Aporias and Intertextuality in Antonio Tabucchi's Il filo dell'orizzonte

by Charles Klopp
Aporias and Intertextuality in Antonio Tabucchi's Il filo dell'orizzonte
Charles Klopp
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Aporias and Intertextuality in Antonio Tabucchi's IIfilo dell'orizzonte

My work consists oftwo parts: the one presented here plus all I have NOT written. And it is precisely the second part that is the important one.1

t has become a commonplace in Tabucchi criticism to point to the sometimes crucial events that are not described in this writer's narratives. Such incidents are not limited to those so puzzlingly alluded to at the endings of novels like II filo dell'orizzonte, Requiem, Notturno indiano, Sostiene Periera, and, now, La testa perduta di Damasceno Monteiro; they also include many of the episodes leading up to these endings. In Requiem, for example, the narrator's long-awaited encounter with Isabel, the love of his life as well as the apparent source of the remorse that has stimulated the "hallucination" that constitutes the story in this novel, is an occluded episode of this sort. Although the narrator's meeting with this woman---or her ghost-would seem crucial to the book's plot, the encounter does not take place in the narrative itself but happens instead in the empty "intercapitular" space between Chapters Seven and Eight, pages 107 and 108 of the Feltrinelli edition.

II filo dell'orizzonte contains a similar episode. This time the meeting is between the novel's central character, the morgue attendant Spino, and an unnamed and never-described tipster who supplies Spino with a lead that begins the chain of film noirmeetings with a variety of colorful and sometimes louche characters that fill the final chapters of that work. Like the interview with Isabel in Requiem, Spino's meeting with the person who leads him to Beppe Harpo takes place on the blank pages between Chapters Thirteen and Fourteen. The reader is told about this important event only after it has occurred, when Spino telephones his friend Corrado who warns the morgue attendant that he should "Non ti fidare ... non fare niente per fiducia" (75).

That the endings to so many of Tabucchi's novels are in some sense indeterminate does not mean that at least hypothetical conclusions cannot be provided for them. Giovanni Palmieri, for example, who has neatly characterized Tabucchi as a "realista della virtualita," maintains that at the end of Notturno indiano-the novel in Tabucchi's oeuvre that has what is arguably the most indeterminate conclusion

ITALICA Volume 75 Number 3 (1998) il narratore trova Xavier ridotto in un tale stato che nessuno dei due

desidera piu incontrare l'altro. I due si separano, quindi, senza parlarsi.

Che Xavier fosse un tossicomane all'estremo delle forze efacilmente e

legittimamentededucibile da tutta una serie di allusioni in tal senso

disseminate nel testo. (Palmieri 129)

The references to drugs and drug trafficking that Palmieri alludes to would include, among others, such episodes in this novel as the doctor's refusal in Chapter Two to hunt for Xavier's medical record if he was a drug user because "i drogati li rifiutiamo;" the encounter with Tommy, the Philadelphia mailman in the hippy community in Goa, with whom the narrator shares a joint in Chapter Ten; and Xavier's own unaccounted-for wealth, trips to Thailand, and generally shady life in India as gradually revealed in the course of the novel.

In the same spirit, perhaps some "hypothetical conclusions" about II filo dell'orizzonte are in order as well. Is the mysterious and apparently dangerous individual Spino meets between chapters also involved with illegal drugs? If there is one aspect of the seamier side of the old city of Genoa during the years when this novel is set that is not treated explicitly in the book, it is the drug trade. In this regard it is worth remembering that Harpo, the pianist at the Tropicale who lost his physician's license for over-prescribing controlled substances, is rumored to have made a fortune in Latin America by some means other than "pigiando suI pianoforte" (77-78)-perhaps, in other words, in drugs. One might even wonder if Carlo's uncle and guardian, Fortunato, who was once employed at the Genoese customs office, did not lose his job for reasons that can be tied to this kind of illegal contraband (Filo dell'orrizonte 67). Perhaps it is because of some connection with his late uncle's misfortunes that Carlo is killed in the shootout with the police at the beginning of the novel. Such an interpretation would make Carlo's story a bleaker one than it already is in this novel-the writing of which, Tabucchi has commented, "non mi ha procurato eccessiva allegria" (Filo dell'orrizonte 107).

Tabucchi himself would seem to authorize the construction of such hypothetical endings as the two just outlined. In an interview at a 1991 Antwerp conference on his writing and that of other contemporary novelists, the creator of Notturno indiana, II filo dell'orizzonte, and Piccoli equivoci senza importanza explained how in his narratives "quando si arriva alIa fine [di una] storia, illegame che abbiamo stabilito con il nostro personaggio ediventato talmente complicato, talmente complesso, talmente forte, che emolto difficile dargli una fine." To provide an explicit conclusion for his fictions, Tabucchi continued, "significa costringere innocuamente un personaggio con il quale abbiamo vissuto, in maniera molto intensa, a una sua soluzione, imprigionarlo in un finale." To avoid this incarceration of his characters, Tabucchi has sought "la complicita del lettore ... a cui," he insists, "lascio spesso, e anche volentieri, la responsibilita di risolvere per conto suo il dramma." This "co-responsibilita dellettore" is justified, in Tabucchi's view, because of his strong conviction that "nonsi deve leggere impunemente." For the morally responsible reader, he believes, "leggere significa assumere delle responsiblita ... si sta facendo un atto importante." Because readers of Tabucchi's works have interpretative obligations of an ethical as well as an aesthetic nature, they are obliged to "entrare dentro il racconto e risolvere cio che e stato lasciato in ombra, cio che pub sembrare un enigma" ("Dibattito" 163). To a greater extent than for consumers of more conventional fiction, Tabucchi's readers are obliged not just to provide missing elements of the fabula or general story from which the work's sjuzet or plot has been fashioned, but to construct certain crucial aspects of the sjuzet as well.2

But for all the indeterminacy, lack of closure, and semantic mises en abfme in Tabucchi's fiction, there are nonetheless many references in his writings that can be explicated in more ordinary ways-cruxes of the old-fashioned sort. When reading Tabucchi, therefore, it is important to distinguish between allusions to a shared cultural heritage, on the one hand, and references to the private, extratextual fabulae or lives of his characters on the other. Unlike such references to episodes in his character's extratextuallives as the narrator's meeting with Isabel in Requiem or Spino's encounter with his source of information in II filo dell'orizzonte, the cultural allusions sprinkled throughout this writer's fiction can be identified and understood by readers who either share his intellectual background or have the patience (and perhaps access to a good library) to track such references down.

In what follows, I would like to explicate three such intertextual references in II filo dell'orizzonte before going on to consider some extratextual allusions of the other sort in this novel. The latter are true aporias that must remain occluded until such time as Tabucchi decides to cast light on them in some other way-through a more extended reference to these same characters or incidents, for example, in another work as he has in fact done in the case of Isabel, who appears not only in Requiem, but whose story is also alluded to in Notturno indiano and in "Any where [sic] out of the world" in Piccoli equivoci senza importanza. Tadeus, similarly, figures importantly not only in Requiem, but also in "Voci portate da qualcosa, impossibile dire cosa," and "Notte, mare 0 distanza" from L'angelo nero. Both characters also appear briefly in Chapter Three of Notturno indiano where Tadeus-in a narrative move whose implications cannot be pursued here-is named Xavier.


As Remo Ceserani has pointed out, II filo dell'orizzonte is crammed with references not just to books and other literary texts but to isolated words, phrases, inscriptions, mottos, epigrams, and other writings and fragments of writings (118-19). These texts and pieces of texts appear on the walls of the city where Spino's investigation takes place, on poison warnings left in its alleys, on funerary monuments, wedding rings, and hair lotion bottles. They also take more conventional forms as lovers' notes, postcards, and answering machine messages. Such "quotationism" is, of course, one of the hallmarks of the post-modem in literature.I

The first quotation of this sort that I would like to examine appears in Chapter Eight. In this episode, Spino and his girlfriend Sara have taken an excursion to a country church in the Genoese hinterland.l While conversing idly with the priest of that church, Spino notices that the clergyman has been reading "un libro che parla di destino e di tarocchi," a work that deals, as he puts it, with "Ie strane combinazioni della vita" (45, 47). Though never explicitly identified, the book that Spino picks up and reads in this chapter is certainly Italo Calvino's 1973 "combinatorial" novel, II castello dei destini incrociati.t When Tabucchi's character opens the priest's book to page forty-six and "con voce grave, come se fingesse di essere un cartomante" (47), consults its first paragraph, this is the passage that he reads:

Certamente anche la mia storia econtenuta in questo intreccio di carte, passato presente futuro, rna io non so piu distinguerla dalle altre. La foresta, il castello, i tarocchi m'hanno portato a questo traguardo: a perdere la mia storia, a confonderla nel pulviscolo delle storie, a liberarmene. Quello che rimane di me esolo l'ostinazione maniaca a completare, a chiudere, a far tornare i conti.P

The priest's comment on the passage is straightforward. While concedingthat"soloDio conosce tutteIecombinazioni dell'esistenza," as a man of God he insists that human beings are obliged to choose their individual destinies from the tangle presented to us. "Solo a noi," he admonishes Spino, "spetta di scegliere la nostra combinazione fra tutte quelle possibili" (47). While we are not told what Spino's reaction is to the Calvino passage he has read or to the accompanying gloss by the priest, we are informed that during the bus ride back to Genoa "ha pensato al destino, alIa frase di quellibro che aveva letto, Ie infinite combinazioni della vita" (48).

Like Calvino's narrator in IIcastello deidestini incrociati, Spino is beginning to realize that his personal story can only be deciphered in terms of the stories of others, in his case the story especially of the Carlo Nobodi whose life and last days he feels driven to reconstruct.

To the bewilderment of others around him, in the rest of this novel Spino finds himself forced to ferret out the meaning of Carlo's life and death, impelled, apparently, by the same "ostinazione maniaca" to "completare, a chiudere, a far tornare i conti" that motivated Calvino's traveller-an urge that by this time is likely to be shared by II filo dell'orizzonte's readers as well.7

The traveller in Calvino's book is not only unable to find his story except in the stories of others, he is working with an incomplete deck of tarot cards that he must interpret in a personal and consequently an arbitrary way. In Tabucchi's book too, Spino is struggling with fragments of evidence that are comprehensible only in terms of his own life. Both authors would seem to be stressing that interpretation of anything-tarot cards, a murder, a literary text-must follow lines that have been traced by others while at the same time remaining personal or autobiographical. The hermeneutic interprise is at once a collective and an idiosyncratic endeavor.

The link with Calvino also provides Tabucchi's text with a literary affiliation that, in a post-modem spirit akin perhaps to the notions of "weak thought" in philosophy, breaks (to paraphrase Tabucchi himself in another place) with previous tradition at the same time as it attempts to recuperate and coopt that tradition.f Tabucchi's strategy is to continue but at the same time surpass Calvino through his coopting of the previous writer's text, authorizing his own search narrative by situating it within a larger intellectual and literary context as he acknowledges his debt to and establishes his distance from an admired predecessor.


The second intertextual reference I would like to examine occurs in Chapter Ten when Spino is saying goodbye to Sara as she is about to leave for an .excursion to the Lago Maggiore. Suffering from a momentary Iapsus, Spino asks Sara to send him a postcard from Duino, the location near Trieste where Rilke wrote a famous series of elegies and a locale that Spino has confused with the similarly-named Luino on the lake where Sara is headed. This accidental evocation of Rilke and his poetry through what might be called a "piccolo equivoco senza importanza" prompts Spino to reflect for an entire day about a poem by Rilke that "ha per oggetto la fotografia del padre" and that Spino knows by heart (54). The text that is referred to here-though it is not identified explicitly any more than Calvino's Castello dei destini incrociati was-is not from the Duino Elegies but is almost certainly the sonnet, "]ugend-Bildnis Meines Vaters" ("A Portrait of My Father As a Young Man") from Rilke's Neue Gedichte of 1907-1908. In this sonnet, the German poet, for whom it has been said that "the experience of grief for the dead was probably the most moving human experience" (Lange 668), is describing a daguerreotype of his father, a fading image the poem's speaker compares to his own more slowly but just as certainly elapsing life: "Du schnell vergehendes Daguerrotyp / in meinen langsamer vergehenden Handen." ("Old, dim daguerrotype, how fast you fade / between my own more slowly fading hands.") The themes, therefore, of mutability and death, representation and reality, interpretation and commemoration, paternity and filiality, that are so important in II filo dell'orizzonte are essential elements in Rilke's sonnet as well.

In the Neue Gedichte, moreover, the sonnet on the "Jugend-Bildnis Meines Vaters" appears just before another sonnet portrait, this time of the author himself. This "Selbstbildnis aus dem Jahre 1906" ("SelfPortrait in the Year 1906") was composed at roughly the same time as the preceding poem, to which it is tied thematically through the common subject and the highlighting in both texts of the eyes, mouths, and brows of the two portrait sitters, father and son.?

In Rilke's sonnet on the daguerreotype of his father, the subject of the representation frustratingly eludes full comprehension by the observing poet. When considering his own likeness, by contrast, Rilke's self-portrait evokes not so much the increasing entropy of both image and subject but the potential for a life that is still to be lived.l0 Like Calvino's traveller contemplating the spread of tarot cards, and Spino reflecting on the enigma of Carlo Nobodi's mysterious life and death, Rilke understands that the meaning of his own life is tied to that of his father. It is through his reflections on the elusive and now tragically fading meaning of his father's life that he can begin to construct the meaning of his own as yet unrealized though already tragically waning existence.l! As is the case for Carlo Nobodi's past in regard to Spino's future, for Rilke in these two sonnets, past and future are fused in an affectionate and sorrowful elegy that embraces both the person elegized and the elegiast himself and plays as well with notions of potential realized or not realized.


The final crux I would like to consider occurs in Chapter Eighteen of II filo dell'orizzonie. In response to the last but one of a series of mysterious messages, Spino has gone to Genoa's famous Staglieno Cemetery where he is looking at a tomb on which, "sotto un nome straniero, dentro un cartiglio in bassorilievo, c'era un motto greco con la traduzione italiana accanto: Muore il corpo dell'uom, virtu non muore" (94). The text referred to here is a fragment by Euripides, which in its more complete form reads as follows:

'ApEr~ o€:, KaV ecivlJ TLS, OUK anOAAUTaL, Ca 0' OUKET' QvrOS ouiuuros KaKOLOL o€: anaVTa ¢poDoa 0 uveavove' l rro Xeovos

Virtue's not killed at death. The body dies But virtue lives; while all that bad men had Dies with them, and is clean gone underground.12

In this evocation of death and memorialization in a text that is itself part of a funereal commemoration, the extratextual context of Tabucchi's novel has widened to include the fifth-century B.C. Greek tragedian Euripides along with the modernists Calvino and Rilke. At what is almost the final stop in the series of encounters that make up his quest to discover Carlo's and his own identity, Spino has been led not toaperson buttoatext:"solo alloragli eparsodi capirechequalcuno voleva semplicemente che lui leggesse quell'epigrafe, che in cio consisteva l'appuntamento, che questo era il messaggio (94)."13

A theme reiterated in II filo dell'orizzonte is that the dead should be remembered, especially for the 'ap € rT) (the Greek term can be translated as "goodness," "excellence", "valor," "dignity") that has been part of their lives. In Carlo's case the degraded civilization of late capitalism seems determined to wrest that remembered 'ap€ri) from him, burying him, as it were, without a tomb or inscription. Spino, as he has done throughout the novel, is attempting, Antigone-like, to provide Carlo with a metaphorical burial that will commemorate him not as "Nobodi" but as "Somebody.tU

In the chapter that follows, Chapter Nineteen of the twenty that make up the book, the quotation from Euripides is joined by references to Shakespeare's Hamlet(Act II, scene ii), allusions readily identifiable for English-speaking readers. Through these allusions to Shakespeare's play, the Euripidean reference of the previous episode is tied explicitly to this other great tradition of European tragic writing. The allusions also bring to mind another famous passage in the play, Hamlet's celebrated "To be or not to be" soliloquy of Act III, a passage alluded to in the novel's epigraph from [ankelevitch and a meditation on the suicide that Hamlet rejects but that Spino perhaps doesn't when he advances into "iI buio" of the novel's final, mysterious sentence.


The intertextual references reviewed above serve to strengthen the main themes of II filo dell'orizzonte, among them Tabucchi's emphasis on the interlinking of individual destinies and our moral imperative to honor and remember the dead, whether these are previous writers or our own less celebrated-even anonymous-contemporaries. Through the intertextuallinks this text establishes with earlier writers in the Romance, Germanic, English, and classical traditions of European literature, Tabucchi is paying homage to the 'ap€rT) of his literary fathers, Calvino, Rilke, Euripides, and Shakespeare. His quotationism in this novel is not just authorial playfulness but part of a strategy of commemoration of both the recent dead and Tabucchi's literary ancestors that ties both Carlo Nobodi's otherwise unremembered life and Tabucchi's tale about him to a powerful continuum of western cultural achievement.

In addition to the cruxes in II filo dell'orizzonteof the sort I have just reviewed, there are other extratextual references in the book that cannot be explicated in this way. What, for example, is the content of the letter by Carlo Nobodi that the country priest shows Spino in Chapter Eight (46)? More important still, what was the message Spino received before leaving for his last appointment at the docks (97), and what did he say to Sara in the letter he mailed to her before going to that appointment (101, 102)? Additional aporia in this novel include the mention of a traumatic reaction to a cowboy movie at the cinema Aurora when Spino was a child (27), memories of the dog "Biscotto" from a similar period in his life (58), and painful recollections of a scene when a younger Spino and his siblings were cruelly and repeatedly described by a malicious playmate as "tre piccoli orfanelli" (53). Perhaps such allusions to these elements in Spino's life are connected with his reflection in the cemetery that "i suoi morti non erano in quel luogo ne in nessun altro luogo" (90)? They may also have something to do with his recollection in Chapter Eighteen of "un letto di morte e una promessa fatta e mai mantenuta," a painful memory that washes over the novel's protagonist "come un'onda che 10 avesse investito tiepida e travolgente" (98). All of these episodes, in II filo dell'orizzonte, are parts of a tabula that is imagined to exist in some extratextual space but has not contributed to the novel's sjuzet, fragments of a tale the narrator choses to conceal rather than reveal-his reticence reminiscent of that of Pereira in regard to his dreams, aspects of this character's private life that "non crede opportuno rivelare perche non ha niente ache vedere con questa storia."15

While the intertextual references to Calvino, Rilke and the others that have been examined above valorize and dignify Spino's and Carlo's stories by placing these stories in the continuum of western culture, the unresolvable aporia that appear in this novel safeguard human dignity in another way. Scenes of interrogation-usually by malevolent and inhumane forces-are at the center of many of Tabucchi's writings. In his most recent novels, Sostiene Pereira of 1994 and La testa perduta di Damasceno Monteiro of 1997, interrogation by the police is a crucial part of the plot. Interrogation was also prominent in such earlier stories as "Piccoli equivoci senza importanza," which is set in a courtroom during a political trial, "Notte, mare 0 distanza," in which a Fascist thug bullies a group of intellectuals at gunpoint, and "II battere d'ali di una farfalla a New York puc> provocare un tifone a Pechino?" where unidentified and apparently para-government interrogators grill an accused terrorist.l" In all these works the interrogating forces are odious ones whose zeal to arrive at the answers that they wish to evoke leads them to run rough-shod over the nuances of motivation and feeling that have led to the acts being investigated. By screening the private lives of his characters from too close interrogation even from his readers, Tabucchi would seem to be insisting that these characters be accorded the right to privacy that is often denied to individuals in the modern, extratextual world beyond his fictions."? While resolving the intertextual cruxes that appear in his writings is a perfectly legitimate critical operation, to crucify this writer's characters by peering unduly into their most private lives is a much more perilous undertaking, one that risks allying readers of Tabucchi's fictions with the forces of repression that are frequently denounced in them.


The Ohio State University


lLudwig Wittgenstein in an undated letter to Ludwig von Ficker written in 1919, just a few months before publication of his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus in 1921. Briefe 55.

2The terminology adopted here comes from the work of the Russian formalists, especially that of Boris Tomashevskii. See the essay, "Thematics," by him in Lemon and Reis.

3See Hutcheon, 62-117, passim Tabucchi's use of these quotations, as Francese points out, is not merely "ludic" the way it can be in other writers. In his Narrating Postmodern Time and Space, this critic distinguishes between "metafictional" narratives on the one hand, and "oppositional postmodern narratives" on the other. Though both kinds of work may be described as "quotationist," in narratives of the oppositional sort, allusions to the past function to "recuperate elements of past praxis that have been written out of historiographic recountings of the past" (107). In this way, Francese explains further in another essay, the evocation of the past is part of Tabucchi's more general strategy to produce texts that serve as a "scambio umano atto a rendere collettiva la memoria" (Spunti e ricerche23).

4Although the city where the action takes place is never named in the novel, Il filo dell' orizzonte clearly takes place in the Ligurian capital and environs. For the Genoese origin of the story, see Ceserani 116-17 and Surdich 167.

5For the combinatorial nature of this novel, see Frasson-Marin 193-250; Milanini

127-47; Weiss 13Q-45.

6Calvino 46. The discussion of this page in II castello dei destini incrociati occurs in Tabucchi's novel at the same point (45-47) in the later novel's pagination as it does in Calvino's work. Though both Ceserani and Surdich discuss this episode in II IUo dell' orizzonte, they do not do so in reference to the specific passage in Calvino. Speaking of Spino's reflections during the bus ride home, Ceserani maintains that "we readers will never find out what was written in that phrase. We will be made to decipher the infinite combinations of life without even possessing that small interpretative key" (121). Surdich is struck by the "strange coincidence, almost a mise en abime" of the reference, but does not connect it explicitly to II castello dei destini incrociati (170). Walter Geertz does speak of "tarocchi di calviniana memoria," but without establishing the link between Tabucchi's reference and its precise source in Calvino (121).

7Francese, however, puts the emphasis on the differences here between Tabucchi and Calvino, holding that in the passage in question from II castellodei destini incrociati "the immanent narrator is absorbed into the archetypes and ultimately becomes an archetype himself, an everyman who is unable to find his own autobiography among the cards" (Narrating 72). Calvino's desire, furthermore, to find a "primum mobile that would provide a key for the deciphering and mastering of a metanarrative" (ibid) is another indication of an important difference between him and Tabucchi who does not share his predecessor's need for a "foundational metanarrative capable of reconciling the myriad small narratives of post-modernity" (9).

81nan amusing episode in Tabucchi's Requiem theVenditore di Storie describes a "post-modem" restaurant as a locale that "ha rotto con la tradizione recuperando la tradizione, diciamo che sembra il riassunto di varie forme diverse, secondo me ein questo che consiste il post-moderno" (113). For "il pensiero debole" see Vattimo 172-89.

9The texts of both poems, plus English translations by Stephen Cohn, follow:

Jugend-Bildnis Meines Vaters

1m Auge Traum Die Stirn wie in Beriihrung

mit etwas Fernem. Urn den Mund enorm

viel Jugend, ungelachelte Verfiihrung,

und vor der vollen schmiickenden Verschnurung

der schlanken adeligen Uniform

der Sabelkorb und beide Hande-s-, die

abwarten, ruhig, zu nichts hingedrangt.

Und nun fast nicht mehr sichtbar: als ob sie

zuerst, die Femes greifenden, verschwanden,

Und alles andre mit sich selbst verhangt

und ausgeloscht als ob wirs nicht verstanden

und tief aus seiner eignen Tiefe trlib-.

Du schnell vergehendes Daguerreotyp

in meinen langsamer vergehenden Handen.

[Eyes full of dreams. A forehead that seems made

To ponder distances. His unsmiling mouth,

full-lipped and sensual, startling in its youth.

A trim dress-uniform enriched with braid.

The saber's basket-hilt, held out in front,

supporting patient hands content to wait and free from any urgency, inert:

yet they perhaps intend, growing so faint,

to grasp at distance and be first to die.

All else veiled in its own obscurity,

so indistinct I cannot understand

and deep within itself profoundly sad.

Old, dim daguerrotype, how fast you fade

between my own more-slowly-fading hands.]

Selbstbildnis aus dem Jahre 1906

Des alten lange adligen Geschlechtes

Festehendes im Augenbogenbau.

1m Blicke noch der Kindheit Angst und Blau

und Demut da und dort, nicht eines Knechtes

doch eines Dienenden und einer Frau.

Der Mund als Mund gemacht, gross und genau,

nicht iiberredend, aber ein Gerechtes

Aussagendes. Die Stime ohne Schlechtes

und gem im Schatten stiller Niederschau.

Das, als Zusammenhang, erst nur geahnt;

noch nie im Leiden oder im Gelingen

zusammgefasst zu dauemdem Durchdringen,

doch so, als ware mit zerstreuten Dingen

von fern ein Emstes, Wirkliches geplant.

[A steadfastness, his one inheritance

from old nobility, has stamped the brows,

but in the eyes still childhood's blue, its fears.

A waiter's or a woman's deference,

although not slavish, shows occasionally.

The mouth is large and what a mouth should be,

not too persuasive but quite eloquent

enough. A forehead still all innocence

prefers its own shade, stooped reflectively.

All is conjecture, none of it made whole,

neither by hardship nor by hard

endeavor knit into a work achieved:

but as if out of all these scattered parts

there was projected something true and real.]

10As the epigraph by Vladimir Jankelevitch (possibly from his La mort) to II filo dell' orizzonte puts it, "l'essere stato appartiene in qualche modo a un 'terzo genere, , radicalmente eterogeno all' essere come al non-essere" (7).

11For the importance of photographs in Tabucchi see Ceserani passim. In the final chapter of Notturno indiano, Christine, the French photographer encountered in Goa, urges the narrator to beware of the "morceaux choisis" that photographic reproductions inevitably present. Such images, she insists, are by their nature only partial and thus potentially misleading indications of a larger truth beyond the frame of the captured image. In a macabre scene in Tabucchi's most recent novel, La testa perduta di Damasceno Monteiro, the murdered Monteiro's head is photographed by the investigating Lisbon reporter and then disseminated throughout Portugal by the popular press in a sensationalistic commercial gesture whose morality and effect on the justice system is one of the issues the novel ponders.

12Fragment #722. Text and translation in King 20. Geertz (123), who elsewhere in his essay has seen connections between ll filo dell' orizzonte and Giorgio Bassani's L' airone of 1968, suggests a connection between this epigraph and the first chapter of Bassani's Dietro la porta. In Bassani's novel the slightly different epigraph, Mors domuit corpora / Vicit mortem virtus, appears sculpted over an entrance hall to the Liceo Guarini where Bassani's protagonist is beginning his studies (Bassani, 18). Here it might be observed that the idea of "domination" and "conquering" ("domuit," "vicit") in this inscription, which is meant to honor Italians killed in the First World War, seems more consonant with Fascist notions of power and aggression (Bassani's novel is set in 1929-1930) than does the Euripides quote which, by contrast, treats the issue of impermanence versus immortality.

13As indicated, the motto by Euripides is given only in part and in Italian translation. The notion of translation and its limits is treated in several places in Tabucchi's fiction, for example, in the note to Requiem, a novel originally written in Portuguese and only subsequently published in Italian. It is also important in Notturno indiano, by the end of which it has become clear that the narrator has in fact been speaking French with the French photographer Christine and that all of the dialogue in the now completed novel must have taken place in either English, Portuguese, or French, and not in the Italian in which this dialogue has been reported. These conversations, therefore, as translations of dialogue not available in the original, may be said to exist at an additional remove from readers of this work.

14Memories of a student production of Sophocles' Antigone in the context of a later courtroom drama involving accusations of terrorism are important in "Piccoli equivoci senza importanza," the first story in the collection by that name.

15Sostiene Pereira 163; for a similar comment about another dream, see 108.

16The first story is from the collection of the same name, the other two from L' angelo nero.

17For Tabucchi' s interest in the institutional use of torture by police and other government forces, see the "Nota" to La testa perduta di Damasceno Monteiro and the reference there to Cassese who lists Tabucchi among those who have helped him with his book.


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