Jan/Feb 2000 Book Reviews


Fabio Morábito (Trans. by Groff Hargreaves)
Bloomsbury USA (November 1999) 72 pages
ISBN: 1 58234 061 7

reviewed by Ann Skea

This is a weird and wonderful book. It is a book for poets not for pragmatists. It is a book of metaphors, images, ideas and the surreal endowment of inanimate objects with rich and sensual intention. Its language, and the rhythms of its language, are those of poetry and it must be read as such or it appears meaningless - or mad.

Toolbox is not a book for the unimaginative tradesman/journeyman for whom tools can never be anything but tools. It is not an instruction manual. It is a book of fiction and fantasy - with the richness of a Gaudi creation and the inventiveness of a Dali or Dada.

Consider this:

"A screw is morose and circumspect like oil. It is like a lubricated nail, manufactured to be mindful of other materials and to get along with them, careful not to impose its laws on them. In a screw the tough monologue of the nail has been transmuted into dialogue and negotiation. Hence the joints made by a screw are more durable. In place a brusque conquest, there is piecemeal infiltration".

In the book this is printed as prose but it could very easily have been set out as poetry, because the rhythm of the voice is so strong. In fact, there is a hint of stanzas in the text which, unless you read the text as poetry, looks like a word-spacing error on certain lines or the intention of emphasising particular words.

The preface to this book rather unhelpfully invokes occultism, fractal theory, parallel worlds and alternative cosmogonies to describe Fabio Morábito's strange creation. It suggests weighty philosophical concerns where playful, joking fantasy might be more appropriate, at least at first reading.

Just such fantasy is captured by Bernado Recamier's illustrations, which are at least as weird as the text. And the translator, Geoff Hargreaves, has provided a beautifully fluent narrative voice with a strong poetic rhythm which must surely reflect the original in its care for the exact weight and measure of each word and sentence.

This is certainly not a book for everyone. But it is full of surprises and of such subtly odd and new ways of looking at everyday objects that it offers the imaginative endless ways of transforming everything dull and mundane into something new and amazing. It is, precisely, a toolbox full of imaginative tools.


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