cover image Tristano Dies: A Life

Tristano Dies: A Life

Antonio Tabucchi, trans. from the Italian by Elizabeth Harris. Archipelago (Random, dist.). $18 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-0-914671-24-4

Tabucchi's unsatisfying short novel is built on flashbacks and digressions inside digressions. Italian ex-soldier Tristano contemplates the nature of life and death on (where else?) his deathbed. As he looks back on his old life, he remembers stories of lost loves, the harrowing atrocities of war, and the ways that stories themselves are constructed. The novel is one long, often confusing monologue of Tristano's life during WWII, when he shot and killed a Nazi soldier in Greece and maintained a lengthy love affair with Daphne (or was it Rosamunda?), who always played Schubert for him. It slowly emerges that Tristano, who often refers to himself in the third person, is telling his story to a writer whom he wants to relay his story to the world. The tale is full of obscure mythological references, clever narrative tricks, and philosophical ramblings. Long-winded Tristano is clearly an unreliable narrator, but he questions whether memories can ever be reliable anyway. Tristano's story is difficult to follow, and the structure contradicts its own logic. By the end of the tale, the payoff for enduring such a twisting, convoluted story is scant. (Sept.)