Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The central metaphor in Ronald Sukenick’s story is the labyrinth, which is explicitly mentioned several times and is metaphorically traced in the narrative. The narrator wanders within the physical labyrinth of Venice’s streets and canals, even losing his way once. He also describes Venice as a timeless, spiritual city, a city whose many religious works of art, of transfigurations and ascensions, “signify expanding contact with the other world so aptly signified by Venice.”

The lives of the narrator and the young man seem remarkably parallel—an other-worldly coincidence. In fact, the middle-aged writer-narrator walks the streets of Venice, turning the corner to see the earlier version of himself, the young, unpublished or newly published writer. Events from the present blend with events from the past and his two previous visits to Venice. The young man’s experiences are in fact the narrator’s memories. The apparent confusion of times, persons, and places gradually clarifies as the narrator comes to understand the labyrinth of time. After being invisible to the young man through most of the narrative, he becomes visible and then the young man becomes invisible to him. The two characters approach a fusion of worlds and times, but the various times—for the narrator the present and the past, for the young man the present and the future—cannot coexist simultaneously. Consequently, the one who is aware of the other becomes invisible. Ecco! Here it is. An echo in time, an echo of time, gradually fading.