Robert Dessaix

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Night Letters

Dessaix, Robert

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel


An Australian man has recently been diagnosed as having a fatal disease. He decides to take a quixotic trip to Europe, an open-ended adventure to unplanned destinations. This novel takes the form of 20 long and extraordinarily articulate letters written from Venice to an anonymous correspondent in Melbourne.

The letters work on three levels. First, they describe the writer’s travels from Locarno to Vicenza to Padua, stages of his journey prior to arriving in Venice. In fact, the book is divided into groups of letters, each of them dealing with one of the three cities and followed by a set of notes that illuminate some of the writer’s literary and historical allusions.

Second, the letters describe the writer’s current activities in Venice and especially his reflections on human nature and mortality. Finally, he refers back to events that occurred in Melbourne immediately preceding his journey. The most important of these events are the consultations with his doctor and, to a lesser extent, the reaction of Peter, his lover, to the lethal diagnosis.

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