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The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico by…

The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico (edition 2012)

by Antonio Tabucchi, Tim Parks (Translator)

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636188,983 (3.3)15
Title:The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico
Authors:Antonio Tabucchi
Other authors:Tim Parks (Translator)
Info:Archipelago Books (2012), Paperback, 150 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico by Antonio Tabucchi




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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I have had a review copy of this book in PDF form for ages. It should have been a hot-button draw, but I just never seemed to feel like opening it on my desktop, despite its brevity. Finally, to clear up my obligation, I opened it, and found it delightful.

It seems that the writer, with great sensitivity, wished to explore the imaginative space around certain historical objects, or episodes; he wanted to fantasize about the creation of art and history in a way that would feel like a real imaginative moment in the period. I found the little stories exquisite and evocative and delightful. Bravo. It is an exercise I enjoy, too, imagining the meetings in which movies are scripted, ads are planned, books are edited; imagining acts of imagination on their way to becoming realities.

I always try to capture my thoughts and impressions before researching or looking at other reviews. It was gratifying to realize that despite this book's appearance of being a self-published and self-indulgent effort, Tabucchi was actually a very respected academic and writer of literary fiction, and was nearly a contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature. This book was written about 25 years ago, and only pulled into English now.

Is it a coincidence that Tabucchi found his heart in Portugal, and that his post-modernism in these stories, many of which are set in Portuguese history, reminds me of Saramago? What is in the air/soil/food/water/wine of Portugal that fosters this art? As someone always looking for a new thrill, I am pleased to have a new author to chase down and read through.
  souci | Sep 8, 2013 |
Translation Tuesdays: The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico, by Antonio Tabucchi
A series dedicated to literature in translation whether classic or contemporary.

Originally published as I volatili del Beato Angelico
Translated from the Italian by Tim Parks
Archipelago Books

Orphans, prodigies, larvae, and ghosts inhabit Antonio Tarbucchi's short stories in his collection, The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico. As Tarbucchi writes in the introductory Note, these micro-stories “are the murmurings and mutterings that have accompanied and still accompany me; outbursts, moods, little ecstasies, real or presumed emotions, grudges, and regrets.”
Beginning with the titular story, it tells about Fra Giovanni of Fiesole's strange encounters with angelic beings while he harvests onions. The short story rides a fine line between the whimsy of magical realism and the unsettling experiences in a docu-realistic approach. Fra Giovanni is visited by angelic beings, but they do not seem like the stereotypical angelic representations one sees in woodcuts or saccharine images around the holidays. One angel has legs like a plucked chicken, despite having gigantic multicolored wings. Another appears thin and frail, closer to a dragonfly. While the tone of the story is one of bucolic agricultural simplicity. Fra Giovanni, a farmer by trade, has a plain view of things. He is a monk but no scrivener, making his angelic encounters all the more perplexing. Eventually, his encounters inspire him to paint these angelic beings. While this summary may seem perfunctory, reading the short story leaves one with an overwhelming strangeness.

The next story is “Past Composed: Three Letters,” a collection of three correspondences. Like “Flying Creatures,” the story possesses an ecstatic strangeness. The first letter is from Dom Sebastião de Avis, King of Portugal to the painter Francisco Goya. Dom Sebastião was raised in a courtly life steeped in mysticism and ceremony, whereas Goya was a painter known for his brutally honest depictions of the Peninsular Wars and the atrocities of Napoleon's troops. The King of Portugal led a doomed crusade in the 16th century with the end result of having his entire army obliterated, his dynasty ended, and Portugal under Spanish rule. These perplexing correspondences continue with a letter from Napoleon's fortune-teller, Mademoiselle Lenormand, to a female revolutionary named Dolores Ibarruri. Ibarruri was a leader in the Spanish Civil War. Finally, after all this mysticism, we get a letter from Calypso to Odysseus, with Calypso yearning for Odysseus and the desire to become mortal.

“The Passion of Dom Pedro” is written like an author's summary for a novel. Tarbucchi simultaneously regales the reader with a story of passion and betrayal, all the while peppering the account with metafictional jabs at his own creation. “The opening scenario smacks of the banal.” But the next story, “Message from the Shadows” is like a brief prose poem, about the in-between shadow world between light and dark. On one level, it is a succinct little poetic fragment. On another level, it is a commentary on the shadow world his writing inhabits, halfway between classical myths and fables and halfway in postmodernist metafictional contraptions.

A second epistolary short story is a fictional correspondence between an Indian Theosophist and Tarbucchi. We learn that Tarbucchi went to India to research his novel, Indian Nocturne, and he was a translator for the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. This short story collection subtly weaves together collisions and recollections of previous stories.
The final story, “Last Invitation,” is told in a formalized language. It begins,

“For the solitary traveller, admittedly rare but perhaps implausible, who cannot resign himself to the lukewarm, standardised forms of hospitalised death which the modern state guarantees and who, what's more, is terrorised at the thought of the hurried and impersonal treatment to which his unique body will be subjected during the obsequies, Lisbon still offers an admirable range of options for a noble suicide, together with the most decorous, solemn, zealous, polite and above all cheap organisations for dealing with what a successful suicide inevitably leaves behind it: the corpse.”

Again we encounter Portuguese culture and the threat of death. The narrator continues on with his analysis of Lisbon and a noble suicide. Death, the inevitable end, the mortal threat we all face, but also, as the last story, the inevitable end of the reading experience.

Tarbucchi's short stories vary widely in tone and form, but throughout we meet ghosts and angels and kings drenched in mysticism and agnostic Italian writers. With these short stories, Tarbucchi teases out the strangeness, the uncanny, and the humorous in poetic fragments, epistolary stories, and arch satires.

http://driftlessareareview.com/2013/05/07/translation-tuesdays-the-flying-creatu... ( )
  kswolff | May 7, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
What an amazing writer. There is one short story in this collection and the rest as described by the author are fragments. The beauty and limpid style of his writing is extraordinary. Everything about this book is thoughtful and measured from the arrangement of the "fragments" to it's length. Reading it was like walking in a private garden and seeing the thought and care put into it. I haven't read an author who is so exciting since I read Camus and Calvino gave the same excitement and joy. The book is a wonderful adventure for anyone who enjoys reading. ( )
  Knittingstix | Feb 11, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

I really wanted to like this book. The Italian author is a beautiful writer, but the stories did not grab me. I don't even know if you can call them stories. As admitted by the author, they are more like "fragments" that are quite disjointed. Some are letters and some are embryos of short stories but do not seem to have a real conclusion to them. I liked the embryo of the story, but I felt frustrated by them too.

I did learn quite a bit about European history, as the letters were about people I had never heard about. So, I went and looked them up and learned quite a bit in the process.

If you have been a fan of Antonio Tabucchi's other stories, I think you will probably love this book of reflections. Because I had not read his other stories, I was a bit lost. Again, I thought it writing was beautiful, and I enjoyed reading a modern day book by an Italian author; but it just didn't do much for me.

On more thing, I do love the cover and style of the book. It is very precious and beautiful. ( )
  Carolfoasia | Jan 25, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The book is composed of a series of reflections or thoughts, written in the format of letters to or from historically notable people in western Europe. They are not really even stories, but a collection of ideas, sometimes related to each other, sometimes not.. The title story, "The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelica", is the only story that is what I would consider a short story (includes an actual series of events and a plot, not just ideas or reflections).

Full of artistic, reflective thought, this book is a brief but deep journey of character reflection. I walk away from the book feeling like I was peeking in someone's window; while also feeling as if I had just closely studied some very interesting paintings or pieces of art. Very short read, with some gourmet food for thought. ( )
  jdgarner68 | Dec 14, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Antonio Tabucchiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Parks, TimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Archipelago Books

An edition of this book was published by Archipelago Books.

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