The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro

The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro

by Antonio Tabucchi
     
 

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Antonio Tabucchi's new novel The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro continues the experiment so successfully begun with his Pereira Declares (New Directions, 1994) -- a European best-seller and winner of the prestigious Aristeion European Literature Prize in 1997. Tabucchi has now written a thriller, but one with a subtle intellectual depth not usual in that genre.

Overview

Antonio Tabucchi's new novel The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro continues the experiment so successfully begun with his Pereira Declares (New Directions, 1994) -- a European best-seller and winner of the prestigious Aristeion European Literature Prize in 1997. Tabucchi has now written a thriller, but one with a subtle intellectual depth not usual in that genre. The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro intriguingly reflects on current social issues: crime, police corruption, yellow journalism, and the courts -- both of the law and of public opinion. Tabucchi hooks the reader on page one of this book and the story advances with electric and unflagging suspense. A gypsy discovers a headless body; Firmino, a young journalist who writes for a scandal-sheet, takes up the case; the headless corpse turns out to be that of one Damasceno Monteiro, an employee at an import-export company who, having stumbled upon a heroin smuggling ring at his work, had stolen a drug shipment; and, the police are supressing evidence -- all the stuff of familiar daily news, here made riveting in the hands of a rare and brilliant writer.

Editorial Reviews

Boston Review
Elegant, cosmopolitan, inventive, and disquieting....
Thomas Hove
His elliptical use of allusions lends this thriller's bare events an intriguing range of philosophical and political overtones.
Review of Contemporary Fiction
Bondo Wyszpolski
The missing head of the title doesn't go missing for very long, so obviously the book is after deeper fish, and is not simply a tale of lost and found...
Easy Reader
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As in his previous novel, the 1994 international bestseller Pereira Declares, Tabucchi, professor of Portuguese literature at the University of Siena in Italy, explores Portugal's politics and culture through the eyes of a journalist. This time his protagonist is Firmino, a young reporter who's also a literature student and whose lofty preoccupation with his academic thesis frequently conflicts with the more earthbound assignments his editor at a Portuguese national scandal-sheet demands. He travels, reluctantly, from Lisbon to the provincial town of Oporto to investigate the gruesome discovery of a headless body found on the edge of a Gypsy encampment. Firmino's sleuthing is assisted by antifascists--the Gypsy who discovered the body, a mysteriously well-connected hotel proprietress, a waiter and a sweaty, heavy-set aristocratic lawyer who defends the unfortunate. It is through literary discussions with the lawyer, Don Fernando, that Firmino learns the legal system of Oporto, the process of investigation and the role journalism can play in bringing a murderer to court. Tabucchi fills his contemporary literary thriller with the kinds of benevolent, humanitarian characters he explored in Pereira, which was set in pre-WWII Portugal; here he delves into the deplorable subjugation of the Gypsies, and finds champions of a just social order in the humbler strata: a transvestite prostitute, an errand-boy drifter. Tabucchi's memorable, conflicted characters are sometimes implausibly altruistic in helping outsider Firmino, and the plot involves the kind of requisite drug-trafficking/police cover-up that weakens the suspense of a thriller. However, it's Tabucchi's setting that breathes life into his work: the reader can almost feel the heat of the Iberian peninsula and experience along with Firmino the unique customs, foods and political climate of Oporto. (Feb.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780811213936
Publisher:
New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publication date:
02/01/2000
Pages:
192
Product dimensions:
5.67(w) x 8.34(h) x 0.82(d)

Meet the Author

Antonio Tabucchiwas born in Pisa in 1943 and died in Lisbon, his adopted home, in 2012. Over the course of his career he won France’s Médicis Prize for Indian Nocturne, the Italian PEN Prize for Requiem, and the Aristeion Prize for Pereira Maintains. A staunch critic of the former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, he once said that “democracy isn’t a state of perfection, it has to be improved, and that means constant vigilance.”

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