Destiny Review By Tim Parks

Content Summary

 We examine the 1999 stream-of-consciousness novel Destiny by Booker Prize winner Tim Parks, a professor of literature, translator and novelist.

Tim Parks is actually a popular name known in America, England and Italy. However, it is not well known in Turkey. Therefore, let’s first look at Who is Tim Parks? Let’s start our article with the question.

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Who is Tim Parks?

Tim Parks was born in Manchester in 1954. He grew up in London. He completes his first years of education in a public school and his high school years in one of the colleges of Cambridge University. Later, he went to Cambridge University, and after graduating from there in 1977, he moved to the United States and started doctorate at Harvard. He makes programs about novels on Boston Radio. However, after meeting Rita Baldassarre he dropped out of his doctorate and married Rita Baldassarre in 1979, and they moved to Italy together shortly after.

A Photograph of Tim Parks

A Photograph of Tim Parks

He finds a job in the marketing department of a translation agency in Italy. Then he works as a freelance translator and teacher in the city of Verona. In 1985 and 1992, he started teaching as a visiting lecturer at the University of Verona. Later, he rises to the rank of associate professor at this university.

Tim Parks, who published book reviews in magazines such as The New Yorker, made radio broadcasts, and made a name for himself with his translations from Calvino, Pavese and Machiavelli throughout his life, gained international fame when he received the Booker Prize with his novel Europa, which he published in 1997.

Summary of Destiny

Destiny begins when a former journalist receives the news of the suicide of his son, who is on his way to conduct the most important interview of his life. This news shatters the entire structure in an instant, as if piercing through a whole fiction.

The novel, which tells about a journey from England to Italy with time jumps for his son’s body, continues with the problems the main character has with his wife and the internal conversations in which he tries to determine the times when these problems arise.

As time passes, the novel expands, and we understand that even the behavior of some of the characters, which seems unreasonable at the beginning of the novel, is actually due to fateful breaks in the past. We are proceeding with the reckoning of a life lived by being misunderstood.

Topic of Destiny

The novel is the story of how a person has to live with his mind that cannot stop and shut up. Destiny traps us in the head of an old journalist. He makes you experience the imbalances and indecisiveness caused by the striking news he receives or the neuroses he has undergone. While we are thinking about his son’s suicide in his head, which works like a noisy engine, we suddenly return to the present and experience drifts about the cause of a delayed train.

Tim Parks describes and reveals the workings of the mind in our daily lives in a way that is hard to believe.

We see the cracks that are growing because they have communication problems and do not speak, the attitudes of a couple who try to patch up by avoiding each other, and their dissatisfaction with some of the decisions they make at the end of life.

Quotes of Destiny

Throughout the novel, we encounter the stimuli of the contemporary world, which is full of details, rushing into our memory.

“As I hurry into the bookstore to look at that greasy-nosed, fatherly-smiling big face, I think that modern life is constantly inventing distractions.” – Page 25

Quian Quiroga, in his book Borges and Memory, says that the most important skill of human memory is its ability to generalize by erasing the details it sees. So having to detect a chair with all its screws and irons is a terrible thing. For this, our memory generalizes the details and perceives it only as a chair. However, in contemporary life, where communication technologies are so advanced and full of so many stimuli, it is more difficult not to drown and focus on tools and details.

“It’s not the crowd that I hate, I thought, as I watched the receptionist press the handset against her skin like a slip, the lingering, the inability to focus that has taken over our lives. My wife, for example, I was thinking, as I watched the receptionist press the handset against her skin like a slip, the lingering, the inability to focus, that had taken over our lives.” – Page 13.

However, we understand that these details and distractions have become a habit for humanity. We understand that we can’t live without these distractions, we can’t calm our memory.

“I remembered that there was a chapter in Gregory’s book called ‘The Paranoid Peninsula,’ which was full of ideas that had been stolen from me. I had skimmed the book on the train I took in Novara. Something needs to be done to kill time. Even when you’re on your way to see your son’s body.

The preferred locations in the novel are generally contemporary means of transportation such as planes, trains, and cars. Our main character is restless inside these vehicles. Let us recall here what Rousseau described in My Confessions. In the past, he said that while it took days for people to go somewhere with horse-drawn carriages, the change created by places in the human soul could be followed and internalized by people. But with the advent of the 20th century, human memory could not keep up with this speed of machines and still could not internalize the journeys in which it gets on in one country and gets off in another half an hour later. What we call jet lag does not exist for no reason. We sense this restlessness in the novel as well.

“I wish I was driving the car. When one is driving, I think, exhausted after that absurd explosion, the mind is preoccupied within a narrow and logical framework. When driving, the mind is an ally in the activity of survival in plain and clear. It measures distances, measures braking speed. Whereas when I’m sitting on an airplane or in the back of a car, I think, the body is trapped, confused. You are deprived of moving. The mind wanders restlessly like a beast of prey.” – Page 74.

Destiny General Evaluation

“We cannot know the past in the past, and the future is uncertain.” says Gürsel Korat. Therefore, our actions take place in an uncertain and eternal present. The history of literature also leans a lot into this spiral. While Proust wants to explain and understand the past, James Joyce tries to explain the present time, which is impossible to capture. Tim Parks, on the other hand, embarks on another experiment in between. With the stimuli in which the present blockades our brain, it reveals a main character who lives in the present but constantly knocks on the door of the past.

We sense that problems that have not been confronted in time distort the present and that escaping from the truth tires people and leads them to mistakes.

Cover of Tim Parks's novel Destiny published by Alef Publications in Turkey

Cover of Tim Parks’s novel Destiny published by Alef Publications in Turkey

Fate is a novel written in the stream of consciousness. However, there is one important point that distinguishes it from other stream-of-consciousness novels. The neuroses experienced by the main character, who is also the narrator of the novel, and the moments when he loses control are conveyed to us with great realism, unfiltered. It shows that the human mind is tossed here and there in this world full of objects, memories, smells, tastes and texts.

The fact that the narrator of the novel is also the main character also makes us think that the facts may be manipulated by the main character. We sense that we only know as much of the event as we are told by the main character. Due to the character’s behavior, we encounter moments from time to time when we cannot trust the main character either. This promises to be an incredibly tasty read for a questioning reader.

The places used in the novel are mostly airports, train stations, cars, trains and planes. The fact that the journey is handled not with a sense of adventure but with an internal fight is an interesting method that depresses one’s soul.

Cover of Tim Parks' novel Europa published by Alef Publications in Turkey

Cover of Tim Parks’ novel Europa published by Alef Publications in Turkey

However, it must be said. A lot of leaps in time take place due to the technique used in the narration of Destiny, which literature lovers will love. For this reason, it is a bit difficult to keep track of events at some moments. It should be noted that it requires a careful reading and some parts of it are difficult to understand.

Also, fictionally, while trying to find his wife at the airport, he thinks of calling the man who arranged the interview, but he never thinks of calling his wife on the phone. It is a small mistake that the reason for this is not explained. I thought he wasn’t working in harmony with his editor, but maybe I didn’t understand what was being said.

The best part of the novel is that it contains many aspects that are open to interpretation. As described by Milan Kundera in The Art of the Novel, the novel is the art of perspectives, ambiguity and different interpretations. This novel is one of the best examples of this. Even though you’re reading from the point of view of a single narrator, you can’t get it out of your mind that there’s always something about the same event that’s in the dark or can be thought of from another point of view.

Apart from that, the novel appeals especially to literature lovers, who are impressed by the way it is handled and the technique rather than the narrative itself. It may not be to the liking of only those who like a good narrative and want to read a good story.

Tim Parks Books

Tim Parks, who is a very prolific writer, actually has many books, both fictional and research-oriented. Some of his prominent books are:

  • Life and Work: Writers, Readers, and the Conversations Between Them
  • Medici Money: Banking, Metaphysics, and Art in Fifteenth-Century Florence
  • Where I’m Reading From
  • Destiny
  • Europa
  • Mimi’s Ghost
  • Judge Savage

Take care of yourself until we see you in the next review.


Destiny Review By Tim Parks
  • Story
  • Fiction
  • Wording
  • Atmosphere

Briefly My Opinion

The novel appeals especially to literature lovers, to good readers who are impressed by the way it is handled and the technique rather than the narrative itself. Those who only like good narrative and want to read a good story may not like it.

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