Alberto Manguel – Fathers and sons


The Return of Ulysses, the first of three stories in this book, shows us the Homeric hero in a modern context. He is lost in a harbor full of strangers where he is unable to recognize, in the city surrounding him, the same Ithaca he had left. Acting as a counter melody there is a shriveled Cumaean Sibyl, to whom cunning Trojan war hero must ask a question that has been taking shape since he moved away from home. What is the question? And is there a reply for it?

Father and son, the second tale, brings the story of Augustine of Hippo and his son Adeodato to our attention with a background reflection: the overwhelming presence of a father makes memories confused; his sudden appearance and disappearance make them memorable. Can a death be just as memorable?
Sortes Virgilianae, the last tale, narrates with sharp irony how you one can rely upon the Aeneid in hard times, considering it as a book of fate; it does that through the story of Angelica Pirovano, a woman whose days are all the same (only the world was changing around her, breaking into her routine with irrational violence) and who will follow what Virgil’s poem seems to suggest to the very end.
The Argentine writer Alberto Manguel makes a reference of Borges by playing with tradition with a sophisticated style which is suited to all types of readers; and he still manages to be original in his representation of exemplary figures of our human condition. He is able to establish that past literature is still contemporary and can tell us about present days more than many recently published texts. Hovering upon it all, like a background which is the actual context, there is misery, poverty and the feeling of displacement which derives from emigration. There are also questions which are being projected in our future, looking for a meaning that perhaps is not there. Because the reverse of the tragic is the ridiculous, and waiting for a response means relying on inaction.
Three amazing stories that will remain for a long time in our memory, thanks to a masterful pen dipped in the present time hanging over us. The book is thin but is extremely valuable from the literary point of view, and is embellished by seven vivid drawings by Rachid Koraichi.

Translation by Silvia Accorrà (edited by Sabrina Macchi)