Time Ages in a Hurry
If the past is a foreign country, then the present must be equally different for those unsuited to it. In Time Ages in a Hurry, the late Italian author Antonio Tabucchi presents us with nine stories of characters who have survived the tumults of 20th century Europe, only to find themselves lost in the present.
‘Between Generals’ follows a Hungarian soldier who spends decades imprisoned for opposing the Soviet Union’s 1956 occupation and finds himself playing chess in a Manhattan McDonald’s; while in ‘The Dead at the Table’, a former intelligence agent tracks an imaginary target, but is unable to navigate the tourist-thronged Berlin by himself.
For Tabucchi, ideals age poorly. They are made redundant or simply forgotten. The retired soldier of ‘Clouds’ urges a young girl to be careful about ideals, and spends his time interpreting the caprices of cloud formations on the sea’s horizon. Like the breaking clouds, Tabucchi’s style is fluid and airy. Dialogue, narrative and dream all interweave as characters glide between memory and reality. These casualties of changing ideas, politics and geography cling to what remains fixed – to the dead, nature and their equally lost contemporaries. Contemplative and without affection, these stories would be well accompanied by a wistful gaze out a window – an enjoyable *memento mori* on a warm summer day which will soon fade into all the others.
Words: Ruairí Casey