Antonio Tabucchi: Sogni di sogni – Dreams of Dreams (1992)

Elaborately imagined…mini-catalog of great artists’ dreams and the author’s interpretation of the last three days in the life of Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. Tabucchi’s rich language and his magical-realist charm tinge the volume with a visionary glow.

Antonio Tabucchi’s Sogni di sogni or Dreams of Dreams is a collection of sketches or short pieces, circling around the life and work of different authors, painters, musicians and other famous people. Arranged in chronological order they all tell of an imaginary dream of the person to whom the story is dedicated. At the end of the book, a short biography of each of the men gives some of the most important details about their life.

While this may not be an ideal starting point for someone who isn’t familiar with Tabucchi, it’s an amazing introduction into the Western European cultural heritage. It’s an amazing little book. To be able to write something that is equally enchanting, inspiring and instructive, is admirable. On the other hand it shows what a wonderful writer Tabucchi was. The short sketches are written in a beautiful and highly evocative prose that reminded me of the intensity of elaborate and sumptuous Persian miniatures.

If you are familiar with the men included in the book, it will enhance the experience but it’s not necessary.

To give you an idea of what Tabucchi does in this book, I’ll pick the example of Ovid. In his dream, Ovid sees himself not only loved by his emperor but transformed into a giant butterfly. Only when he stands in front of the emperor and should perform one of his poems, all that comes from his mouth is a high-pitched whistling sound. He tries to move his wings instead and perform his poem like a pantomime but this infuriates the emperor. Angered he has Ovid’s wings cut off. When they fall to the ground, Ovid knows he will die.

Hidden behind this sketch is an allusion to Ovid’s most famous work, the Metamorphoses and the whole tragic life story of one of the greatest poets of all times, who spent his last years disgraced and banned from Rome, in Tomis, on the Black Sea.

Here is the list of all of the people included in the book:

Lucius Apuleius
Cecco Angiolieri
François Villon
François Rabelais
Francisco Goya
Samuel T. Coleridge
Giacomo Leopardi
Carlo Collodi
R. L. Stevenson
Arthur Rimbaud
Anton Chekhov
Claude Debussy
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Fernando Pessoa
Vladimir Mayakovsky
Frederico Garcia Lorca
Sigmund Freud

Sogni di sogni is highly imaginative and one of those books that opens doors. It will make you want to explore the people and works behind each chapter. It certainly made me want to read more of Tabucchi, one of the most amazing and creative Italian writers who sadly died earlier this year.

It’s often difficult to find Italian books in translation but Tabucchi is one of the rare authors who has been extensively translated. Some of the newest books are not out in English yet but most of his earlier ones are.

Have you read Tabucchi? Would you be interested in a Tabucchi week?