Antonio Tabucchi, from The Woman of Porto Pim, Archipelago Press, Brooklyn NY, 2013, pp. 95–96. Translated by Tim Parks.
Always so feverish, and with those long limbs waving about. Not rounded at all, so they don’t have the majesty of complete, rounded shapes sufficient unto themselves, but little moving heads where all their strange life seems to be concentrated. They arrive sliding across the sea, but not swimming, as if they were birds almost, and they bring death with frailty and graceful ferocity. They’re silent for long periods, but then shout at each other with unexpected fury, a tangle of sounds that hardly vary and don’t have the perfection of our basic cries: the call, the love cry, the death lament. And how pitiful their lovemaking must be: and bristly, brusque almost, immediate, without a soft covering of fat, made easy by their threadlike shape which excludes the heroic difficulties of union and the magnificent and tender efforts to achieve it.
They don’t like water, they’re afraid of it, and it’s hard to understand why they bother with it. Like us they travel in herds, but they don’t bring their females, one imagines they must be elsewhere, but always invisible. Sometimes they sing, but only for themselves, and their song isn’t a call to others, but a sort of longing lament. They soon get tired and when evening falls they lie down on the little islands that take them about and perhaps fall asleep or watch the moon. They slide silently by and you realize they are sad.
Had he read Democritus, he might have discovered, in philosophy's first collection of ethical precepts, among portents of atheism, and the vision of his own soul composed of round, smooth, especially mobile atoms, that it is the unexpected which occurs.
—William Gaddis, The Recognitions