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A never-ending tour among the seas, winds, and storms, on board a ship captained by a pilot who, one transparent January day, was overheard saying without any arrogance that he had visited the islands of every sea. After all, the Pilota is someone who, if he can’t travel by sea, perhaps because of the macaia, traces the shape of the islands with his finger on an old planisphere hanging in his window. Let’s make ourselves comfortable: the journey is fairlyshort but it will last longer than life itself. Alongside the book’s author and the Pilota, we will find ourselves in the middle of a hurricane in Cuba; below deck to take refuge from the mistral; resolving once and for all the mystery of the enormous statues on Easter Island (believing word for word Jared Diamond’s incredibly cruel thesis); we will make a stopover on the island of Ons to taste octopus prepared à la Gallega, with olive oil, ocean salt, and spicy paprika; and we will admire its lighthouse, one of the largest in all of Spain. Every island hides a mystery and not only in the labyrinth of concentric circles of Atlantis, which surfaced inside Plato’s mind. The Orkney islands, too, seventy pulverized fragments in the northernmost tip of Scotland; as well as the Isla de Tortuga, between Cuba, Haiti, and Santo Domingo; and the Lofoten Islands, two hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle, all hide a secret to which the Pilota will lead us. Storie fantastiche di isole vere is a fundamental journey among those myths and legends, the folklore and natural history that every island recounts to the sea before it does to humans. Can one be a flâneur of the islands? Yes, Ernesto Franco seems to tell us with this book. As an eminent island lover, attracted by islands near and far, emerged or submerged, real or fantastic, an author who, like Álvaro Mutis, has always been comfortable among the breakers without every being at their mercy, Franco knows that an island is a drawing, a miniature of the deep breath of the sea and that it is a life, a type of life that is impossible elsewhere.


Ernesto Franco was born in Genoa in 1956. He has translated Octavio Paz, Álvaro Mutis, and Julio Cortázar. He edited the Pléiade edition of Cortázar’s opus of short stories (1994). He has published Isolario (Einaudi 1994), Vite senza fine (Einaudi 1999 and 2020), Donna cometa (Donzelli 2020) and Storie fantastiche di isole vere (Einaudi 2024).

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