drawing by R. Kipling’s father
At the End of the Passage is different from the other tales written by R. Kipling that we are used to read. This short story was first published in two magazines in the United States in the same year (1890), and then collected in Mine Own People and in Life’s Handicap (1891). Set (ambientato) in a remote part of India, it is the story of four young men, a doctor, a civil servant, a surveyor, and an engineer, who every week meet in the engineer’s house in a remote station, to dine (cenare) and chat. Hummil, the engineer, has not slept properly for days, and when he falls asleep (si addormenta), he is haunted by spectres and afflicted by frightening (speventosi) dreams. Mysterious fears trouble his mind as a consequence of stress or overwork (superlavoro) till he gets lost (si perde) and dies in his own nightmares (incubi).
This story recalls (richiama) Marolwe’s journey in Heart of Darkness: the mariner explores an almost unknown part of the world – Congo- to rescue (salvare) a man, Kurtz. Kurtz is an ivory trader (mercante di avorio) , the best of Africa who seems to have lost his mind and, while dying ,says the words The horror, the horror. Which is the horror he refers to? The unknown forest, or his mind persecuted by terrible fantasies? This is the question both authors leave open to their readers.