On the Edge, the final novel written by Spanish novelist Rafael Chirbes, reads like deathbed confession from a soul doomed to hell trying anything and everything to make sense of his life. It is a brutal, dense and caustic look at a man who is looking back in a life with little joy and little too hold onto and desperate to take something with him when the world passes him by. It is not for everyone, and even I was somewhat fed up with it around the 300 page mark while still having 100 pages to go, but there is something very hypnotic about books like this, these sort of high wire acts that stumble on the edge (pun intended) between gloriously self indulgent and flaming mad genius. They are always something to behold and never without their hidden rewards, both big and small. Taking place in the wake of Spain’s economic crash in 2008 and the Madrid bombing in 2004, Chirbes points his laser like focus one a small town called Olba, and an even smaller man living in that town, Esteban. Through breathless monologues, characterized on the page by sweeping, block like pages of unbroken prose, we learn about the mess he is in: he has closed his carpentry business, he has been screwed over by a former friend over money he desperately needed, and he is facing criminal charges. The book opens outside of his perspective as one of his workers discovers a dog chewing on a human hand. We never really learn whom this hand belongs too (I have a few vague idea), but the book is not concerned with such details, instead focusing on Esteban and a few others points of view of the town’s residents. We get a short glimpse into his past life and his two loves (neither of which was his wife), as well as his fatalistic view, which he inherited from his now senile POW father. I can see a lot of people finding this book intolerable. Like I said, it goes on a 100 pages more than it should, and books like these should really be no longer than 200, but there is enough scorched earth prose and flights of nihilism here to make something viable and intriguing, and, quite possibly, enjoyable.