Tim Parks

Firstly, this is the second work of fiction I have remarked upon with its own linked page, and I am still fairly confused as to how to present these. With the non-fiction or biographical selections, I can easily grab the small passages and lines that attract me- but a novel is, overall, an organic entity, and to pluck even a small ounce of its flesh pains me as much as it posits an impossible act. With Europa, I am even more hampered- because this is such a work of unflinching solidity and structure and style, that even in the reading of it I was most loathe to pause with only portions of the meal consumed, but time and tiredness and even, in this particular case, parallels that fused with my own experience and sadness and mental tidal forces, forced me to pause, to lay down the pages, carefully bookmarked, for the next moment, the next accepting period hard within my life where these words could grow again.

And I can heartily recommend this book- although I am not going to intentionally do so with any of these books- this is simply, more often than not, a chronicle of what passes across my eyes, and, hopefully, what makes some impressions on my skull.

I have always had a great love of myth, and Europa and the bull, one of the Zeus rape fables, plays with me sometimes, since I try to consider the mythical qualities of sex and the power of the couple, and even, yes, the appearance of godhood at such moments.

But I only hope this excerpt, which I am compelled to include here, bleeding as it is from the wound I have inflicted, leads you to love this most male and angry narrative as much as I did.

-- ...it occurs to me I was saying, what an incredibly foolish philosophy the expression carpe diem enshrines.

Carpe diem, yes, yes, seize the day, seize it, now, and now, and now, then to be marooned there in those few precious hours, days, months, whatever, it doesn't matter, of love, of passion, marooned for all the waste sad time that must stretch after, not shovelling shit against the tide as my wife would to keep the corpses at least unburied, our grave-clothes decent if nothing else, her impossible struggle to ripristinare, nor gracefully chasing about the mythical urn in the bliss of the moment anticipated - those routine or romantic relationships with intensity, with beauty - no, but waltzing, as I am waltzing, with the living dead, the memory trapped in the groove of an endlessly repeated pirouette pushed to the furthest extremes of vertigo, she and I here, she and I there and then (when the day was so fatally seized), she and I as we might been, today now, side by side on this seat, in this coach at this moment, her head against my shoulder, now now and still now. Which is the worst waltz of all.


So I would come on this trip and I would be sensible and witty and just slightly but not overtly ironic when my colleagues talked of community spirit and group identity, when they made a great show of their knowledge of the legal niceties of Italian Law and European Law, of the way in which we have been victimized and of our ultimately inevitable victory. I would be friendly, savvy, even helpful. And at the end I would return home unscathed, though perhaps with a fresh tottie or two to place on the old back-burner, as Colin puts it, one or two new phone numbers to inscribe in the old carnet. I would have been near her - this was my idea - for three days, and nothing out of the ordinary would have passed between us, nothing would have happened, and this in itself would be the beginning of the happy ending I had hoped for.

But I wasn't ready for it. And had I been ready, it would never have occured to me to do it, I wouldn't have needed it. Had I been ready, I would have appreciated that this was not what I hoped for at all, this prosaic, sensibly cheerful fellow seeing through the world with a sort of mild, devil-may-care indulgence. I would have known that what I hoped for, what I still hope for, against all the good sense in the world, was, is, some impossible turning back of the clock, not so much a softening on her part, but on mine, on mine, since she has never forbidden me to speak to her, she has never said it was impossible. On the contrary, the last time we met she said she hoped one day it might be possible again, she said one day I might see things as she did.


-- I'm overwhelmed by the conviction that my passion for her was always and ever the wrong passion. For two-and-a-half years I lived in a state of total delusion. My senses deceived me, my emotions, my intellect. They deceived me. How can I explain such a thing? Such an extraordinary mistake. It took Descartes to deduce that God would not wish to deceive us. The world must be as it appears to be, the Frenchman deduced, because a perfect God would never wish to deceive us. Nothing has been explicable since.