Meanings are elusive and tension minimal in this curious novel left behind by the Sicilian academic and fiction-writer (West of the Moon
, 1995, etc.) who spent almost half his life (1923-90) in self-imposed exile in England. Its subject is the chronic insomnia suffered by its unnamed narrator, whose sleepless wanderings through quiet city streets are juxtaposed against fragmented memories of his childhood and youth and enigmatic conversations—with the whores who inhabit the "nighttown" he's exploring, an inquisitive old man, an ebullient retired military captain, and others. Clues to his insomnia are embedded in references to his unprepossessing "lantern jaw" and habit of "go[ing] around town hitting waiters," suggestions that a childhood exposure to violence and criminality has bequeathed him unresolved emotions, and in the haunting image of a "reverse sun" moving backward in the sky toward the point at which it rose.
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