Hypochondria, insomnia, restlessness, and yearning are the lame muses of these brief pages. I would have liked to call them Extravaganzas . . . because many of them wander about in a strange outside that has no inside, like drifting splinters. . . . Alien to any orbit, I have the impression they navigate in familiar spaces whose geometry nevertheless remains a mystery; let’s say domestic thickets: the interstitial zones of our daily having to be, or bumps on the surface of existence . . . In them, in the form of quasi-stories, are the murmurings and mutterings that have accompanied and still accompany me: outbursts, moods, little ecstasies, real or presumed emotions, grudges, and regrets. —Antonio Tabucchi on The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico
The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico
The first creature arrived on a Thursday towards the end of June, at vespers, when all the monks were in the chapel for service. Privately, Fra Giovanni of Fiesole still thought of himself as Guidolino, the name he had left behind in the world when he came to the cloister. He was in the vegetable garden gathering onions, which was his job, since in abandoning the world he hadn’t wanted to abandon the vocation of his father, Pietro, who was a vegetable gardener, and in the garden at San Marco he grew tomatoes, courgettes and onions. The onions were the red kind, with big heads, very sweet after you’d soaked them for an hour, though they made you cry a fair bit when you handled them. He was putting them in his frock gathered to form an apron, when he heard a voice calling: Guidolino. He raised his eyes and saw the bird. He saw it through onion tears filling his eyes and so stood gazing at it for a few moments, for the shape was magnified and distorted by his tears as though through a bizarre lens; he blinked his eyes to dry the lashes, then looked again.
Excerpted from Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico by Antonio Tabucchi. Copyright © 2012 by Antonio Tabucchi. Excerpted by permission of Archipelago, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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. —The San Francisco Examiner
Tabucchi’s work has an almost palpable sympathy for the oppressed. —The New York Times
By now the appearance of a new novel by Antonio Tabucchi is a literary event. —World Literature Today
Like good short fiction, the stories in this volume act in ways that suggest a wider world outside the frame of the story. —Sycamore Review
A witty and subtle meditation on the limitations of memory and imagination. —Nick Hornby, 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