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The Tartar Steppe by Dino Buzzati
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The Tartar Steppe (1940)

by Dino Buzzati

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» See also 68 mentions

English (16)  Italian (6)  Spanish (6)  Dutch (3)  French (3)  Danish (1)  All (1)  All (36)
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
This book by Italian author Buzzati, written during the fascist regime, is on the list of 1001 books to be read before you die and has been compared to Kafka. That comparison may have been made because the plot involves some Kafkaesque bureacratic snafus. However, the book is not bleak, despairing or absurdist. I'm not a fan of Kafka, and I enjoyed The Tartar Steppe.

A young soldier is sent to a remote fort overlooking a vast, empty steppe. Life is monotonous; the soldiers, in fact, look forward to, and sometimes imagine, invaders appearing on the horizon. Although the soldier at first intended to seek reassignment to a more central location as soon as possible, years pass, and he finds he lacks the will to leave--his life in town, the people he knew, no longer exist for him.

This is a puzzling book, but by no means boring or dense. I loved the descriptions of the lonely steppe and the quiet and solitude. ( )
  arubabookwoman | Apr 25, 2017 |
As said in other reviews, young Drogo is stationed at a remote post high in the mountains where he seems to be the only soldier not there by choice. Told he may be transferred on medical grounds after a few months, he nonetheless chooses to remain at the Fort. There is after all a chance of invasion, the hope of a battle in which he would attain glory. And, more and more, the punctilious routine the soldiers must follow makes each day like every other day and hence like one long day offering the prospect of an almost infinite future.

On his infrequent leaves Drogo finds that those who had been close to him are preoccupied with church, jobs, families. It's really only at the Fort that he has a place and only there that he has hope. During one trip to the city he makes his only attempt to get a transfer, but as he returns to his duty the disappointment and bitterness he feels aren't unadulterated; seeing the Fort again, he feels relief. Nor do the disillusioning revelations his mentor offers shortly afterward destroy his hope.

The descriptions of the landscape in this book are outstanding: the Fort, surrounded by mountains and the misty wilderness of stones and scrub across which Tartars are said to have swept, is almost like an unknown Boecklin painting. And Buzzati's treatment of the passage of time--the journey to the shores of the leaden sea--is pitilessly and frighteningly honest.

It's too bad that Canongate didn't commission a new translation; it's a shame that an editor didn't give this translation the treatment it deserves. Buzzati was a reporter and editor and I don't think for a moment that the Italian had the clangers in grammar and diction the English does. This isn't nit-picking; while the book isn't littered with errors, it's scattered with them, and they interrupt a smooth reading. A bit like listening to a beautiful song sporadically interrupted by the singer's hiccups, I suppose. I'm sure I'll read this book several times, but I hope I'll be reading a different edition. Great cover, though.
  bluepiano | Dec 30, 2016 |
There are very few book descriptions that strike more fear in my heart than "Kafkaesque." Despite the comparison to one of my most disliked authors, I actually did like Dino Buzzati's "The Tartar Steppe."

The novel is the story of Giovanni Drogo, an Italian soldier who is waiting for his life to start as he becomes a solider, waiting for a great war to start to make a name for himself and later, waiting for his life to end after a humdrum existence at an isolated and mostly useless fort.

This could have been the world's most boring story, but I liked the rhythm of it. Buzzati does a great job keeping the thread of the story going without things getting too dull. I probably wouldn't pick this up to read it again, but I definitely didn't mind reading once. ( )
  amerynth | Aug 16, 2016 |
Drogo arrives at Fort Bastiani full of hopes and dreams of his future military career. Fort Bastiani has a suspenseful and eerie feel about it, leading one to believe that once you check in you’ll never leave. For various reasons, mostly to do with military bureaucracy and ineptitude, Drogo is not allowed to transfer out. He grows old gracefully without regretting his self-enforced bachelorhood and enjoys in his own way the remote location, his solitude, and brother-in-arms lifestyle. Eventually the Tartars arrive en masse but Drogo has become too sickly to take his place in the ranks, having grown too old for the war he waited all his life for. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
Won in Goodreads giveaway!
  ChrisPisarczyk | Mar 17, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (30 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Buzzati, Dinoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Arnaud, MichelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Benítez, EstherTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eckstein, PercyÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hood, Stuart C.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jokinen, Ulla-KaarinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lipsius, WendlaÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ouwendijk, D.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sala, AlbericoIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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One September morning, Giovanni Drogo, being newly commissioned, set out from the city for Fort Bastiani; it was his first posting.
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Nel giugno 1940, mentre Mussolini dichiarava guerra al mondo, usciva un romanzo del giovane giornalista Dino Buzzati in cui la guerra si attendeva, invano, nella speranza che desse un senso al destino degli ufficiali e dei soldati mandati a presidiare una fortezza al confine di uno stato imprecisato. Il deserto dei Tartari, disperata parabola sulla vanità dell'esistenza, rischiò così, per un paradosso della storia, di esser contrabbandato per libro guerrafondaio, tanto più che la prima traduzione europea, in tedesco, apparve nel 1942 nella Vienna nazista.
Ma fortunatamente il messaggio del romanzo era troppo netto per dar luogo a equivoci. La Fortezza Bastiani, affacciata su un deserto che secondo una leggenda era stato un tempo sede delle scorrerie delle orde dei Tartari, accoglie il tenente di prima nomina Giovanni Drogo come un incubo concentrazionario accoglie chi lo sogna: circondata dal nulla, al nulla votata nel susseguirsi immobile di giornate tutte uguali, essa diviene il luogo dell'attesa e dello scacco, segnato da un'aura di sommessa ma inscalfibile delusione che finisce per costituire un bastione contro sconfitte e tragedie ben peggiori.
Nonostante abbia ottenuto un trasferimento, Drogo resterà per tutta la vita nella fortezza, spiando i minimi indizi dell'avvicinarsi di un qualunque nemico (e basta anche il più labile e improbabile per farlo resistere altri anni nell'attesa). E quando finalmente il nemico si paleserà, con un esercito in armi, e cannoni, e tutto il necessario, lui sarà ormai troppo vecchio per combattere: verrà perciò spedito nelle retrovie, dove lo coglierà con dolcezza la morte naturale. Una morte liberatoria e consolante, per una vita che non ha voluto, né saputo, essere vita.
(piopas)
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Young Giovanni Drogo arrives at the bleak border area of the Tartar Steppe where he is to take a short assignment at Fort Bastiani, an encampment manned by veteran soldiers who have grown old without seeing a trace of the enemy. As his length of service stretches from months into years, he continues to wait patiently for the enemy to advance across the desert. Despite, or because of, the fact that they tell him he is perfectly free to leave, he waits for one great and glorious endeavour. Internationally acclaimed since its publication in 1945, The Tartar Steppe is a provocative and frightening tale of hope, longing and the terrible sorcery of the magnificent gesture.… (more)

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