Order for £13.49 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
The Parrots, By Filippo Bologna. Pushkin Press, £14.99
Wednesday 25 September 2013
Every week another literary shortlist is announced, a judging panel revealed, a couple of longlists named, with a juicily controversial omission or a tediously predictable inclusion. But if The Parrots is to be believed, none is more significant than The Prize, the loftiest of all literary accolades, for which there are just three men in contention. They are The Beginner, The Writer and The Master. And for each of these men, the outcome really, really matters. In the Italian writer Filippo Bologna's smart new novel, we watch the three finalists in the countdown to the big announcement.
For each finalist, the stakes couldn't be higher. The Master is ageing, ailing, and needs the money. (The Small Publisher gave him an advance of just 800 Euros. It's not, in fact, a very good book.) The Writer doesn't need the money but hungers for the prestige – and he has a secret, brilliantly revealed, that partly explains the need for affirmation. Then there's The Beginner, who has inadvertently acquired a giant black parrot, and whose girlfriend (or rather, Girlfriend) gives him an ultimatum where The Prize is concerned, though it's not what you'd expect. We spy on these men over three months, as their lives occasionally glance against one another's, all with the same end in sight.
The circumstances into which Bologna drops his characters prompts their reminiscences, their reflections; provokes their anxieties, their insecurities, their competitive, machinating egos. All this comes to us in the irresistibly controlling voice of our smooth, knowing narrator (rendered in English by Howard Curtis), shrewd and precise, often comic, with a cool eye for the truth of these characters.
An eye for their failures, especially. The Master, The Writer and The Beginner are all figures somehow in extremis, yet even in the wickedest excesses of this satire a reader will recognise the basic human struggles and doubts at their core. Next time some glamorous shortlist catches your eye, you'll remember the unedifying glimpse The Parrots gave you of how things might perhaps look behind the scenes. It's not a pretty sight at all.
Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beachart
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Apple has installed security backdoors on 600m iPhones and iPads, claims security researcher
- 2 Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Pro-Russian rebel 'admits to shooting down plane'
- 3 Louis van Gaal gets tough with Manchester United players, with Darren Fletcher and Luke Shaw berated in public and Phil Jones left looking bemused
- 4 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 5 Peaches Geldof inquest: Tragic final moments of socialite's life reveal she lied to husband about failed heroin tests
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?
Fight Club 2: Chuck Palahniuk sequel is a 'meta-fictional comment on the cultural response to the original'
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?
Star Wars 7: Plot details 'leak', with sequel's opening sequence and premise revealed
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash: 'Nine Britons, 23 Americans and 80 children' feared dead after Boeing passenger jet is 'shot down' near Ukraine-Russia border
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains