Tabucchi's fourth work to be translated into English functions as both a surrealistic mystery novel and a philosophical inquiry into the nature of existence. But muddy writing and a badly conceptualized story line prevents it from realizing that magical quality achieved so effortlessly by Calvino, with whom the author can be compared. Spino, a mortuary worker whose name, Tabucchi coyly admits, is an abbreviation of Spinoza, becomes intrigued when the corpse of a young man who went by the pseudonym "Carlo Nobodi" is brought into the morgue. Although he was killed in a bloody gun battle with police, it is unclear whether Carlo was part of a criminal gang or only an unlucky bystander. Spino fixates on the mystery surrounding the young man's short life and death, and determines to learn as much as he can. A series of palpable yet baffling clues--an old photograph, a jacket that belonged to Carlo's father--leads Spino figuratively and literally to the outskirts of the Italian underworld, a realm he must enter to complete his discovery, in this promising but yet ultimately frustrating work.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Tim Parks is the author of more than twenty novels and works of nonfiction, including the best-selling Italian Neighbors and An Italian Education. His novels include Europa which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. His essays have appeared in the The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books. Parks is also a renowned translator from the Italian and lives in Verona. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.