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- Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Tim Parks has written several books examining his over 20 years living in Verona. Best known as a novelist, his essays on the NYRB blog are always interesting and thoughtful. So I pounced on this book when I saw that for some reason the Kindle version was selling for less than a dollar. And I loved almost every page of it, despite a lifetime boredom with watching organized sports.
The book is ostensibly a chronological description of the 2001 football season of the Verona Hellas team, precariously hoovering near the bottom of the Series A and perennially needing to beat other small town Italian teams in order to avoid relegation to Series B. We are given poetic though hugely idiosyncratic descriptions of each game after each of the 34 weekly matches. But the more interesting part of the book is Parks as essayist, examining seemingly endless aspects of Italian culture and politics, and his sometimes precarious relationship to his adopted home. He has a sharp eye and ear for the local dialect and the peculiarities of Veronese life. "`Dio boia!' the boy next to me suddenly shouts. `Executioner God', it means, a strictly local blasphemy. For some reason Italians find the expression particularly foul, perhaps because of the way the boia is pronounced. You begin with an explosive `b', popping your lips as if you were a big fish, then you swallow the `oi' in a long, slow adenoidal sound, lingering on a sort of `y' deep in the tonsils, before snapping the word shut with an axe-blow, `a!!'"
Parks is English, and his observations and perspective are that of the other, the outsider who is allowed to partake of the football fanatic rituals,but who never forgets that they are assumed rituals, worn lightly though fanatically. "Even a grumpy misanthrope like myself can feel the lift of communal delirium." And delirium, balanced precariously with English self-consciousness, is the general tenor of the book. "In the football crowd one moves constantly in and out of the spell, in and out of the group, in and out of the law. Singing together you are all-powerful, singing alone you are a fool. People are aware of this. And however stupid they may be, at least the songs are not addressed to God. They are not that stupid."
While riffing on endless tangentially related subjects he inevitably swerves back to the game and the insanity of desperately caring that his team both wins and plays with elegance, which they rarely do. "You try to get close to the action, hoping for some revelation, but there is none to be had, just guys kicking the ball, businessmen spending money." He yearns for a beautiful, indeed a sacred, experience in the various stadiums he visits the length of Italy, yet is often, usually, disappointed. "I know we're going to lose in Turin today, and I believe we're going to win."
The author is dismissive of watching football on television. Several times he lyrically describes stadiums where away games are played, marveling at their diversity from mammoth brutalist edifices to poetically diminutive chapels of Renaissance elegance. Each with a different sensuality, each with a home crowd equally distinctive. None of this can be transmitted through television, and by reducing the game to a camera chasing the ball the very soul of the game disappears. A magnificent and all-encompassing experience is reduced to a mere game.