For Isabel: A Mandala by Antonio TabucchiFor Isabel: A Mandala by Antonio Tabucchi

For Isabel: A Mandala

byAntonio TabucchiTranslated byElizabeth Harris

Paperback | September 5, 2017

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A metaphysical detective story about love and existence from the Italian master, Antonio Tabucchi. When Tadeus sets out to find Isabel, his former love, he soon finds himself on a metaphysical journey across the world, one that calls into question the meaning of time and existence and the power of words.

Isabel disappeared many years ago. Tadeus Slowacki, a Polish writer, her former friend and lover, has come back to Lisbon to learn of her whereabouts. Rumors abound: Isabel died in prison under Salazar's regime, or perhaps wasn't arrested at all. As Tadeus interviews one old acquaintance of hers after the next, a chameleon-like portrait of a young, ideological woman emerges, ultimately bringing Tadeus on a metaphysical journey across the continent. Constructed in the form of a mandala, For Isabel is the spiraling search for an enigma, an investigation into time and existence, the power of words, and the limits of the senses. In this posthumous work Tabucchi creates an ingenious narration, tracing circles around a lost woman and the ultimate inaccessible truth.
Antonio Tabucchi was born in Pisa in 1943 and died in Lisbon in 2012. A master of short fiction, he won the Prix Médicis Étranger for Indian Nocturne, the Italian PEN Prize for Requiem: A Hallucination, the Aristeion European Literature Prize for Pereira Declares, and was named a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Governme...
Title:For Isabel: A MandalaFormat:PaperbackDimensions:144 pages, 6.2 × 5.6 × 0.5 inPublished:September 5, 2017Publisher:Steerforth PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0914671804

ISBN - 13:9780914671800

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Read from the Book

Justification in the Form of a Note Private obsessions; personal regrets eroded but not transformed by time, like pebbles smoothed down by the current of the river; incongruous fantasies and the inadequacy of reality: these are the driving principles behind this book. But I also can’t deny the influence one summer night of watching a monk dressed in red while he sprinkled colored powder on the bare stone and made me a Mandala of Consciousness. And on that same night, finally getting to a short essay by Hölderlin, which I’d been meaning to read and had carried around in my suitcase for a month. Here’s what I underlined in the Hölderlin that night, before the final phase of the moon: “The tragic-moderate weariness of time, whose object is not in fact of interest to the heart, follows the onrushing spirit of time most intemperately, and that spirit then appears wild, not sparing mankind like a spirit by day, but being relentless instead, like the spirit of the eternally living unwritten wilderness and the world of the dead.” * You might find it curious that a writer past fifty, who’s published so many books, would still feel the need to justify his adventures in writing. I find it curious myself. Probably, I haven’t resolved this issue, if it’s a matter of feeling guilty towards the world or simply not working through a loss. Naturally, other explanations are also acceptable. I do want to point out, though, that on that summer night, I happened to fly off to Naples with my imagination, because in that distant sky, there was a full moon. And it was a red moon. A.T. * Translated from the German by Shaun Whiteside. First Circle. Mónica. Lisbon. Evocation. I’d never been to Tavares in my entire life. Tavares is the fanciest restaurant in Lisbon, with nineteenth-century mirrors and velvet chairs; the cuisine is international, but they also serve typical Portuguese dishes, though delicately prepared: you might order clams and pork, for instance, what you’d get in Alentejo, and you’ll wind up with something more like a Parisian dish, or so I’d been told. But I’d never been, I’d just heard about it. I took a bus to Intendente. The square was full of whores and pimps. It was late afternoon, I was early. I went to an old café I knew, a café with billiard tables, and I started watching a game. An old man with only one leg was leaning on a crutch while he played; his eyes were bright, his hair kinky and grey, and he was hitting pins like there was no tomorrow, he cleaned everybody’s clock in the place, then sat down and slapped his belly like he’d just had a good meal. You want to play, my friend? he asked. No, I answered, I’m sure I’d lose. If you want, though, we could play for a little port, I could use an aperitif, but I’d be glad to offer you one, if you’d prefer. He looked at me and smiled. Your accent’s strange, he said, you a foreigner? Somewhat, I answered. Where’re you from? he asked. Outside Sirius, I said. I don’t know that town, he said, what country’s it in? The Great Dog, I said. Huh, he said, so many new countries in the world these days. He scratched his back with his cue. So what’s your name? he asked. Waclaw, I answered, but that’s just what I was baptized, my friends call me Tadeus. His suspicious look disappeared, and he gave me a wide grin. Then you’re baptized, he said, so you’re Christian, let me offer you a drink, what’ll you have? I told him a white port, and he called the waiter over. I know what you need, the man went on, you need a woman, a beautiful African woman, eighteen years old, good price, practically a virgin, just came yesterday from Cape Verde. No thanks, I said, I have to be going soon, I’ll be getting a taxi, I have an important appointment tonight, I don’t have time for girls right now. He stared at me, puzzled. Hmm, he said, so what’re you looking for around here? I lit a cigarette and was quiet a moment. I’m looking for a woman, too, I said, and I’m going around asking about her, I just stopped in here to pass the time, because I have an appointment with a lady who can give me some information, and I want to hear what she has to tell me; actually, I’d better go, there’s a taxi free at the stand, I’d better hurry. Wait a second, he said, why’re you looking for this woman – do you need her? Maybe, I answered, you might say I lost track of her and I’ve come from the Great Dog just to look for her, I’d like to know more about her, and that’s why I have this appointment. And where is this appointment? he asked. In the most elegant restaurant in Lisbon, I told him, a place full of mirrors and crystal, I’ve never been, I suppose it’ll cost quite a bit, but I’m not the one paying, what can I say, my friend, I’m here on leave, I barely have a coin to my name, so I’d better accept the invitations of others. Is it a fascist place? the old man asked. I couldn’t say, I answered, to be honest I never really thought about it in those terms. I rose quickly, said goodbye, and left. The taxi was still at the stand. I slipped inside and said: good evening, Tavares, please.

Editorial Reviews

A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2017" The story’s procedural structure rather pleasingly echoes an episode of “Law and Order.” But to Tadeus the encounters represent the concentric circles on a mandala, a symbol of wholeness in Indian philosophy. . . this tantalizing, quicksilver novel, subtly translated by Elizabeth Harris, illuminates a soul in transit, yearning to complete the story that will release him from his suffering." — Sam Sacks, in The Wall Street Journal"Planes of existence are crossed, and the dead brought back to life, in order to reach the center of Tabucchi's project. Luckily, that center is worth its intrigue. Isabel's path through life, and the narrator's path following her, is filled with brilliant twists and turns, spanning continents and lifetimes. Even a clever reader won't be able to guess every direction the story takes." -- Noah Cruickshank, the Field Museum, in Shelf Awareness"[A] mandala of regret and forgiveness. In this sense, For Isabel, with its easy prose and vibrant scenes, may speak to anyone." — World Literature Today"[A] detective story, a fable of sorts, a tour of European cities and a series of wild and eccentric characters...  It’s a cliché to say it’s about the journey instead of the destination, but For Isabel finds a clever way to say it. 'Just think of me as someone who searches,' Tadeus says. And throughout the novel, the search is satisfying." — GQ"[FOR ISABEL is] more than the story of a missing girl; it is history recalled as though in a dream, hovering briefly, through the combination of Tabucchi’s elegiac prose and Harris’s lucid translation, over life and death." — Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)"[O]ne man is journeying through concentric circles of evidence to uncover deeper ideas about truth ... [T]here's a satisfying richness to the whole, and translator Harris gracefully navigates the narrator's tonal shift from gumshoe to spiritual seeker, making the story lyrical and surprising while avoiding airiness. An ... engaging jaunt into the ineffable." — Kirkus Reviews "Tabucchi’s language is spare and lyrical, his narrative lush in history and character, and the novel ends on a quietly peaceful note that seems a fitting farewell to the author himself. For literary readers who like a mystical touch." — Library Journal"…A charming, eerie little tale -- politically tinged, with a touch of mystery to it, and a spiritual element, yet none of which weigh too heavily on the story. For Isabel is, in the best sense, weird, with its unusual feel and (ir)reality." — M.A.Orthofer , The Complete Review "[A]n expertly crafted work, like a mandala, slowly a cohesive picture comes into place, just like the sands of many colours placed on the plain canvas in front of you... Another beautifully crafted and subtle tale from the pen of Antonio Tabucchi, a story of grief, a search for meaning, a travelogue, the eternal pursuit of happiness." — Tony Messenger, Messenger's Booker (and more)"The one hundred luminous pages of For Isabel follow the narrator, Tadeus... Not only does he learn of Isabel’s fate, but he also arrives at a clearer understanding of photography, of writing, of the impermanence of life itself... Translated elegantly and seamlessly by Elizabeth Harris." — Natalia Sakissian, Numéro Cinq Magazine"An essential testament to Tabucchi's talent, a masterwork written with diligence and care... The novel is an epitome of Tabucchi's work, an account of exotic travels and blossoming, abstruse identities, a dream-like and ironic limbo... Literary alchemy." -- Javier Aparicio Maydeu, El Pais "A masterfully written work made of pauses and delays, realistic details and openings into the fantastic... Tabucchi's art is deployed here in all its force and fascination. It wins us over once again." -- Fabio Gambaro, Le Monde "Tabucchi enters and expands his fictional universe, revisiting his beloved Lisbon and advancing his reflections on being and time. The novel is a perfect mix of diverse elements, of sudden twists and geographic flights; the plot is crafted with exquisite mastery, the story both engages and provokes." -- Paolo Mauri, La Repubblica— Angelo Guglielmi, L’Unità