As the collection's title suggests, time's passage is the fil rouge of these stories. All of Tabucchi's characters struggle to find routes of escape from a present that is hard to bear, and from places in which political events have had deeply personal ramifications for their own lives.
Each of the nine stories in Time Ages in a Hurry is an imaginative inquiry into something hidden or disguised, which can be uncovered not by reason but only by feeling and intuition, by what isn't said. Disquieted and disoriented yet utterly human in their loves and fears, the characters in these vibrant and often playful stories suffer from what Tabucchi once referred to as a "corrupted relationship with history." Each protagonist must confront phantoms from the past, misguided or false beliefs, and the deepest puzzles of identity--and each in his or her own way ends up experiencing "an infinite sense of liberation, as when finally we understand something we'd known all along and didn't want to know."
In this collection of short stories, the late Tabucchi (The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico) plays with philosophical themes such as the circularity of memory and time, depicting characters who struggle to preserve voices they can no longer hear and to communicate these echoes to others. In "Drip, Drop, Drippity-Drop," a man visits his sick aunt in the hospital, where she unexpectedly begins relating stories of his forgotten childhood. As he tries to catch hold of these "memories" the former selves he had lost she tells him "this is how the past is made." In some stories, new events can change the meaning of former ones: in "Between Generals," a Hungarian general fights a losing battle on principle, is imprisoned most of his life, and finally spends his best days with the Soviet general to whom he had lost. In fact, many of Tabucchi's characters are nearing the end of their lives and have lived through 20th-century horrors that younger generations cannot understand. For instance, in "Bucharest Hasn't Changed a Bit," an aged father recounts his painful experiences in Romania, complaining that memories can be told "but not transmitted." His sensible son, meanwhile, points out the factual errors of his father's version of events. Exposing memory for the fiction it is, these wonderful stories produce a melancholic nostalgia even as they undermine it.