This is a tiny jewel of a novel and, like a jewel, I felt that it deserves to be looked at for longer than it’s size perhaps might initially indicate. I certainly spent longer looking at it than I might otherwise have done, my ex-wife having gone off with my copy prior to our split.
Eventually, I got it back from her and managed to finish it off. This meant I read it in two sittings, one either side of my divorce which, considering the subject matter, was somewhat ironic. Silk, you see, tells the story of unrequited love within a marriage, something that is sadly all too common an occurrence.
The writing is beautiful and brilliantly paced. It is simple and yet deep, and through it all Baricco lends everyday life a melancholic pathos that belies the depths of desire that each of us have. The tragedy of the novel, and unrequited love, is that a partner can remain blind to them while pursuing the fulfilment on their own desires beyond the relationship.
Baricco uses geography as the medium for this metaphor, with the protagonist Hervé Joncour travelling thousands of miles to Japan in search of silkworms from his native France. But Joncour discovers more than silkworms in the orient and returns many times in pursuit of something more, something which continually eludes him.
This is a sad and poignant novel which, if read carefully, serves as a warning not to spend so long gazing for fantasies beyond the horizons of our lives that we overlook those within arms’ reach. You’ll probably think nothing much of this beyond the beautiful writing style until you get to the end.
If it doesn’t hit you then, you’re not ready for this novel. Shelve it and come back to it when life’s dealt you a few blows.