Il deserto dei Tartari

Il deserto dei Tartari❰Reading❯ ➿ Il deserto dei Tartari Author Dino Buzzati – Often likened to Kafka's The Castle, The Tartar Steppe is both a scathing critique of military life and a meditation on the human thirst for glory It tells of young Giovanni Drogo, who is posted to a Often likened to Kafka's The Castle, The Tartar Steppe is both a scathing critique of military life and a meditation on the human thirst Il deserto ePUB × for glory It tells of young Giovanni Drogo, who is posted to a distant fort overlooking the vast Tartar steppe Although not intending to stay, Giovanni suddenly finds that years have passed, as, almost without his noticing, he has come to share the others' wait for a foreign invasion that never happens Over time the fort is downgraded and Giovanni's ambitions fade until the day the enemy begins massing on the desolate steppe.

Dino Buzzati Traverso was an Italian novelist, short story writer, painter and poet, as well as a journalist for Corriere della Sera His worldwide Il deserto ePUB × fame is mostly due to his novel Il deserto dei Tartari, translated into English as The Tartar Steppe.

Il deserto dei Tartari Epub ☆ Il deserto  ePUB
    Il deserto dei Tartari Epub ☆ Il deserto ePUB never happens Over time the fort is downgraded and Giovanni's ambitions fade until the day the enemy begins massing on the desolate steppe."/>
  • Paperback
  • 198 pages
  • Il deserto dei Tartari
  • Dino Buzzati
  • English
  • 22 June 2019
  • 9781567923049

10 thoughts on “Il deserto dei Tartari

  1. Steven Godin says:

    Time has slipped by so quickly,
    that his heart has not had a chance to grow old

    While Dino Buzzati was putting the finishing touches to his 1938 novel, the world outside began a slow and oblivious path, looming towards a war that shook the very foundations of mother Earth. Is it possible Buzzati knew what lied ahead?, as his story here revolves around anticipating war, waiting, watching, fearful of what may appear over the horizon.
    The Tartar Steppe is both a scathing critique of military life pre-war, and a meditation on the independent thirst for glory. Giovanni Drogo a young officer is posted to a remote mountain garrison, an anomalously surreal fort, smack bang in the middle of nowhere, known as 'fort Bastiani, which sits overlooking the vast and eerie 'Tartar Steppe' baron landscape (gaining it's title as supposedly Tartars once lived on the other side of the desert). Leaving the city by horseback, Drogo has no idea what to expect on arrival, and starts conjuring up thoughts of just what his life is going to be like.
    Never thinking on staying long, he is suddenly overtaken by the passing of time, leading to weeks, months, and years of service, and never seeing any signs what so ever, that a possible army could be looming far off in the distance, biding time, ready to strike.
    Becoming distinguished with fellow guards, he would rise in rank over the years, and slowly come to terms with his empty existence.
    Over the course of many years the fort would be downgraded, and almost forgotten about by the powers that be, and the world around it, a place of solitude, but an important place of solitude nonetheless, as there is always, no matter how small, a chance an invading army will march through the mist, and take those holding the fort by surprise.

    On a mysterious level the novel works so well at never specifying time or place, it could be 20th century, but then again as nothing is ever related to this, we could be going back much further.
    When you here of the the Northern Kingdom, it gets me thinking of centuries ago, but again it's a clever way to add even greater dimension, to it's already quite bizarre story.
    The namelessness of the setting was surely deliberate: not only are the hopes and ambitions of the characters in total vain, but just as we are struggling to care about their fate, we also cannot care about their country, which, after all, doesn't even exist. This is easy to get over, as Buzzati writes with a big heart, you truly feel ever step, every though, and every action of Giovanni Drogo, and I am not ashamed to admit, was left close to moist eyes by the final haunting passages.

    This is very much a literary novel, by which I mean that Buzzati wasn't trying to tell a story but express something deeper through the medium of a novel. This is the sort of novel that professors of literature love, because it begs for a close reading, and that most genre readers hate, because the plot and the characters are just symbols to express the author's intent. Camus, Kafka and calvino spring to mind when thinking of similarities, with Kafka's 'The Castle' a good point of reference in terms of overall tone.

    On the one hand, this is a bleak, desolate and droll story of the wasting away of ones life, but on the other an unseen tension is lurking, even though it would appear the novel has absolutely no tension of any sort. Something just bothered me the whole way through, but can't put my finger on what that something is, there is obviously more to this work than meets the eye.
    The leaden prose is not lacking in descriptive detail and the dialog is expressive enough (with help from an authorial style that tells us exactly what each character is actually thinking) to capture the empty years and desolation, for which the Tartar Steppe is a metaphor.
    For all his boredom, Drogo is always anticipating war with an excitement, but also a lingering sadness, that his day will never come, and one day he will be cast off into oblivion having never any heights.

    This was a read where going into it was a complete unknown, I knew nothing of Buzzati, or his Tartar Steppe, but have come out on the other side realizing a quite unique piece of writing has gone before my eyes.

    Another page turns, and the months and years go rolling on by.....

  2. Vit Babenco says:

    The Tartar Steppe is about waiting. It is a tale of the wasted life and a parable of time lost.
    Youth is full of hopes and expectations…

    Of course with the others, with his colleagues, he had to be a man, had to laugh with them and tell swashbuckling stories about women and the soldier’s life. But to whom could he tell the truth if not to his mother? And that evening the truth as Drogo saw it was not what you would have expected from a good soldier – probably it was unworthy of the austere Fort, and his companions would have laughed at it. The truth was that he was tired from the journey, that the gloomy walls weighed upon him, that he felt completely alone.

    Time flies and expectations are withering and hopes are dying slowly. A stronghold guards an empty space and the lives of the soldiers are full of emptiness. Their existence is as barren as the Tartar Steppe. Time keeps flying…
    Thick, thick snow fell from the sky and lay on the terraces and made them white. As he looked at it Drogo felt his old worry more acutely than ever and sought in vain to dispel it by thinking of his youthfulness, of the number of years that lay before him. For some inexplicable reason time had begun to pass more and more quickly and engulfed the days one after another. You had barely time to look about and the night was falling, the sun was travelling below the horizon and would reappear in the opposite direction to illuminate the snow-clad world.

    Waiting is easy – everything is calm and nothing happens… Life inexorably passes by and nothing is left behind.

  3. Lizzy says:

    A powerful novel, The Tartar Steppe’s writing and context made an impression on me from the start. I read it many years back, and now as I revisited it all came back. It's about looking for the meanings of life, and much more. The Italian Dino Buzzati immerses the reader in a story of hope and how cruelly such feeling can be wasted leading to disappointment. It's the story of a young officer dispatched to serve on a remote fort overlooking the desert. It's about waiting for the enemy at the frontier, in hope of glory.

    One September morning, Giovanni Drogo, being newly commissioned, set out from the city for Fort Bastiani; it was his first posting. ...This was the day he had looked forward for years - the beginning of his real life.
    He paints a scenario of frustration and impotence, that should not come as a surprise:
    It was true that his heart was full with the bitterness of leaving the old house for the first time... full with the fears which every change brings with it, with emotion at saying goodbye to his mother; but on top of this there came an insistent thought to which he could not quite give a name but which was like a vague foreboding as if he were to set out on journey of no return.
    A sequence of events start to be set and Drogo cannot escape. He knows that he must not stay in the Fort but is unable to leave. He slips into a routine, and we can fell it all happening as if we are there with him:
    But it seemed as if Drogo’s existence had come to a halt. The same day, the same things, had repeated themselves hundreds of times without taking a step forward. The river of time flowed over the Fort, crumbled the walls, swept down dust and fragments of stone, wore away the stairs and the chain, but over Drogo it passed in vain- it had not yet succeeded in catching him, bearing him with it as it flowed.”
    The Tartar Steppe is beautiful and poetical, and it could be labelled an anti-war novel. Drogo is continually waiting in the fronteirs for the tartars, who are supposed to arrive any day. But they never do. And life goes on everywhere else, but the hero is always waiting. With time, Drogo comes to feel strange when among family and friends, those that are not part of his destiny anymore. Even I that only moved from one country to another and from city to city, know how easy it is to feel out of place with friends that stayed behind as we drifted away.

    In a sense this is about mundane existence, about not finding meaning in everyday life and thus expecting to face death empty handed when all hopes were for nothing.

    According to Tim Parks, in the introduction in the English edition, “…The Tartar Steppe was submitted to the publishers in January 1939. There is no need to comment on what followed. In any event, the book still serves as an alarming reminder that the century that discovered nothingness would go to any lengths, however catastrophic, to fill that nothingness. He could not be more accurate!

  4. Ahmad Sharabiani says:

    Il Deserto dei Tartari = The desert of the Tartars = The Tartar Steppe, Dino Buzzati

    The Tartar Steppe is a novel by Italian author Dino Buzzati, published in 1940.

    The novel tells the story of a young officer, Giovanni Drogo, and his life spent guarding the Bastiani Fortress, an old, unmaintained border fortress. The plot of the novel is Drogo's lifelong wait for a great war in which his life and the existence of the fort can prove its usefulness.

    The human need for giving life meaning and the soldier's desire for glory are themes in the novel. Drogo is posted to the remote outpost overlooking a desolate Tartar desert; he spends his career waiting for the barbarian horde rumored to live beyond the desert.

    Without noticing, Drogo finds that in his watch over the fort he has let years and decades pass and that, while his old friends in the city have had children, married, and lived full lives, he has come away with nothing except solidarity with his fellow soldiers in their long, patient vigil.

    When the attack by the Tartars finally arrives, Drogo gets ill and the new chieftain of the fortress dismisses him. Drogo, on his way back home, dies lonely in an inn.

    عنوانها: بیابان تاتارها؛ صحرای تاتارها؛ نویسنده: دینو بوتزاتی؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال 1972 میلادی

    عنوان: بیابان تاتارها؛ نویسنده: دینو بوتزاتی؛ مترجم سروش حبیبی؛ تهران، نیل، 1349؛ در 227ص؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، روزنه، 1380؛ در 195ص؛ شابک 9643340813؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، کتاب خورشید، 1389؛ در 255ص؛ شابک 9789647081498؛ چاپ سوم 1393؛ چاپ چهارم 1395؛ چاپ دیگر انتشارات ماهی، 1398؛ در 232ص؛ شابک 9789642093212؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ایتالیایی - سده 20م

    عنوان: صحرای تاتارها؛ نویسنده: دینو بوتزاتی؛ مترجم: مهشید یهروزی؛ تهران، انجمن فرهنگی ایتالیا، 1365؛ در 240ص؛

    عنوان: صحرای تاتارها؛ نویسنده: دینو بوتزاتی؛ مترجم: محسن ابراهیم؛ تهران، نشر مرکز؛ 1379؛ در 264ص؛ شابک 9643055493؛ چاپ دوم 1387؛ شابک 9789643055493؛

    رمان بیابان تاتارها داستانِ غم‌انگیز سرنوشت افسرى جوان به نام «دروگو جووانى» است که براى خدمت به قلعه‌ اى دور افتاده، در حاشیه بیابانى معروف به «بیابان تاتارها» اعزام مى‌شود؛ «بوتزاتى» با ترسیم دنیاى روزمره و خاکسترى «دروگو» توانست برنده ی جایزه ادبى «استرگا» شود؛ «والریو زورلینى»، کارگردان نامدار ایتالیایى، براساس همین رمان فیلمى به همین نام ساخته است که بخش‌هایى از آن در ایران و ارگ بم فیلمبردارى شده است

    نقل از پشت جلد کتاب: «همه‌ چیز در گریز است؛ آدم‌ها، فصل‌ها، ابرها، همه شتابانند…؛ و این شط به‌ ظاهر کُند حرکت که هرگز باز نمی‌ایستد، پیوسته تو را با خود می‌برد.» پایان نقل

    دروگو با عزمى جزم راهىِ قلعه کهن باستیانى مى‌شود؛ قلعه‌ اى که در دل بیابانى خشک و لم یزرع قرار دارد؛ او جوان است و رویاى دلاورى در سر مى‌پروراند؛ با این امید پا در رکاب اسب گذاشته که با مدال شجاعتى نزد مادر چشم انتظارش بازگردد؛ اما از همان ابتدا شماى کلى داستان پیش چشم خواننده مى‌آید: «جز حرمان بى‌پایان بیابانى بریان و نامسکون چیزى نبود (بیابان تاتارها – صفحه 23)»؛

    اینگونه در ناخودآگاه خوانشگر بذرى کاشته مى‌شود که نشان از تلخى و تلخکامى داستان پیش رو دارد؛ هماندم که «دروگو» پای بر دژ مى‌گذارد، درمى‌یابد اینجا با آن قلعه لجستیکى که همیشه در ذهن مى‌پروراند، تفاوت‌ها دارد؛ اینجا بالى براى پرواز نمى‌ماند، راهى براى پیشرفت نیست، و مدال شجاعتى بر سینه کسى نمى‌درخشد؛ گرد روزمرگى بر همه‌ چیز و همه‌ کس بنشسته و چاره‌ اى نیست جز یکرنگ شدن با جماعت؛ «دروگو» بلافاصله درخواستِ انتقالى می‌دهد؛ اما سرهنگ کوشش میکند نظر او را براى ماندن در قلعه جلب کند؛ اینجا همان لحظه تاریخى است که در زندگى هر شخصى نظیرش بسیار یافت مى‌شود

    ماندن بر سر دو راهى؛ راهى که «دروگو» برمى‌گزیند تحت تاثیرِ جادوى ملال قلعه است: «با این همه نیرویى ناشناخته مانع از بازگشت او به شهر مى‌شد و شاید هم این نیرو از ضمیر خودش سرچشمه مى‌گرفت و او خود از آن خبر نداشت. (بیابان تاتارها – صفحه 39)»؛

    نویسنده دست خود را رو مى‌کند و به خوانشگر نهیب مى‌زند که منتظر حادثه‌ اى شگفت نباشد: «چند ماه بعد که چون واپس بنگرد، تازه خواهد دید که چیزهایى که اسیر قلعه‌ اش کرده اند، سخت مسکین‌ اند. (بیابان تاتارها – صفحه 79)»؛

    ادامه داستان روایت هر روزه ملال و روزمرگى بى‌پایانى است، که فضاى قلعه را آکنده است. تا اینکه بالاخره روزى انتظار آنها ثمر مى‌دهد، و در بیابان تاتارها سایه‌ هایى دیده مى‌شوند، که در چشم دیده‌بان‌ها تهدیدى براى قلعه به حساب مى‌آیند؛ آیا این آغاز یک تغییر بزرگ در زندگى قلعگیان است؟ آیا رخدادی هر چند خرد باعث مى‌شود اژدهاى شوم روزمرگى از روى قلعه به پرواز درآید؟ «سال‌هاى انتظار به هدر نرفته بود و قلعه کهن عاقبت به کارى مى‌آمد. (بیابان تاتارها – صفحه 120)»؛

    انسان به امید زنده است اما این براى توجیه سکون و تنبلى به کار نمى‌رود؛ اینکه خود را به دست تقدیر بسپاریم و از کوشش براى تغییر اوضاع دست بشوییم تنها پیچیدگى مسائل را بیشتر مى‌کند؛ بیابان تاتارها داستانى درباره انتظار است؛ انتظارى که حاصلى جز تنهایى، درد و مرگ ندارد؛

    تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 20/04/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  5. Ladan says:

    Wake me up when September ends...

    One September morning Giovanni starts the journey of his professional life, the beginning of his real-life. Recalling his dull days at Military academy, left him wondering if his best youth years were over. This may sound like he has learned his lesson. HELL NO, he didn't. Did I? Did you? Did anyone of us learn our lesson? We keep waiting for that miracle for that hero for that very moment, yet deep down we know it is an illusion and will never show up, and we linger on. Giovanni waited for those four months to end, for September to end, for all those just another year, which seemed so distant to end. We do the same!
    We keep on waiting until the drab sluggish birth of habit. Then it comes the stinky sticky hands of a lifetime of pathetic repetition of habits, which leads to paralyzing one to stay trapped in his comfort zone. Giovanni derived special pleasure from his mastery of the routine, we all do! So Go away while there is still time...

    Which side are you on?

    Lazzari or Moretto?
    The military is a messed up business! A password vital now and gone tomorrow, the stupid rules and roles, how people put their lives in jeopardy for the sake of nothing are heartbreaking. The foundation of this unabashed business is well depicted by the scene in two and a half men:
    It's exactly like a video game. Except we blow up real people!
    This could be generalized to any role one would take in any position. How deep is one drowned into the roles imposed by society?

    The death of Ivan Ilych(1886)/The castle(1926)/The tartar steppe(1940)/The stranger(1942)/Waiting for Godot(1953)
    They all resemble one another, if you enjoyed one of them, you will enjoy the rest.

    Little boxes on the hillside
    Little boxes made of ticky tacky
    Little boxes on the hillside
    Little boxes all the same
    There's a green one and a pink one
    And a blue one and a yellow one
    And they're all made out of ticky tacky
    And they all look just the same
    And the people in the houses All went to the university
    Where they are put in boxes, and they come out all the same
    And there's doctors and there's lawyers
    And business executives
    And they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same
    And they all play on the golf course and drink their martini dry
    And they all have pretty children And the children go to school
    And the children go to summer camp
    And then to the university
    Where they are put in boxes, and they come out all the same
    And the boys go into business and marry and raise a family
    And boxes made out of ticky tacky, and there all look just the same
    There's a pink one and a green one
    And a blue one and a yellow one
    And they're all made out of ticky tacky
    And they all look just the same

    The way Buzzati illustrates one's emptiness is by emphasizing the importance of having a career as one's comrades, getting married, having kids and even grandchildren. I disagree. No boxes, no limitations. If you wanna go for the weirdest kind of lifestyle, stay single, marry the chubby fat ass shorty guy or gal, have no kids, feel free and do whatever serves you best, yet don't wait, Just move, take action, LIVE, I will do the same:

  6. Adina says:

    The most haunting metaphor of life and death that I've ever read. It is an incredible book but it leaves you spent, desolated at the end of it, like the tartar steppe.

  7. Sidharth Vardhan says:

    Meanwhile time was slipping past, beating life out silently and with ever increasing speed; there is no time to halt even for a second, not even for a glance behind. Stop, stop, one feels like crying, but then one sees it is useless. Everything goes by-men, the seasons, the clouds, and there is no use clinging to the stones, no use fighting it out on some rock in mid- stream; the tired fingers open, the arms fall back inertly and you are still dragged into the river, the river which seems to flow so slowly yet never stops.

    This is the book that inspired Coetzee's Waiting for Barbarians. It is also worthy of comparisons with Kafka that it has attracted – the protagonist is similarly helpless and finds himself losing to circumstances he doesn’t understand until it is too late. The amazing story can be read in at least three different ways:

    1. As a criticism of military life:

    On the face of it, it is about the hardships of military life and the meaninglessness of those very hardships. Though there is no war, still two soldiers die needlessly – the first because of the ridiculous discipline of army life and second while carrying out a meaningless field activity. And then monotony of it – as soldiers waste their eyes and lives in guarding a distant fort, where nothing ever seems to happen. In fact, they are desperately waiting, wishing for a war so that they can have some action in life and achieve glory. What kind of glory? One wonders since their senior in the town didn’t even remember and didn't care to be reminded of the name of the only soldier who died in the line of duty.

    Also, the conditioning which dehumanises a man to mere unit of lifeless system:

    But the sentry was no longer the Moretto with whom his comrades joked freely, he was only a sentry at the Fort in a dark blue uniform with a black bandolier, absolutely identical with all the other sentries in the darkness.

    2. The arrested life:

    He deludes himself, this Drogo, with the dream of a wonderful revenge at some remote date- he believes that he still has an immensity of time at his disposal. So he gives up the petty struggle of the day to day existence. The day will come, he thinks, when alL accounts will be paid with interest.

    Normally people either tend to see life in terms of signposts – learning to write alphabet, punching school principal, passing school, having a relationship, punching college principal, graduating, getting a job, punching the boss, buying a house, marrying, having children, having an extramarital affair, retiring etc.

    There are though things that stop them – diseases or workload or family obligations or depression or being a carer for someone too ill or sometimes we just want holidays, a pause from routine of pursuing whatever signposts we have in mind; such pause with their own passive, lying-in-bed, un-socialising and/or lethargic routines are good as long as they aren’t too long – they refresh us because all good things (studying, earning, dating, raising children) need a lot of hardwork but if these pauses last too long, one needs a lot more effort to return to break away from them and return to actual life.

    From the damp and naked walls, the silence, the dim lighting, it seemed as if the inmates had forgotten that somewhere in the world there existed flowers, laughing women, gay and hospitable houses

    Thus some people fail to put in that effort – because they might have developed fears, or because have grown eccentric in prolonged solitary break to survive in society now (like
    Brooks Hatlen
    , who failed to survive in real world after a sentence of 49 years, was), or because they have just decided that normal life is not meant for them, or because they might have tried in past and failed and thus developing a sort of learned helplessness (view spoiler)[ remember, learned helplessness us by definition an illusion (hide spoiler)]

  8. Eddie Watkins says:

    The metaphor this book is steeped in - that life lures us on with promises of authentic experiences and moments of transcendence, or even just knock-out apprehensions of reality, but rarely if ever delivers, like an imagined thread followed into potential glory only to peter out at death - became more and more heavy-handed as this novel petered out toward its own end and the empty death of its protagonist.

    But perhaps that was the intention? giving the reader his/herself the very experience of the protagonist?

    I'm inclined to say yes, as the novel was simply masterful; with numerous vivid images extending that metaphor - soldiers on a redoubt scanning the bleak tartar steppe with a high-powered telescope giddy at the possibility that that tiny movement in the far distance is reality (in the form of enemy soldiers) approaching to finally give them an actual experience, for one.

    2/3rds of the book is pure potent atmosphere of vagueness and mist deadening the hearts and souls of anticipatory men who have been swallowed up by vain hope and who have erected in place of actual experience fragile but stubborn edifices of personal compensation.

    It's surely a war novel, or anti-war novel, or anti-war anti-novel, but is also universal in its appeal to those who expect more from life; and to its credit the metaphor is not used to smother each character in its bleak vision, as included are examples of individuals who manage to wrest themselves from the trap set up.

  9. Lee Klein says:

    Not sure if it's lame/lazy shorthand to associate a novel with other novels since novels, like I presume all species of animals and plants, from monumental trees to psychoactive weeds, communicate among one another, that is, they talk -- and unlike simple human speech, they do so back and forth through time, which means that this one chats with Kafka's The Castle (Before the Law, too) at first, and then Mann's The Magic Mountain, all the while nodding at good old Godot and eyeing Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians eavesdropping off on the peripheries of the future. What we have here is unlike a failure to communicate -- there was almost too much associative talk in this reader's head as he read. There's little to no characterization and the story works like a Kafkan super-fable, an open realist allegory, although in this one it's less variable than in Kafka -- this one is about waiting your whole life for an enemy, only to come up against the last enemy of death. It's about life's wide openness closing down thanks to habit and routine and distant hopes. The soldiers are passive -- they don't attack the Northern desert -- but there's no major sense of judgment against Drago for not taking arms against nothingness, which is a plus. Monasterial liberation, the joys of regimented servitude, inevitable regret and, if lucky, acceptance, or at least an ambiguous smile. Total humorlessness and lack of characterization were minuses for me. Also this could use a new translation -- so many times things were clearly off on an idiomatic level or just had to be read a few times over to get the gist due to lack of clarity or lack of commas. Lots of times I reread paragraphs in reverse sentence order after zoning out, realizing I'd tripped over a fuzzy phrase. Regardless, an excellent novel, if not quite up there with Kafka, Mann, Coetzee, in part because the deep generalizing exposition often seems more literary than enlightening? Loved an italicized premonition dream sequence involving little faeries. Loved how it's all sort of an old-fashioned poignancy buildup, with its requisite troughs and peaks, en route to all hope for naught. Otherwise, a great novel that could use a sprucing up. Worth it for fans of humorless 20th-century existentio-suspenseful open allegories.

  10. Paul Bryant says:

    The first posting for the newly qualified junior officer Giovanni Drogo is a distant border fortress, Fort Bastiani, a kind of military Gormenghast with vast corridors, distant redoubts and an ancient regime of mindless inflexible ritual. It guards the kingdom against the enemy to the north. The forlorn wilderness overlooked by the fortress is called the Tartar Steppe. Where was that ? This was Tartary

    but the name had been discarded by the 19th century. So this is not a historical novel.

    Our unheroic hero asks an officer about this wilderness.

    “A desert. Stones and parched earth – the call it the Tartar steppe.”
    “Why Tartar?” asked Drogo. “Were there ever Tartars there?”
    “Long, long ago I believe. But it is a legend more than anything else.”
    “So the Fort has never been any use?”
    “None at all,” said the captain.

    There are three parts to the universe of this novel. There is the city – source of the pleasures of ordinary life, of taverns, pretty women, dancing, of business careers; there is the fort itself, austere, useless, monotonous and soul-destroying; and there is the wasteland to the north, a terrifying, blank mystery.

    But strangely, the Fort is also clothed in magic :

    Then he seemed to see the yellowing walls of the courtyard rise up into the crystal sky, with above then, higher till, solitary tower, crooked battlements crowned with snow, airy outworks and redoubts which he had never seen before. … Never before had Drogo noticed that the Fort was so complicated and immense. At an almost incredible height he saw a window… In the abyss between bastion and bastion he saw geometrical shadows, frail bridges suspended among rooftops, strange postern gates barred and flush with the walls, ancient machicolations now blocked up, long rooftrees curved with the years.

    The sense of time spiraling away in pointless ritual, in perpetual maintenance of readiness for an enemy which never arrives, and the sense of a normal life voluntarily jettisoned for this utter uselessness, and the hypnosis that seems to pin poor Drogo to his drudgery, is the whole story of this melancholy book. You can make various meanings from it should you be so inclined. You can see it as a parable - Drogo waiting forever for the Answer to arrive from the Tartar steppe – a philosophic or religious answer, maybe; Ingmar Bergman fans might want to read it as an extended metaphor for the silence of God; but others may prefer to find here a beautiful meditation on disappointment, institutionalization, unfulfillment and resignation. Unheroic virtues.

    (So many other writers and their buildings were interweaving with Dino Buzzati as I read this – everyone says Kafka, but also Dracula’s castle, Mervyn Peake, Ballard’s lonely landscapes, JG Farrell’s Majestic Hotel, even Tolkien’s Minas Morgul, there are many of these great constructions of the mind.)

    And there are several long passages that lift off into exquisitely sad canticles of how spendthrift human life is, how the hours, the days and the years fall through our fingers.

    Recommended. 4.5 stars.

    (Great thanks to my friend Selma in Istanbul who pretty much ordered me to read this one.)

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