Antonio Tabucchi: The Edge of the Horizon – Il filo dell’ orizzonte (1986)

I liked Requiem so much but I loved The Edge of the Horizon even more. Once more it’s the story of a quest but this time the narrator is not on a trip to a foreign city but in his hometown. The place isn’t named but it’s a small and old Italian town located on the seaside. Tabucchi’s narrators don’t always have names but this one has, he is called Spino and according to the afterword, the name is a reference to Spinoza.

Spino is in his forties and works at the local morgue. He is a failed student who never finished his studies of medicine. His girlfriend of many years hasn’t really let go of the idea that there might still be time, that there is still something different to come, that he might still be a doctor one day. They have their rituals and one of them is to go to the Laterna Magica on Saturday evenings. It’s an old cinema in a picturesque back yard which shows mostly retrospectives and old movies. Later they go to a bar which does homemade drinks with ice and peppermint. The bar is located high up in the city and from there they have a beautiful view down rambling small alleys illuminated by the many lights in the darkness.

When a young man without identity is shot and his body brought to the morgue, everything changes. Spino is obsessed by the idea to find out the identity of the young man and his quest leads him from one person to the next.

It’s obvious that he identifies with the young man, that he is looking for himself as much as he is looking for that man’s identity.

The story is typical Tabucchi. I loved it for the descriptions, the mood, the atmosphere but I’m aware it isn’t one of his books which is universally liked. The ending is abrupt and mysterious and you really have to decide for yourself what happened.

I liked it because it’s a very melancholic story and the descriptions are wonderful. Instead of taking a trip to Lisbon it was like taking a trip to one of those typical old Italian towns with the narrow and steep alleys. The book has many descriptions of quiet moments like this one towards the end:

When the night began to fall, he turned on the radio without turning on the light. He was smoking in the dark while looking out of the window and observing the lights in the harbor. He let time slip away. He enjoyed listening to the radio in the dark, it gave him a feeling of distance.

The Edge of the Horizon is a short novella and it’s also contained in the book with the title Vanishing Point which has been reviewed for Tabucchi Week by 1streading here.

While there are a lot of similarities between Requiem and The Edge of the Horizon, reading them so close together showed how masterful Tabucchi is as the voices of the two narrators are distinct, the writing conveys a similar atmosphere but the style is very different. Despite the mysterious ending, this novella is much more accessible than Requiem. Like Pereira Maintains and Indian Nocturne, it would be a good starting point if you’ve never read Tabucchi.