In Stories with Pictures, Antonio Tabucchi responds to paintings, drawings, and photographs from his dual homelands of Italy and Portugal, among other countries. This collection’s varied writings – stories, essays, journal entries, poems – spring forth from the shadows of Tabucchi’s imagination, as he steps into worlds just hidden from view, and into intimate conversation with the artists and their works. Here is a diary written to Valerio Adami and his drawings with their insistent labyrinthian outlines that “we risk being caught inside . . . where we linger, delay our exit, and so are shipwrecked.” Here are splashes of stories to Maria Helena Vieira da Silva and her colors, “a madder lacquer for the sound of a cello playing,” a “sumptuous black” to see Titian step out from darkness. And tributes to the dreamy, story-telling landscapes of Tullio Pericolo, where Tabucchi soars with the painter and breathes deeply at the top of a distant volcano.
From quiet windows, stamps of bright parrots, postcards of yellow cities, portraits of devilish Portuguese nuns, the way to Tabucchi’s remote landscapes appears like a “train emerging from a thick curtain of heat.” As we peer through the curtain, what we find on the other side rings distinctly human, a world charged with melancholic longing for time gone by. “Sight, hearing, voice, word,” Tabucchi writes, “this flow isn’t in one direction, the current is back and forth.” Reading these pieces, one feels the pendulum current, and the desire in this remarkable author to hold the real in the surreal and to reflect, always, on the nature of art and life, as he converses with the artworks that have “often moved [his] pen.”