Imagine you could create your own utopian writers' quarter—a close-knit community of those you admire or who have influenced you profoundly. For award-winning Portuguese author Gonçalo M. Tavares, six favorite senhores —“Misters” Calvino, Valéry, Juarroz, Kraus, Walser, and Henri—haunt the sidewalks, cafes, and back alleys of a fictive Lisbon bairro.
Readers will appreciate the homages to Italian fabulist Italo Calvino, French poet and critic Paul Valéry, Argentinean poet Roberto Juarroz, Swiss modernist Robert Walser, Austrian writer and satirist Karl Kraus, and Belgian neosurrealist Henri Michaux, but Tavares’s deceptively simple style appeals on many levels. In this imaginative territory, for instance, diminutive Mister Valéry jumps up and down—satisfied to be as tall as his fellow men if “only for a shorter while.” His more egocentric neighbor, Mister Henri, philosophizes about the virtues of absinthe, acknowledging the drink can make equally for a better or worse reality.
Enhancing each story are the drawings of Rachel Caiano, whose minimalist depictions mirror the essence of the personal, logical, and political absurdities that intrigue in these simple yet profound tales.
When we visit Tavares’s neighborhood, its building blocks made of books, we are also visiting a version of ourselves. —Philip Graham, from the foreword