The flying creatures of Fra Angelico by Antonio Tabucchi

The flying creatures of Fra Angelico by Antonio Tabucchi #

Italian Fiction

Translator – Tim Parks

Source review copy from Archipelago books due out next month 

I m on a break but this came my way from his American publish , great fortune as the book I d ordered from my library hadn’t turned up in time for Caroline’s Antoino Tabucchi reading week  .This is the second book I have read by the late Italian writer .Antonio Tabucchi was a professor of Portuguese literature and language .He spent six months of every year in Lisbon in the later part of his life and is well-known in Italy for his translations of the great Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa ,whom Tabucchi came across in the late sixties and then studied Portuguese to understand him better and also translate his work into Italian .Tabucchi himself  published over twenty works with novels ,short story collections and Non fiction .He maybe sums himself up best in this quote .

“Literature for me isn’t a workaday job but something which involves desires ,dreams and fantasy “

Well to this his latest book  The flying creatures of Fra Angelico , it is a collection of stories ,made up letters and pieces  and seems much more than its 128 pages .The title story which is  also  the first in the collection is about a group of strange creatures oddly coloured and shape that start to appear one by one in the garden of Fra Angelico (Fra Angelico was a 15th century friar and artist ,he is well-known for his depictions of christ .He was also sainted by the late John Paul the second ).Any way one of the Fra’s , then seems to be able to talk to these creatures .

Fra Giovanni looked at him and felt sorry for him and muttered: “You’re overtired.” The creature looked back with his big moist eyes, then closed his eyelids and wriggled a few feathers in his wings: a yellow feather, a green one and two blue ones, the latter three times in rapid succession. Fra Giovanni understood and said, spelling it out as one learning a code: “You’ve made a trip, it was too long.” And then he asked: “Why do I understand what you say?” The creature opened his arms as far as his position allowed, as if to say, I haven’t the faintest idea. So that Fra Giovanni concluded: “Obviously I understand you because I understand you.” Then he said: “Now I’ll help you get down.”

Fra Giovanni chatting to the creature .

An odd story with religious overtones where are the creatures from and what do they mean ? One  of those short stories that leaves you with a head full of questions .Then we have a group of made up letters clever and witty the king of Portugal asking a famous artist to paint then  saying what he would love in the painting  ,made me laugh ,another is a couple of letters from Tabucchi to an Indian writer that he met in Indian about his book the Indian Nocturne one of his most famous books ,also on why people from the west come to India and the Indian said there were two sorts of people .I won’t tell you what types they are  you’ll have to  buy the book and find out .Then back for a few shorter stories a couple having a meal ,is all it seems  was one that grabbed me a clever story where not is all it seems .then the last story is maybe another pointer of Tabucchi as a person. A discussion on the number of undertakers in Lisbon ,which it appears is 16 pages of the yellow pages for that city and why this may be so  .This leads to the Portuguese term Saudade .

They are practising Saudade. Try imitating them. Of course it’s a difficult road to take, the effects are not immediate, sometimes you may have to be willing to wait many years. But death, as we all know, is that too.

the closing lines of the book

The closing lines maybe some up the book it has a feel of sadness ,death and secrets at times ,also a feel of his beloved Portugal where he spent so much of his life .I feel Tabucchi is playing with his writing styles in these little gems  almost trying different styles for his novels ,but far from being throwaway they show a master of his art at work . He is often overlooked as an inventive writer for the likes of Calvino .I’ m remind of a cabinet of curios  my grandparents had full of odd little pieces of  ,silver ,ivory ,wooden carvings as a kid I would keep asking to look in and feel and ask about the pieces and this is like that it is a book that I will go back to reading (well pdf for now but I will get the book ) as I feel that it is a collection that will stand numerous rereading and always give you something new as a reader  .

Have you read Tabucchi ?


The panda theory by Pascal Garnier

The Panda Theory by Pascal Garnier

French Fiction

Translator – Svein Cloustin

Pascal Garnier was a french writer he had a number of jobs including being in a number of rock and roll bands before turning to a writing career in his mid thirties ,he unfortunately died in 2010 age 61 ,Gallic books have taken to translate three of his books .In france he was frequently compared to Simenon and Bove .The Panda Theory is the first of these books to be published .

Now Panda theory is a strange book it falls between categories of books lit,detective ,darkly humourous and also a slight surreal air .A strange turns up in a Breton Town his name is Gabriel as the book went on I saw him as a catalyst rather like Spencer Tracy’s character in Bad day at black rock a man come to sort things out .He makes friend he is a chef and connects well with the locals a pretty Hotel receptionist Madeline ,then there is a Junkie pair and a stuffed panda in a bar that which was won at a fun fair by Gabriel .This is all added by the fact the Gabriel is seemingly from nowhere ,you do wonder if his name has a meaning Gabriel being the name of the most famous angel and this man seems on one level to angelic helping people with their lives and the cooker of wonderful food  .But then there is always a feeling that this is too good  to be true .I found the feeling of something else at work apart from the goodness we see very dark .I think this is in dept in some part to the french love of existentialism the moral questions we ask and in this way is this why Gabriel is here ?  is he real ? As I said like spencer Tracy he is here to make people think .This is another take on the stranger comes to town ,we see so much in western films .

He was sitting alone at the end of a bench on a deserted railway platform .Above him a tangle of metal girders merged into the gloom ,It was the station of a small Breton town on a Sunday in October – a completely nondescript town but certainly Brittany ,the interior the sea was far away its presence unimaginable .

The opening very like bad day at black rock the feeling of being nowhere in particular .

Garnier has woven a strange unusual tale here it is very unlike anything I ve read for years I m going to be eagerly  awaiting  the other two books the publisher has got in the pipeline from him .I ve not read enough of the other writers he is compared too I m assuming it is more Simenon non Maigret books the french readers  have in mind when comparing his work to Simenon and I have only read one of them ,numerous Maigret’s  thou and that said ,in some ways there is a dry humor that also seeps through Maigret the slipped comments he sometimes makes that make you smile especially with his wife are maybe sometimes echoed  in Gabriel comments to people .It was a shame he passed so early in his writing career I feel Garnier would be a major french writer at some point .

Have you read this book ?

June 2021


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