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Ecco Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The narrator awakens in Venice, pleased to be there with enough money to do whatever he wants. Happy to be neither a tourist nor a Venetian, he feels invisible. However, his invisibility—the consequence of his profession as a writer—has been exacerbated by recent events: deaths, divorce, and geographical circumstances. He is, in fact, in Venice alone, hoping to recuperate from his losses. His observations of activity in the city (usually made parenthetically) alternate with his narrative about his own activities.

As a water taxi goes by, the narrator goes to a blind shoemaker to collect his shoes. Only after three visits are the shoes finally ready, as the shoemaker has a different sense of time, one that is of another world. The narrator decides that Venice is as concerned with the spiritual as it is with the practical.

One day he wanders into the Hotel Falier (pronounced like “failure” in English). He sees a thin young man with black hair and green eyes trying to collect a refund on his reservation so that he can move to a less expensive youth hostel. Seeing this exchange makes the narrator recall his own first visit to Venice almost thirty years earlier. Arriving by train with an eye injury, he had no money to pay for medical attention. A young New Zealander at the youth hostel lent him the money to see a doctor. When the doctor removed a locomotive cinder from the narrator’s eye, he cried, “Ecco!”—which is how the narrator learned the Italian term for “Here it is!”

The next day the narrator visits the Jewish ghetto that was established in the sixteenth century. He again sees the young man from the Hotel Falier and feels inexplicably attracted to him; his presence is somehow evocative. After leaving the synagogue, the narrator suddenly finds himself back inside it. How? It is not that he has lost his way, he thinks, “It’s that a certain period of duration has disappeared, unaccounted for, during which you were transported back here in a wink of time, and you are not so much back where you started as back when you started and it occurs to you that the real meaning of labyrinth is time warp.”

The next day, he again sees the boy, who is viewing paintings by Tintoretto at the Scuola San Rocco. Although the narrator is no longer surprised by these chance encounters, his curiosity about the boy so intensifies that he finally speaks to him. However, the boy—or young man, for his age is not clear—looks through him so absolutely that the narrator wonders if he himself is visible, or if the young man is staring into another spiritual dimension. Venice is, after all, a spiritual city and a timeless one whose waters offer a reflecting pool in which travelers may reflect.

When he sees the boy again a few days later, this time the boy is with a young brunette woman. The next day he meets the woman and learns that she is an artist and the young man, her husband, is an unpublished writer. It is her first...

(The entire section is 802 words.)