By Sofia Jesus
Antonio Tabucchi’s Mulher de Porto Pim e Outras Histórias (Woman of Porto Pim and Other Stories, in a free translation to English) is a quite original collection of short stories — or fragments, in some cases — with the Portuguese archipelago of Azores as a background. A small book, its lines leave you thirsty for more, yet fulfilled by a wavy embrace.
As Antonio Tabucchi (1943-2012) says in the prologue, this is not a travel journal, “a genre that would imply timing of writing or a memory resistant to the imagination that the memory produces”. He says he has reached an age in which he believes it is “more worthy to cultivate illusions than whims”. But this is not pure fiction either, he tells us.
Whales — at a point mistaken by one of the characters as tips of rocks in the middle of the sea — are omnipresent in the book, first published in the 1980s. They act as metaphors, as the author warns us in the prologues. As do wrecks. And there is a sadness to it.
There are descriptions of whales’ behaviours and whale hunts, but there is also love. In the short story with the same title as the book, we find a brief tale of love and betrayal told in the first person. “It is strange how love can get inside us. In me, it entered as I noticed two small wrinkles round the eyes and thought: she is not that young,” says the narrator, Lucas Eduíno, a former whale hunter and singer in a tasca.
According to the obituary published by The Guardian, Antonio Tabucchi was an Italian writer and academic passionate about Portugal’s culture and language. Though the book was not originally written in Portuguese, you can feel that “deep love” in its pages.
This may not be a travel journal, but it does make you travel all the way to the beautiful islands of Azores. To their breathtaking landscape, to their kind people, to that illusion of a place time seems to have chosen to protect.
Mulher de Porto Pim (1983)
Dom Quixote, 2016