerant in
the coils of the machine. This--he was almost convinced
--must be the closest thing to the noise of an
intelligence at work. If there had ever been such a
thing as the sound of writing, an inner, metaphysical
sound, it absolutely had to be just like the sound of
his refrigerator, so different from the vulgar
pounding of a keyboard. (loc 459)
And lastly, from The Master:
"Life is merely passing time and the desire to be
loved. Nothing else."
Life, life, life...How unbearable they were, these
writers always talking about life. What do they even
know of life? Have they ever lived? Poets, yes, they
know about it. Other writers only imagine it. Scoundrels
who climb naked onto a ledge and threaten to throw
themselves off if nobody will listen to them, that's
what writers are. If it wasn't for poets, who question
every certainty in order to climb higher, and who
extend to them the support of poetry in order to get them
down like firemen with a scared cat... Life, yes, but other
people's thought The Master. (loc 969)
Well now you have a glimpse into the brains and minds of the protagonists, those who hope for the ultimate Prize. And also I hope you have an idea of the writing that is here for your reading pleasure. I did, indeed, find it a pleasure. A few minor quibbles with the way the set up of the avian introduction and coda were presented perhaps, but otherwise, I definitely recommend this to my literary-minded friends.
An ecopy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.