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.”
To celebrate the March releases of two stunning works from Italy – Andrea Bajani’s If You Kept a Record of Sins and Antonio Tabucchi’s Stories with Pictures, both beautifully translated by Elizabeth Harris – we’re raffling off a basket filled with Italian delicacies. Sponsored by Rosenthal Wine Merchant and Mad Rose Foods, this treasure-trove includes a bottle of Monsecco Gattinara from Piedmont, a bottle of Armato’s S-ciappa olive oil from Liguria, three jars of 2019 artisan honeys from Mario Bianco, and a truffle pasta from Tartuflanghe. With each pre-order of either book, you will receive a raffle ticket. Grazie e saluti!
Stories With Pictures blazes with a love of color, light and the ineffable glory of the visible world . . . Each short item, translated with a glowing verbal palette of her own by Elizabeth Harris, responds to a single artwork via different forms . . . [Tabucchi] rejects the idea that we must choose between illusion and reality. Art, through his lens, escapes “the binary universe to which Nature compels us.” . . . If Tabucchi’s terrace looks out into art’s wide blue yonder, it also frames a mirror to the soul.
— Boyd Tonkin, Wall Street Journal
Harris’s translation skillfully renders into English Tabucchi’s lyricism . . . . These frequently hypothesizing, fantastical works explore questions that remain urgently relevant, including ones about borders, national identity, and access to knowledge.
— Saskia Ziolkowski, Reading in Translation
PRAISE FOR ANTONIO TABUCCHI’S MESSAGE FROM THE SHADOWS
— Tabucchi’s work is mesmerizing, with the gentle rhythms of his lush, languid prose always carrying a light melancholy, walking the fine line between our world and what he called his shadow world. Some might call it magic realism, but the experience is more akin to lucid dreaming—something of which his hero, Fernando Pessoa, would be proud.
— John Maher, Publishers WeeklyOne could call him a great literary defender of the oppressed and marginalized (political prisoners or revolutionaries are among his stock figures), but he does not so much defend them, in the moralistic, paternalistic sense, as allow them a voice. . . Tabucchi delights in the metatheatricality of writing: more often than not the narrators in this collection are conscious of their role as storytellers, and are writing or speaking as if to a silent companion – a position that is filled by the reader. As a result, even the tamer stories feel on the verges of reality. . .
— Samuel Graydon, The Times Literary Supplement
PRAISE FOR ANTONIO TABUCCHI’S TIME AGES IN A HURRY
— Tabucchi’s prose creates a deep, near-profound and sometimes heart-wrenching nostalgia and constantly evokes the pain of recognizing the speed of life’s passing which everyone knows but few have the strength to accept . . . Wonderfully thought-provoking and beautiful.
— Alan Cheuse, NPR’s All Things ConsideredThere is in Tabucchi’s stories the touch of the true magician, who astonishes us by never trying too hard for his subtle, elusive, and remarkable effects.
— San Francisco Examiner