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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Dreams of Dreams
The Last Three Days of Fernando Pessoa

Antonio Tabucchi

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To purchase Dreams of Dreams

Title: Dreams of Dreams
Author: Antonio Tabucchi
Genre: Fiction
Written: 1992/4
Length: 128 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: Dreams of Dreams - US
Dreams of Dreams - UK
Dreams of Dreams - Canada
Dreams of Dreams - India
Rêves de rêves - France
Les trois derniers jours de Fernando Pessoa - France
Träume von Träumen - Deutschland
Die letzten drei Tage des Fernando Pessoa - Deutschland
Sogni di sogni - Italia
  • Includes both Dreams of Dreams (Sogni di sogni, 1992) and The Last Three Days of Fernando Pessoa (Gli ultimi tre giorni di Fernando Pessoa, 1994)
  • Translated by Nancy J. Peters

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Our Assessment:

A- : enjoyable fancies of famous men's dreams -- and a nice piece on Pessoa

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction B+ Spring/2001 Allen Hibbard
Die Zeit . 7/5/1998 Hanns-Josef Ortheil

  From the Reviews:
  • "As intriguing as the conceit is, these dreams hold little surprise; they are all too predictable. (...) The Last Three Days of Fernado Pessoa: A Delirium, which follows these fictitious dreams, blurs the line between reality and fantasy, or illusion, in more satisfying ways. As in Broch's Death of Virgil (though far more compressed), Tabucchi conveys the marvelous sense of a whole life as the modern Portuguese poet conjures imaginary conversations with a handful of old friends." - Allen Hibbard, Review of Contemporary Fiction

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Dreams of Dreams presents twenty short dreams Tabucchi imagines famous people might have had. The dreamers -- a fairly literary lot -- are: Daedalus, Ovid, Apuleius, Cecco Angiolieri, Villon, Rabelais, Caravaggio, Goya, Coleridge, Leopardi, Carlo Collodi, Robert Louis Stevenson, Rimbaud, Chekhov, Debussy, Toulouse-Lautrec, Pessoa, Mayakovsky, Lorca, and Freud. (Tabucchi also provides a brief section containing capsule biographies of these dreamers, providing the necessary information regarding those names that might be unknown or only a dim memory to readers.)
       The dreams are a varied lot. Some focus on specific, often well-known episodes from the dreamers' lives, while others are pure invention. A number are last dreams, on or near the deathbed.
       There are some vivid images, such as a dying Rimbaud walking around with his amputated leg, and then leaving it behind with a dream-woman. There is Mayakovsy, dreaming the same nightmare over and over for the last year of his life. There is a winged Ovid, turned into a butterfly, trying to please Caesar.
       Between two and four pages in length, these are all small, dreamy stories and episodes. Tabucchi relates them well. He has fun with some of them (Freud, for example, dreaming he is Dora, one of his famous patients), but there is also a melancholy feel to most of them. Few of these men were happy -- though Tabucchi does give some of them a moment of happiness (Toulouse-Lautrec in the arms of Jane Avril, for example) -- and the dreams often figure in dark periods of history (whether personal or general).
       It is an enjoyable collection, a nice way of looking at these artists and their work. Tabucchi's small, unusual homages are definitely worth reading.

       This volume also contains the piece The Last Three Days of Fernando Pessoa. The Portuguese poet of many names has long been a Tabucchi favourite, a guiding light behind his novel Requiem (see our review) -- and one of the dreamers from the other collection in this book.
       This piece, subtitled A Delirium, recounts, as promised, the last three days of Fernando Pessoa, November 28 to 30, 1935. It begins with Pessoa feeling ill and going to a clinic. His symptoms: "great pain (...) and green vomit". Deathly ill, he would remain there and go on to die of liver disease a few days later.
       Tabucchi has Pessoa half lucid and half lost in the world he created, one of heteronyms -- described by Tabucchi as " 'other selves,' voices that spoke in him and that had autonomous lives and biographies." It is a marvelous conceit, and Tabucchi pulls it off splendidly as the whole train of Pessoa's alter egos appear before him, speaking about themselves and their creator. Usefully, Tabucchi also offers a list of the "Cast of Characters", describing briefly who these various inventions were.
       A very nice piece, clever and poignant, it is certainly recommended -- and a must for anyone with any interest in Pessoa. Tabucchi, a knowledgeable devotee, offers a marvelous homage to this odd Portuguese poet. (Note that some familiarity with Pessoa's unusual biography is helpful in understanding (and enjoying) the text.)
       The collection is certainly recommended.

       Petty but apparently inevitable gripe: City Lights here continues the grand American tradition of sloppy copyediting, especially regarding foreign words -- so, for example, on page 75 one finds a street name spelt once as "Rathausstrasse" and once as "Rathuasstrasse" (you don't need to know the language to catch that one). For good measure they also misspell the newspaper name Neue Frei Presse on the same page (it should be "freie").
       Come on, people -- this isn't rocket science, this is about a basic respect for language, and for your readers. Get it right -- please !

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Dreams of Dreams / The Last Three Days of Fernando Pessoa:
  • City Lights publicity page
  • DTV publicity page (Träume von Träumen)
Reviews: Antonio Tabucchi: Other books by Antonio Tabucchi under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Italian literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Italian author Antonio Tabucchi lived 1943 to 2012.

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