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Parks, Tim

marlow fiction italian technique

(British, 1954– )

Born in Manchester, Parks has lived in Italy since 1981, and his more recent novels range satisfyingly across cultural and geographical divides. Start with Europa (1997, Booker Prize-shortlisted) which charts the coach-journey from Milan to Strasbourg of Jerry Marlow, one of a group of lecturers taking a petition to the European Parliament. As he travels Marlow reflects on his life, his failed marriage, his ex-mistress, and his dreadful relationship with his daughter. Narrating in the first person, Marlow maintains the story of the present journey (which is very funny) at the same time as delving into painful memories, so that there are farcical conjunctions and explosions of insight, for the reader. This technique is taken a stage further in Destiny (1999), again narrated in the first person by a middle-aged English man married to an Italian, here struggling through the days after his son's suicide. His voice encompasses both the present and numerous layers of memory within single sentences—a technique which conveys all the complexity and comic contradictions of experience, and renders Parks's self-centred hero enormously sympathetic. This novel's exploration of a long marriage is one of the best in contemporary fiction. Earlier novels include Goodness (1991), about a couple's conflicting attitudes to their handicapped child. Parks has also translated Italian fiction.

John Updike, Hilary Mantel  JR

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