Distant Light by Antonio Moresco, trans. by Richard Dixon

A man on a remote mountain puzzles over a mysterious distant light in this gently disquieting novel.

distant light

Antonio Moresco offers an otherworldly story of isolation with Distant Light, translated from the Italian by Richard Dixon. The unnamed narrator opens with the statement that “I have come here to disappear.” He is the sole resident of an abandoned village in the mountains, and spends his day wandering the ruins of houses, sheds and a cemetery that are fast returning to nature. He contemplates the forces around him, described in sinister terms: evil, savage plants strangling and fighting one another in “this slaughter, this blind and relentless torsion they call life.” While bothered by these thoughts, and the noises of the wild animals, he is most tormented by the mystery of the light across the gorge. Deep in a thick forest, the light comes on each evening at the same time. What could it be–human, bioluminescence, alien?

Distant Light combines poetry and philosophy, and employs a setting both threatening and teeming with life. In a plot where not much happens, with few characters and no names, Moresco nevertheless evokes profound concepts and deep emotions. His quietly anguished protagonist claims to seek seclusion but cannot put down the question of the “maelstrom of little lights.” When the man finally crosses the gorge and meets the small boy living alone in an ancient house, he finds only another puzzle. Lonesome, dreamy, desolate, this is a novel of reflection on humanity’s place in the universe and the fluid relationship between life and death. Patient readers of philosophy will appreciate this brief but deliberately paced meditation.

This review originally ran in the March 29, 2016 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish news.

Rating: 7 potholes.

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