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Working Title: Pereira Maintains

2015/5/15 — 15:20

【Text by Anna Aslanyan】

“A single phrase, used regularly throughout the text, changes it drastically, invoking a sinister atmosphere. Who is Pereira telling his story to?”

“In a special action of the case the plaintiff declares, that he is a hackney coachman.” “The defendant maintains that he accidentally stood naked in front of the window.” These excerpts are taken from courtroom reports dated, respectively, the late 17th and early 21st century. Although the reporting verbs used in these two cases are, technically speaking, interchangeable, “declare” would look more out of place in the second example than “maintain” in the first. Today we usually declare love or bankruptcy, war or independence, profits or goods, but rarely our personal details.

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The protagonist of Sostiene Pereira, a 1994 novel by Antonio Tabucchi, declares a great many things in Patrick Creagh’s translation, titled Declares Pereira and first published in 1995 by Harvill, a London-based press with an interest in European literature. When the book was reprinted in the US, the title lost its inversion, becoming Pereira Declares (perhaps in line with the advice given in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, whose authors, Dave King and Renni Browne, think that “‘said he’ fell out of favor sometime during the Taft administration”), and the story, initially billed as A True Account, became A Testimony (and thus closer to the original Italian subtitle Una testimonianza), but the declarations remained in the text. They stayed there until 2010, when the independent British publisher Canongate reissued Creagh’s translation as Pereira Maintains. The only difference between this version and the earlier ones is that “declares” is replaced by “maintains” throughout—a change that, despite being easily made with a find-and-replace tool, produces a profound effect.

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