Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Postman (Il Postino)/Antonio Skarmeta/112 pp.

After finishing all 1000+ pages of the Robert Jordan book, I decided to make a change of pace and read a few shorter books; the Atiq Rahimi book was one, and this short novel by Skarmeta is another. Il Postino tells the story of Mario, who fell into his job as postman by sheer laziness. His main job (almost his only job) is to deliver mail to the poet, Pablo Neruda; an unexpected friendship develops between the two men, Neruda acting as matchmaker between Mario and the lovely Beatriz, and godfather at their eventual wedding.
The novel does a good job of using Neruda to connect the residents of this small village to the events happening in late-1960s/early-1970s Chile - the election of the Marxist government and the overthrow of the Allende government a short time later.
Toward the beginning of the story, Neruda explains to Mario the concept of the metaphor, and from that point on I began to notice that the book is full of metaphors, similes and the like. One of the best things about the book is its use of these words to describe the sea, the village, Mario's beloved Beatriz, etc. The language and the flow of the novel very much have the feel of poetry.
Strangely, when the novel was adapted into a movie in 1994, the setting was changed to 1950s Italy - perhaps because the writer of the screenplay and the star of the movie, Massimo Troisi was Italian. I've never seen the film, so I don't know how the political situation was adapted to that time period and location, or even if they were in the movie. But while the book does include these political elements, the story has very little to do with those events; it is more about the relationships between Mario and Beatriz, between Mario and Neruda, and between Neruda and the villagers.

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