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.

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

  1. See the benefits of being lazy. You do the work and I benefit. Seriously though this one sounds as if it’s a book I’d really enjoy. It’s got that old film thing going, so that immediately grabs my interest.

  2. Though I have only read one Tabucchi book thus far, based upon that experience as well as upon everyone’s posts, Tabucchi seems to have an unusual but brilliant way of conveying pathos. Based on your commentary it sounds as if Tabucchi has done so here as well.

    The plot of this story sounds particularly interesting as well. I like the idea of a morgue worker identifying with a subject of their work!

  3. I can’t remember for sure, but I think Sergio Pitol raved about this as one of his favorite Tabucchis somewhere. Like Guy, I like the sound of the movie/literature tie-in. Hope to have my own Tabucchi post up sometime late tomorrow. Cheers!

    • I postponed my wrap up and will do it on Monday… I’m really curious to find out which one you chose.
      I liked this one a great deal and didn’t mind the ending. Tabucchi wrote that it was one of his more depressing books. True enough but still beautiful.

  4. Pingback: Antonio Tabucchi Week « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  5. Wonderful review, Caroline! I will add this book also to my ‘TBR’ list. When I was younger, I had a problem with books where the ending was ambiguous or left to our imagination. It took me a long time to appreciate the ‘journey-more-important-than-the-destination’ style of writing. It is interesting that Tabucchi makes the ending mysterious in this book. I would love to find out what it is. I love the title of the book – it says a lot of things. Thanks for your wonderful review!

  6. This one appeals to me more than Requiem but I have to read the one I already bought first.

    PS: when I read the quote, I imagine him wearing a white “marcel” (no idea of the English word for that)

    Did you read it in Italian, French, German or English?

    • One in Italian, the other one in German (Requiem which was silly as the German is translated from the Italian which is translated from the Portuguese…)
      I think this one is a great starting point, it’s short and contains all of the trademarks of his writing but like you I try not to add too many unread books by the same authors to my piles.

      • I loved what Emma asked you 🙂 And it is interesting that ‘Requiem’ was originally written in Portuguese. An Italian writer, wrote a book in Portuguese which was translated into Italian which was in turn translated into German – very interesting!

  7. The enormous Prince of Tides kept me busy all week, alas. But I really do want to read Tabucchi and will start Pereira Maintains very soon. I’ll just be a little late to the party. This one sounds most intriguing too, but since I own PM, I’ll start there.

    • It’s a bit sad in your case as I feel you would like his more experimental novels even better on the other hand, if you like Pereira Maintains you know you will lve the others even more. Of course I’ll add the link anyway.
      Yes, the prince of Tides is qite a chunkster but thank’s to your great review I’ll read it soon. It’s just such a fantastic topic.

  8. Pingback: Antonio Tabucchi Week – Wrap Up « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  9. I’ve just done what I should have done to begin with–have requested both titles from my library’s interlibrar loan service–loads of libraries have them–not sure why we don’t have anything by him. Better late than never right–and I still have the short story to read in the interim–as always am playing catch up!

  10. Pingback: Best Books 2012 « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

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