Pereira Maintains by Antonio Tabucchi

Antonio Tabucchi ( was an Italian academic deeply interested in Portuguese culture, which he taught at The University of Sienna. His novel ‘Sostiene Pereira’ (translated as ‘Pereira Declares’, and sometimes‘Pereira Maintains’) has received international recognition.

The novel is set in Portugal in the summer of 1938, during the dictatorship of Salazar ( The summary is as follows. Dr. Pereira, an old journalist of a Portuguese newspaper, the Lisboa, loves literature and spends all his life for it. He reads an essay written by a young man about death. Calling the author, Monteiro Rossi, he asks him to write ‘advanced obituaries’ about great writers who could die at any moment. Not having ever been much concerned with politics, Pereira’s world is turned upside down when he begins to get to know the distracted and leftist youth. The articles he receives from Monteiro Rossi (and pays him for) have a definite leftist slant and are completely unpublishable. Nevertheless there is something attractive about the youth. Perhaps Pereira sees in him the son he never had. He also begins to realise the truth of the dictum that ‘all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing’. A visit to the clinic concerning his heart puts Pereira in contact with a doctor, with whom he becomes close friends and discusses his doubts about his isolated and apolitical life. In the end, fascist police visit Pereira and beat Rossi to death. With the help of a phone call from his doctor friend, Pereira manages to slip an article about the murder and condemning the regime into the newspaper he works for.

This historical novel is cast in delicately evocative prose and filled with witty references to the great figures of modern European literature. An engaging intellectual read, it’s ultimately a cathartic story of personal heroism in the face of political tyranny. To that extent, sadly, it will have continuing relevance for our time and beyond. To see if you identify with Dr. Pereira, enquire at your local library or consult  for full bibliographic detail.

Brought to the screen in 1995 by Roberto Faenza as an Italian film drama (, the lead is played by Marcello Mastroianni. Available on DVD at

136 pages in Harvill Press

First published 1994

ISBN 978-1860460692

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Antonio Tabucchi

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