cover image Dreams of Dreams and the Last Three Days of Fernan

Dreams of Dreams and the Last Three Days of Fernan

Antonio Tabucchi. City Lights Books, $10.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-87286-368-2

Elaborately imagined, though often straining for effect, popular Italian novelist Tabucchi's (Pereira Declares) new offering is both a mini-catalogue of great artists' dreams and the author's interpretation of the last three days in the life of Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. Some of the dreamers Tabucchi chooses to conjure up include Greek architect Daedalus; Carlo Collodi, author of Pinocchio; painter Caravaggio; poet Arthur Rimbaud; composer Debussy; and the father of dream analysis, Sigmund Freud. At their best, these short reveries center around memorable, jewellike details. In some cases, the glimpses into the dream lives of these figures are arresting: Daedalus teaches a Minotaur trapped in a maze on his Greek island how to fly; Rimbaud wanders the French countryside with his own amputated leg under his arm, wrapped in a newspaper printed with his poems. Other narratives fizzle, merely embellishing famous scenarios from the subjects' lives or works: Collodi dreams that he is swallowed by a huge shark (a whale in the original tale), as was his wooden hero; Freud imagines that he has become his own most famous patient, Dora, in an episode more farcical than epiphanic. The recreation of Pessoa's last days is a more complex and successful narrative. All of the alternate poetic personae the poet ever created--including Antonio Mora, a mad philosopher; shy accountant Bernardo Soares; and the monarchist doctor, Ricardo Reis--visit him on his deathbed. Through these conversations with his own multiple personalities, the poet at last achieves peace. Although some episodes are weaker than others, Tabucchi's rich language and his magical-realist charm tinge the volume with a visionary glow. (July)