Tabucchi said of Sostiene Pereira
Despite Pereira’s adamance that he will not let himself become involved in political events, he does not manage to avoid it. Even by carrying on as normal and not making any conscious decisions, he becomes acquainted with Rossi and through him, gradually changes his outlook, perhaps without realising at first that this change is unavoidable. On the surface level, Pereira becomes directly involved with Rossi’s political activism, protecting him and taking care of his interests, even risking his own safety.
The profound change that takes place within Pereira is on a deeper level. Throughout the book, the central theme is Pereira’s questioning of his life and the meaning behind it. He is preoccupied with thoughts of the soul, personality and the ego, seeming to be unable to reconcile them until Dr Cardoso gives him a solution – the confederation of souls. It is this theory which leads Pereira to the realisation that despite being middle-aged, set in his ways, apathetic, physically unhealthy and unconcerned with society, he is both subject to change and unable to avoid it.
Monica Jansen, in her essay on Sostiene Pereira, said that “Tabucchi was less interested in the political aspect of the novel than in the capacity of an already mature man to renew himself, which is a positive message in itself. ” Pereira realises that his ego is not a permanent, unchanging entity, but rather a series of different views, opinions and feelings which come to the surface and take over the main part of Pereira’s being. The “souls” in the confederation of souls are the separate personalities or egos which exist within Pereira.
The novel shows the change that takes place within Pereira, as one of these underlying egos takes over and becomes the most dominant, that of political activism and acceptance of current events as being unavoidable. Tabucchi said that Sostiene Pereira was fundamentally an existential novel and that “any human being can be influenced and can change at any time. ” Pereira first begins to realise this when he admits to Dr Cardoso that he fears Rossi and Marta are correct. This is the first indication of Pereira’s conscious mind accepting the changes taking place within himself.
It is on all levels of his life that Pereira’s transformation takes place. On a personal level, he discusses his feelings with Dr Cardoso and begins to come to terms with the fact that he is living in the past. On a political level, the book ends with his final act – a rash and brave act that shows his realisation of the merits of Rossi’s outlook. On a spiritual level, Pereira makes sense of his feelings and thoughts with the confederation of souls theory. Pereira quakes when he realises that great literary figures such as Mauriac and Maritain have taken up political views regarding the war in Spain.
However, the message of Tabucchi in Sostiene Pereira is partly one which Pereira himself realises. As Flavia Brizio-Skov states: “The protagonist realises that his mistake did not consist in taking literature seriously, but in viewing literature as an entity severed from reality and history. ” When Pereira finally realises this, the previously irreconciliable dichotomies between history and literature, the present and the past are no longer problems for him – he realises that literature is in fact directly influenced by political and societal events, so Rossi was right.
Another fundamental message of the book is that man is subject to change, whatever age he is or whatever way of life he leads. As the book progresses, Pereira becomes gradually healthier, both mentally and physically, and when he finally realises that participation in society is completely unavoidable, he is better than he has ever been. So Tabucchi’s message is that political activism and involvement in society are positive things, and even if one tries to avoid them it is not possible to do so.