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Book Club: Always the Horizon by Murdoch Murdoch

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‘Always The Horizon’ by Murdoch Murdoch is the pseudonymous screenwriter’s first foray into a work of a more formal nature. While this fact may often be apparent in the text, with some staccato action sequences reading more like directions for an animator as opposed to a novella, Murdoch is effective in expressing the same hopeful ideals he portrays in his web animations in this new prosaic form.

Taking cues from Nietzsche’s ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’, Greek mythology, gothic horror and fantasy stories, Murdoch encourages readers to fight against nihilism and despair. Instead, finding joy in imagining Sisyphus happy: striving to be the best person you can be, finding meaning in overcoming the challenges you face, and eternally running towards the horizon.

Murdoch rejects the cold, analytical fatalism endemic in modern society in favour of a romantic, perhaps even foolish, idealism. This is reflected even in the name of the protagonist, as the story is framed as a dialogue between The Sacred Clown and his faithful horse-riding companion, surrogates respectively for Murdoch and the reader himself, as they embark on a classic hero’s journey.

Throughout the tale, Murdoch also touches on a variety of issues the modern world faces: the futility of captured “democratic” systems, relations between the sexes, the failures of modern religion, death, and the parasitic forces of dissolution who prioritise their own selfish greed over higher ideals. The second-person narration draws the reader into the text as if Murdoch is speaking to us directly, and sections of text preceded with a dramatic “Know this:” serve to drive home the points Murdoch is attempting to make.

The crux of Always The Horizon is a message of hope - that we might meet the world on its own terms with the same knowing glint in our eye as one might find in the eye of a Hindu guru. A knowledge that transcends nihilism and declares “nothing matters - so what!” - that the journey itself is enough to fulfil a man. And in that, at least, Murdoch echoes philosophers and priests throughout the ages.


  • Why have you come here, rider, to the grave of your fatherland? Have you come to follow me? Know that I lead no man, but if you wish to become my companion then I must make a single request of you. If we are to take up this task and travel the all-too-arduous path, then you must promise me that your eyes will remain transfixed, always, on the horizon. There we will chase the sun.

  • I gnash my teeth.

  • Seventeen hundred years ago Constantine, curse his name, undid all of the steps undertaken by Diocletian to hold on to the memetic keys that the Romans had venerated since their inception. Did these so-called “Romans” not realize that every step further from mos maiorum was a step towards losing themselves?

  • Let it be said that the new man will not die for his own immortality, but rather will live for the continuation of Being’s drive towards knowing – so that he may rest satisfied on his death bed, secure in the knowledge that he took up the task to aid truth’s pursuit of truth. Being to being. And that he like the romantics who came before, and those who shall come after, chased the sun with reckless abandon.

  • Know this, rider, hate is born from the womb of love.

  • As we make our escape we move to find higher ground, out towards the mountain peaks. There we witness the metropolis in twilight, finally submerged in the wave of the Nothing, completely lost to time. Not even the grass that circled the walls of the city remains. The landscape now resembles an alien world, devoid of life. The insects and birds, men and women, the old and young, even the streets and towers have been completely erased. But there, where the lone soldier stood, lies a mound of debris – a small fragment of the city wall, and the few moths that hover above, are now all that remain of that once great city of light.

  • Man is a wolf to man. Great acts of unkindness run deep in all of our histories – or have you forgotten the corpses that run alongside your Great Wall? You are not my enemy, Liu Bei. You are only another aspect of Being. We are both capable of the knowing

  • The pub remains silent and I shout once more, “We shall ride under lightning! For that was the weapon of Zeus and Jupiter and Taranis; of Thor and Indra; of Perun, Perk ̄unas, and Perkwunos! Let us become wild men again! For you who dwell here, did I not ride alongside you for years? Come with me again, let us ride out into the horizon! Let us chase Sul, Helios, Arinna, Hvare-khshaeta, Surya and Sol Invictus!”