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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Flying Creatures
of Fra Angelico

Antonio Tabucchi

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To purchase The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico

Title: The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico
Author: Antonio Tabucchi
Genre: Fiction
Written: 1987 (Eng. 1991)
Length: 113 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico - US
The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico - UK
The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico - Canada
The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico - India
I volatili del Beato Angelico - Italia
Los volátiles del Beato Angélico - España
  • Italian title: I volatili del Beato Angelico
  • Translated by Tim Parks
  • Previously published in Vanishing Point (1991); now published in a stand-alone edition by Archipelago Books (2012)

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Our Assessment:

B+ : charming, varied little collection

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
TLS* . 21/6/1991 Nick Hornby
* review of Vanishing Point
  From the Reviews:
  • "The descriptions may make the work sound over-clever and pretentious but The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico eventually discloses itself as a witty and subtle meditation on the limitations of memory and imagination" - Nick Hornby, Times Literary Supplement

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:

       In his author's Note introducing this collection, Tabucchi suggests two alternate titles:

I would have liked to call them Extravaganzas, not so much for their style, as because many of them seem to wander about in a strange outside that has no inside, like drifting splinters, survivors of some whole that never was.
       He also suggests he might have called the Buridan's Ass. As is, The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico is also the title of one of the pieces itself, a charming one in which Fra Giovanni da Fiesole -- the painter now more commonly known as Fra Angelico -- is visited in the monastery he lived in by some unusual creatures and comes to paint them. (Oddly, the cover of the books uses a detail from a painting of similarly odd flying creatures -- by Hieronymus Bosch.)
       It is a collection of 'extravaganzas' -- though none too extravagant ones. Several are epistolary, one imagining three historic letters -- from the King of Portugal to Goya, for example, or the nymph Calypso to Odysseus --, another an exchange with a reader about Tabucchi's Indian Nocturne. In another, he tells the 'Story of a Non-Existent Story', a novel whose title he originally had as Letters to Captain Nemo.
       Whether setting the stage very clearly -- "A man, a woman, passion and unreasoned revenge are the characters of this story", begins one piece -- or allowing them to unfold more subtly with their unexpected turns, Tabucchi continues to gently surprise in how his mind and stories wander.
       Perhaps the most pronounced (and impressive) effect he achieves throughout is in this sense that:
It's difficult to say what my shadow world is made of and what it means. It's like a dream you know you are dreaming, that's where its truth lies: in its being real beyond the real.
       The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico is a small collection of what appear to be rather stray pieces -- and yet it is also the way they practically all deal with this quality of strayness (down to the final piece, on suicide) that unifies the collection.
       A charming, enjoyable little volume.

- M.A.Orthofer, 14 November 2012

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The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico: Reviews: Antonio Tabucchi: Other books by Antonio Tabucchi under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Italian author Antonio Tabucchi lived 1943 to 2012.

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© 2012-2017 the complete review

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