Stories with Pictures


Translated from by

Published: 3/30/2021

ISBN: 9781939810687 eISBN: 9781939810694

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Book Description

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.”


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 Weekly

One 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


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 Considered

There 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