Tabucchi, Antonio 1943-

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Tabucchi, Antonio 1943-


Born 1943, in Pisa, Italy; married María de José de Lancastre; children: two. Education: Attended University of Pisa, Italy; Scuola Normale, Pisa, Italy.


Writer, translator, biographer, and educator. University of Genoa, instructor; University of Siena, professor of Portuguese language and literature and chair of literature. Member, Cannes Palm d'Or 1996 Jury.


International Parliament of Writers.


Pozzale-Luigi Russo prize, for Il gioco del rovescio; Médicis Étranger prize (France), 1987, for best foreign novel; title of Comendador da Ordem do Infante Dom Enrique, conferred by Mario Soares, president of the Portuguese Republic, 1989; Italian PEN Prize, 1991, for Requiem: A Hallucination; Viareggio, Campiello, and Jean Monnet prizes (Europe), all 1994; named Officer des Arts et Lettres (France), 1996; Nossack Prize, Leibniz Academy, 1999.


La parola interdetta, G. Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1971.

Piazza d'Italia (title means "Square of Italy"), Bompiani (Milan, Italy), 1975.

Il teatro portoghese del dopoguerra, Abete (Rome, Italy), 1976.

Il piccolo naviglio (title means "The Little Canal"), Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1978.

Il gioco del rovescio (title means "The Backwards Game"), Il Saggiatore (Milan, Italy), 1981, translation by Janice M. Tresher published as Letters from Casablanca, New Directions (New York, NY), 1986.

Donna di Porto Pim e altre storie (title means "The Woman from Porto Pim and Other Stories"), Sellerio (Palermo, Italy), 1983.

Il Poeta e la finzione: scritti su Fernando Pessoa, Tilgher-Genova (Genoa, Italy), 1983.

Notturno indiano, Sellerio (Palermo, Italy), 1984, translation by Tim Parks published as Indian Nocturne, New Directions (New York, NY), 1989.

Pessoana minima: escritos sobre Fernando Pessoa, Nacional-Casa da Moeda (Lisbon, Portugal), 1984.

Uma conversa no outono de 1935, Impr. Nacional-Casa Moeda (Lisbon, Portugal), 1985.

Piccoli equivoci senza importanza, Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 1985, translation by Frances Frenaye published as Little Misunderstandings of No Importance, New Directions (New York, NY), 1987.

Il filo dell'orizzonte, Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 1986, translation by Tim Parks published as The Edge of the Horizon, New Directions (New York, NY), 1990.

I volatili del Beato Angelico (title means "Beato Angelico's Winged Beings"), Sellerio (Palermo, Italy), 1987.

I dialoghi mancati (title means "Failed Dialogues"), Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 1988.

Le mappe del desiderio: un viaggio, Idea Books (Milan, Italy), 1989.

(With Massimo Guglielmi) Rebus (screenplay), 1989.

(Contributor of story) Tullio Pericoli, Woody, Freud, and Others, introduction by George Ramseger, preface by Steven Heller, Prestel (Munich, Germany), 1989.

Un baule pieno di gente: scritti su Fernando Pessoa, Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 1990.

L'angelo nero (title means "Black Angel"), Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 1991.

El siglo XX, balance y perspectives; seguido de, La novella, el problema, Viceconsejeria de Cultura y Deportes, Govierno de Canarias (Las Palmas, Spain), 1991.

Requiem, uma alucinaçao (in Portuguese), translation by Sergio Vecchio published as Requiem: un'allucinazione, Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 1992, translation by Margaret Jull Costa published as Requiem: A Hallucination, New Directions (New York, NY), 1994.

Sogni di sogni, Sellerio (Palermo, Italy), 1992, translation by Nancy J. Peters published as Dreams of Dreams (includes The Last Three Days of Fernando Pessoa), City Light Books (San Francisco, CA), 1999.

Sostiene Pereira, Una testimonianza, Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 1994, translation by Patrick Creagh published as Pereira Declares, A Testimony, New Directions (New York, NY), 1995.

Hugo Pratt, Avevo un appuntamento, preface by Omar Calabrese, Socrates (Rome, Italy), 1994.

Giancarlo Savino, Frame Cafe, Electa Napoli (Naples, Italy), 1994.

Gli ultimi tre giorni de Fernando Pessoa, Sellerio editore (Palermo, Italy), 1994.

Carlos Gumpert Melgosa, Conversaciones con Antonia Tabucchi, Editorial Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1995.

Conversazione con Antonia Tabucchi: dove va il romanzo?, Omicron (Rome, Italy), 1995, 2nd edition, 1997.

Os ultimos tes dias de Fernando Pessoa: um delirio, Quetzal Editores (Lisbon, Portugal), 1995.

La testa perduta di Damasceno Monteiro (title means "The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro"), Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 1997.

Um fiammifero Minerva; considerazioni a calo sulla figura dell'intellettuale indirizzate ad Adriano Sofri, Tip Città Nujova (Rome, Italy), 1997.

Marconi, se ben mi ricordo; una piece radiofonica, Rai-ERI (Rome, Italy), 1997.

E entre a sombra e a luz (title means And between Shadow and Light), photographs by Marcio Scavone, DBA (Sao Paulo, Brazil), 1997.

La gastrite di Platone, Sellerio (Palermo, Italy), 1998.

Gli zingari e il rinascimento: vivere da rom a Firenze, Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 1999.

Sostiene Tabucchi, Editorial Biblos (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 1999.

Un baule pieno di gente: scritti su Fernando Pessoa, Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 2000.

Si sta facendo sempre più tardi: romanzo in di lettere, Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 2001, published as It's Getting Later All the Time (novel), New Directions Publishing (New York, NY), 2006.

Dedica a Antonia Tabucchi, Associazione provinciale per la prosa (Pordenone, Italy), 2001.

Un mundo muy raro y otras cronica de Gatopardo, Aguilar (Botoga, Colombia), 2001.

(With Omar Calabrese and Maurizio Bettino) Il sonna della ragione: Manifesti politici di Andrea Rauch, Universitae degli studi di Siena (Siena, Italy), 2002.

Autobiografie altrui: poetiche a posteriori, Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 2003.

Tristano muore: una vita, Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 2004.

Tabucchi has selected, compiled, translated, and edited the works of other authors, including poet Fernando Pessoa.

Author's works have been translated into various languages, including English, French, German, Hebrew, and Japanese.

Author of column for Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, and Spanish newspaper El Pais.


Author's works have been adapted for film, including Cinema, 1988; Sostiene Pereira, 1995, directed by Roberto Faenza and starring Marcello Mastroianni (also adapted for videocassette by Mondadori Video, Milan, Italy); Notturno indiano, 1989, directed by Alain Corneau; O Fio do Horizonte, 1993; Sostiene Periera, 1996; Requiem, 1998; and Donna de Porto Pim, 2001.


Antonio Tabucchi, one of the most critically acclaimed European writers of his generation, has been compared by critics to famous Italian author Italo Calvino, who died in 1985. Tabucchi, a professor of Portuguese language and literature, of which he is a respected critic, philologist, and translator, considers himself first a writer. "The passion for writing is a passion that was born with me," he told Anna Botta in an interview in Contemporary Literature. However, he noted that, while one may always write, one does not become a writer until one makes the fundamental choice to become published. "You can write in secret and put it in a drawer but to decide to show yourself on a stage, to say to others ‘Here, this is me,’ that's the moment in which you become a writer."

Tabucchi's interest in Portuguese poetry and literature was sparked by the poem "Tabacaria," written by famed Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935). This interest led him to study in Lisbon, where he subsequently developed a great fondness for Portugal itself; he has since made it his second home six months out of the year. Tabucchi married a Portuguese native, published an anthology of Italian and Portuguese poets, and edited, with his wife, a two-volume set of works by Pessoa. In an interview with Asbel Lopez on the UNESCO Courier Web site, he commented that Portugal had become part of his "genetic baggage."

According to Botta, the author's short stories are primarily responsible for distinguishing him in international literary circles. Botta called Tabucchi's short works "narrative crystals … small jewels that explore the passage between being and nonbeing, between light and shadow, tracing the most subtle nuances of this passage." Of Tabucchi's novels, Botta commented: "They conceal fragmentation under the guise of closure" while the reader is "enticed to play a game that is both disquieting and fascinating in its ambiguity."

Botta wrote that one of Tabucchi's favorite rhetorical themes is "spying things from the other side." To accomplish this effect he uses dreams, hallucinations, and sleeplessness. She referred to "A Riddle," a story in Little Misunderstandings of No Importance, in which the narrator comments: "Sometimes it's only in a dream that we glimpse a plausible solution. Perhaps because reason is fearful; it can't fill in the gaps and achieve completeness … and so the will entrusts the solution to dreams."

Botta also referred to the title story of The Backwards Game, Tabucchi's first collection of short stories published in English, in which the author asks us to view the world "as if we were looking at a painting from its vanishing point…. The stories never give up their secrets but open up new dimensions … by means of complicated itineraries across discontinuous elements … where the familiar reveals an unknown side." The Backwards Game is titled for a children's game in which words are pronounced backwards. Tabucchi commented to Botta that "the game rests on the suspicion that there exists in reality another side of the coin; that reality shows one aspect which is immediately knowable while hiding another aspect, which, though perhaps the truer, remains in shadow…. The whole book is a great metaphor. I don't deny that this metaphor is my way of seeing and has probably shown its face in other of my narrative works."

Tabucchi is a founder of the International Parliament of Writers, a group organized in 1993 following the murder of Algerian writer and poet Tahar Djaout. Tabucchi garners inspiration for much of his work from his concern with political issues, particularly corruption and intimidation. His first novel, Piazza d'Italia, combines historic fact with fiction and follows the lives of a humble family in a Tuscan village over a one-hundred-year period between Italy's unification in 1860 and the aftermath of World War II. "My first novel was an attempt to write history that hasn't been written," Tabucchi told Lopez, "history as written by the losing side, in this case the Tuscan anarchists." The unusual structure of this novel, written in three acts consisting of short narrative scenes of sometimes just a few lines, is considered by some to be similar to that used by Columbian author Gabriel García Márquez in One Hundred Years of Solitude (1970).

Tabucchi, born during the Nazi invasion of Italy, believes the seeds of his political perspectives, antiwar sentiments, and interest in human rights were planted during the time when his grandfather told him vivid stories about the carnage of World War I. "So this antipathy to violence goes back to my childhood, to my grandfather, and to the anarcho-libertarian and republican tradition of my native Tuscany," he commented to Lopez. His antipathy is evident in his political thriller, The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro, a novel based on the true story of a man murdered in a Republican National Guard police station in Lisbon whose headless body was found in a park. Tabucchi told Lopez he was "deeply revolted" by the "shocking act."

Tabucchi studied documentation of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, an organization responsible for monitoring detention conditions in European countries, and related them to the situation in Portugal. "Reading other reports made me realize things are the same nearly everywhere else in Europe, including countries that seem more democratic," he told Lopez. "Democracy isn't a state of perfection. It has to be improved, and that means constant vigilance." He was moved to express his outrage at the murder in a fictional form because "in a novel my feelings and sense of outrage can find a broader means of expression which would be more symbolic and applicable to many European countries."

In what is perhaps his most famous novel, Pereira Declares, A Testimony, the central figure is a lonely and aging widower who oversees the cultural pages of a Portuguese newspaper and whose ascent to consciousness ultimately leads him to rebellion against Fascist Spain. This character was adopted by left-wing opponents to communications magnate Silvio Berlusconi as their symbol during the 1995 Italian parliamentary election campaigns. Tabucchi told Lopez that he chose an antihero as protagonist because he had "always been drawn to tormented people full of contradictions. The more doubts they have the better," he said.

When Lopez asked what intellectuals should be doing in the political arena, Tabucchi again emphasized his perspective on doubt. "If a politician's job is to soothe people, to show that all's well because of his or her presence, mine is to disturb people, to sow the seeds of doubt. The capacity to doubt is very important for human beings. For heaven's sake, if we don't have any doubts, we're finished! … Perfection spawns doctrines, dictators, and totalitarian ideas," he said, referring to fundamentalist religions, imposed political systems, and the perfect aesthetic—all of which he maintains allow no room for doubt. "It's the job of intellectuals and writers to cast doubt on perfection."

Requiem: A Hallucination finds Tabucchi's protagonist traveling to Lisbon, Portugal, on a hot summer day. There, at midnight on Targus quay, he plans to meet with one of his literary idols, a distinguished poet who is not only immensely talented, he is also dead. For the narrator, communing with the dead is an expected, even casual event. "One of the several strengths of the book is that Tabucchi manages to convey this surreal world with a minimum of effort, in a casual, conversational and always witty way. The dead simply appear and the narrator, without missing a beat, talks to them and, if the occasion arises, will even join them for a meal," observed Ronald De Feo, writing in the Nation. When the narrator wants to talk to his dead friend Tadeus, for example, he finds him in a cemetery, and the two old friends head off to a restaurant to talk over food and old times. He also meets the specter of his father as a youthful sailor, and the ghost of Isabel, an ex-lover who killed herself. In the meantime, the narrator encounters numerous members of the living, including a young panhandling drug addict, a taxi driver who gets lost easily, a gypsy, a cemetery worker, a wistful bartender, and others. When the narrator finally meets the shade of the famous poet, who many critics speculated represented Tabucchi's own literary hero, Fernando Pessoa, the two settle into earnest discussion of literature, writing, emotion, and life itself. "In the hands of a less accomplished and more solemn writer all of this material might have become exceedingly heavy, depressing and mawkish, but Tabucchi balances the somberness with such good spirits that the novel, which is as much meditation as hallucination, is actually great fun to read," De Feo stated. Library Journal contributor Lisa Rohrbaugh remarked that "this book brilliantly creates a story that" readers will "savor." A Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded that "this playful bagatelle … is partly an homage to Portuguese culture, partly a mellow autobiographical fantasy."

Dreams of Dreams serves as Tabucchi's deep imagining of the dreams of several prominent artists, musicians, and writers, as well as a considered reconstruction and interpretation of the last three days of the life of poet Fernando Pessoa. The dream sequences address the internal lives of some of history's greatest intellectuals. Greek architect Daedalus meets a minotaur on his island and teaches the beast to fly. Poet Arthur Rimbaud rambles through the French countryside, toting his own amputated leg wrapped in a newspaper containing many of his poems. Carlo Collodi, author of the timeless Pinocchio, dreams he is swallowed by a gigantic shark, while pioneering psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud transforms into Dora, his most notorious patient. "At their best, these short reveries center around memorable, jewellike details," commented a Publishers Weekly critic. In the recreation of Pessoa's last days of life, Tabucchi ushers in all of the man's poetic alter-egos for one last visit. Pessoa achieves his final peace through conversations with his diverse fictional personalities. The Publishers Weekly contributor noted that "Tabucchi's rich language and his magical-realist charm tinge the volume with a visionary glow."

Tristano muore: una vita, is a "dark meditation on the approach of death in what he portrays as the difficult, even humiliating context of Italian culture today," remarked Charles Klopp, writing in World Literature Today. Title character Tristano is near death, awaiting his life's end while attended by his doctor, his housekeeper, and the scribe who takes down his final narration. He recalls his life fondly, remembering his actions as a Resistance fighter, his relationships with numerous passionate women, his time among local partisans, his participation in military occupations of Greece, and more. As he considers his past however, he realizes that what he did can be interpreted as the acts of a spy and traitor as well as the behavior of a patriot. With his mortality waning, he must come to terms with his participation and with what his actions have contributed to in Berlusconi's Italy. Klopp concluded that the book "is a powerfully engaging and beautifully written novel that may come in time to rank as one of this author's best."

In It's Getting Later All the Time, the "impermanence and the frustrations of romantic love are evoked with sly wit and operatic brio," commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Constructed in the form of eighteen love letters, the book tells the story of seventeen men and one woman. The letters are all presumably written to the woman, but Tabucchi leaves open the possibility that they are not all directed to her and even, possibly, that she does not even exist. The missives, however, address a woman who has had profound effects on the lives of the seventeen male letter-writers. The works are "intimate and often exquisite, lingering over transcendent details of landscape, or ruefully soliloquizing on memory," remarked a Publishers Weekly contributor. In the final letter by the woman herself, she addresses her seventeen admirers, and methodically severs her ties to each of them. The Kirkus Reviews critic concluded that the book is "another engagingly original work from one of Europe's most interesting writers." Klopp noted of the Italian edition of the novel that it "is certain to take its place as an important contribution to the Tabucchi canon."



Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 196: Italian Novelists since World War II, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century, 3rd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.


Contemporary Literature, fall, 1994, Anna Botta, "An Interview with Antonio Tabucchi," pp. 421-440.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2006, review of It's Getting Later All the Time, p. 378.

Library Journal, November 15, 2002, Lisa Rohrbaugh, review of Requiem: A Hallucination, p. 104.

Modern Language Review, January, 1998, Bruno Ferraro, review of Notturno indiano, p. 247.

Nation, June 6, 1994, Ronald De Feo, review of Requiem: A Hallucination, p. 802.

New York Times Book Review, July 21, 1996, Lawrence Venuti, "Culture Shock: The Story of a Man Whose Love of Literature Leads to His Radicalization," p. 21; September 24, 2006, Andrew Ervin, "Fiction Chronicle," review of It's Getting Later All the Time, p. 22.

Publishers Weekly, March 2, 1990, Sybil Steinberg, review of The Edge of the Horizon, p. 73; April 18, 1994, review of Requiem: A Hallucination, p. 46; February 26, 1996, review of Pereira Declares, A Testimony, p. 81; January 4, 1999, review of The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro, p. 75; June 19, 2000, review of Dreams of Dreams, p. 60; March 27, 2006, review of It's Getting Later All the Time, p. 58.

Review of Contemporary Fiction, fall, 1992, Francesco Guardiani, "Antonio Tabucchi," p. 25; fall, 1994, Jack Byrne, review of Requiem: A Hallucination, p. 216; fall, 2000, Thomas Hove, review of The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro, p. 138; spring, 2001, Allen Hibbard, review of Dreams of Dreams, p. 203.

Studies in Short Fiction, fall, 1994, Irving Malin, review of Requiem: A Hallucination, p. 711.

World Literature Today, summer, 1995, Anthony Constantini, review of Sostiene Pereira, p. 565; spring, 1997, Charles D. Klopp, "Antonio Tabucchi: Post-modern Catholic Writer," p. 331; winter, 1998, Charles D. Klopp, review of La testa perduta di Damasceno Monteiro, p. 115; winter, 2000, Anthony Costantini, review of La gastrite di Platone, p. 134; winter, 2002, Charles Klopp, review of Si sta facendo sempre più tardi, p. 113; January-April 2005, Charles Klopp, review of Tristano Muore: Una Vita, p. 103.


Internet Movie Database, (May 16, 2007), filmography of Antonia Tabucchi.

Mostly Fiction, (May 16, 2006), biography of Antonia Tabucchi; (August 26, 2006), Mary Whipple, review of It's Getting Later All the Time.

UNESCO Courier, (May 28, 2007), Asbel Lopez, "Antonio Tabucchi: A Committed Doubter."