- Book: An Italian Education
- Location: Veneto
- Author: Tim Parks
An Italian Education by Tim Parks, memoir set mainly in Verona.
Tim Parks’ books were some of the first we added to the TripFiction website when we started out, so it felt like time to revisit some of these old friends, having read them so many years ago.
I have had a very pleasant few days joining Tim Parks in Verona and other parts of Italy, to wit Pescara and the Alto Adige. He is a supremely skilled and informative writer, observing the nuances of Italians and their way of life with colourful aplomb.
This is the story of the early days of family life, working out how a Brit can possibly cleave his way through the complexity of Italian bureaucracy and manners. He offers detailed cultural observations both from the Italian point of view, mixing them with the objectivity of a foreigner. He and his wife find an apartment in a modern complex in Montecchio and have to grapple with all the concomitant tenant issues that arise and make friends and integrate into local life (including finding someone camping out in the basement).
The couple has small children, who need parenting and schooling and he ponders the nature of the grandparent/grandchild relationship, which is so fundamental to Italian culture – and regrets that they have only one set of grandparents on hand to help with child rearing (or spoiling, given the amount of caramelli (sweets) a typical grandparent might dish out). He notes how the children, with an Italian and a British parent will assimilate elements from both cultures and just integrate them into their lives, which is beautiful to see.
There is a lot of Italian sprinkled throughout the text and right from the get-go he reflects on the inclusion of multiple “foreign” words in the text and he says “Our experience of another country is also an experience of its language..“. By easing his readers into the wonders of the Italian language, he is inviting them to become part of the Italian family. It will work for many, for some it may not. As a point of reference, we had a discussion not so long ago about the optimal use of foreign languages and phrases “When Does the Use of Foreign Language Phrases and Words feel too much“.
This is set in the 1990s, before the Euro took over from the Lira and when it was still ok for an author to have his head obviously turned by a woman’s shapely leg or to refer to his neighbours as “a chubbily pleasant…couple” or to a cashier as “plumply pale” beneath the blackest jet curls 😉.That notwithstanding, he writes beautifully and conjures up a recognisable Italy and populates his narrative with wonderfully credible characters. Charming and interesting and a pleasure to read. And I just love the cover design!
Tina for the TripFiction Team