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The Tartar Steppe (1940)

by Dino Buzzati

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,009476,081 (4.07)83
Often Likened to Kafka's The Castle, this great Italian novel, first published in 1945, is both a scathing criticism of military life and a meditation on the human thirst for glory. It tells of young Giovanni Drago, who is posted to a remote fort overlooking the vast Tartar steppe, the first line of defense against a rumored barbarian invasion. Although not intending to stay, Giovanni one day finds that years have passed, almost without his noticing, as he has come to share his fellow-soldiers' patient vigil. At last the fort is downgraded and Giovanni's ambitions fade - until the hour that the enemy begins massing on the desolate horizon...… (more)
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» See also 83 mentions

English (23)  Italian (9)  Spanish (7)  Dutch (3)  French (3)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (47)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
It is a book about some of my favorite topics- the fleeting nature of time, the futility in basing all your hopes and happiness around something in the future that may or may not take place, and weather a man needs to start a family to be happy.
It captures the transient nature of time really well. We are there with Drogo when he is a young officer just starting his career and his entire life lies before him, and he is not much careful about being caught unawares though he is repeatedly warned by his seniors, much like any young person. When he does realise how the tables have turned, it is too late- his entire life has been spent waiting. With nothing at all going on in his life, except a hope for a future that never seems to arrive, his days pass so quickly. My quarantined self can relate to this, though mine is on a much smaller temporal scale. His old friends from his hometown have their progeny and their buisinesses, which testify for them that their lives have not been for nothing, that they have created something through which they will keep on living after their death, that they have altered the world from how they found it, if only by a very small amount. Drogo has none of this. For all that is worth, he might as well have never existed, he has nothing which he can see as the result of the fervour of his youth, he might as well have never been young- again a feeling to which I can relate. His case is much worse than someone who might have had a career and a wife and children and who lost them to some accident, because such a person at least has the memories. He dies all alone at a roadside inn, with nobody to cry at his bedside and leaving behind nobody and nothing- a death befitting his life.
Another thing is how quickly a man is thrown out from a world he has inhabited for so long, if he be absent for a fraction of period that he has been there. When Drogo returns to his hometown after four years, only four years, compared to the twenty he spent there, he finds himself an outcast. Except his mother, nobody waits for him, nobody has kept a hole in their heart in the place that he might have occupied before leaving, instead that place has been filled up by the multitude of people who are present there. When he comes back he finds there is no place for him, even his lover has moved on. We are all so replaceable, except maybe to our parents, and I would like to think one or two of those we consider our friends.
And the worst part is when the hope Drogo based his entire empty existence upon, is belied. It shows the futility of disregarding your present as anything important for something in the future, no matter if it is remote or at hand, the future is always uncertain.
It is also worth noting how it is never too late to bring a change in your life. The doctor says that its too late for him to get a transfer after spending 25 years at the Fort goes on to spend the larger part of his exile after mentioning this fact.
It is a harrowing portrayal of what happens when you don't take the stock of your days, keep on waiting and waiting, think that you can afford to squander the time of your youth in waiting, live for some time in the future and not in the present and don't create anything with the energy of your youth, not even memories. ( )
  Sebuktegin | May 25, 2021 |
This is a wonderful book that focuses on how we choose to give meaning to our lives. This book came just in the right time for me, and I believe it helped me take some important life decisions. ( )
  Clarissa_ | May 11, 2021 |
Probably my favorite book of all time. When I first read this book, it stayed with for such a long time. I empathized so much with Drogo - his feelings of leaving home, being homesick while still amazed and afraid of what lies ahead.

I really like the debate that it has over being familiar and comfortable with the simple life. Not being caught on false promises of greatness and chasing an eternal goal, only to see that what was good and true was left behind. Chapter 5 is probably the one that best touches on this subject - and probably is the best on the book.

It's a book to read many, many times. ( )
  melosomelo | Jan 4, 2021 |
Che sia di un evento, di un riscatto, di qualcosa che ci preme, attenderlo lascia che la nostra fantasia corra libera a immaginare quel momento in tutte le sue sfaccettature. Le cose si ingigantiscono, assumono contorni sublimi, diventano visioni meravigliose. L'attesa diviene il momento.realmente importante, quello che ci fa sognare e che rende speciale tanti momenti. Spesso le aspettative restano deluse, a volte si.riconfermano, a volte ci sorprendono. Credo che una delle possibili chiavi di lettura sia questa. Ma ce ne sono infinite altre
( )
  Carlomascellani73 | Oct 30, 2020 |
a simple yet haunting story. ( )
  neal_ | Apr 10, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (29 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Buzzati, DinoAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Arnaud, MichelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
功, 脇翻訳secondary 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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Vielleicht geht es uns immer so: Wir glauben uns von vertrauten Geschöpfen umgeben, aber in Wirklichkeit sind dort nur Eis und Steine, die eine fremde Sprache sprechen. Wir wollen den Freund begrüßen, aber der Arm sinkt wie gelähmt, un das Lächeln erstirbt, weil uns klar wird, daß wir völlig allein sind.
Ha tenido ya un mes de permiso, pero regresa ya al cabo de veinte días; la ciudad le resulta ya completamente ajena, los viejos amigos se han abierto camino, ocupan posiciones importantes y lo saludan como a un oficial cualquiera. Hasta su casa, que Drogo sigue amando, le llena el ánimo cuando vuelve a ella, de una pena difícil de expresar. La casa está desierta casi todas las veces, el cuarto de su madre se ha quedado vacío para siempre, sus hermanos están perennemente fuera ..., en las salas ya no hay signo de vida familiar, las voces resuenan exageradamente, y no basta con abrir las ventanas al sol.
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Often Likened to Kafka's The Castle, this great Italian novel, first published in 1945, is both a scathing criticism of military life and a meditation on the human thirst for glory. It tells of young Giovanni Drago, who is posted to a remote fort overlooking the vast Tartar steppe, the first line of defense against a rumored barbarian invasion. Although not intending to stay, Giovanni one day finds that years have passed, almost without his noticing, as he has come to share his fellow-soldiers' patient vigil. At last the fort is downgraded and Giovanni's ambitions fade - until the hour that the enemy begins massing on the desolate horizon...

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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.
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