Suppose you are a new entrant to the army. Your vivaciousness, dreams about a brilliant career in the army, everything seems so perfect. Until you are posted in to one of the remotest corners of earth.  Enough to make you shattered no?

Dino Buzzati

Dino, often compared to Kafka and Camus, was born in San Pellegrino in 1906. He worked as a correspondent for Corriere della Sera. He also wrote some brilliant short stories as well. His fame rests on this magical realist novel- The Tartar steppe.  Written in the 1940s, this is an interesting story of Giovanni Drogo, a new ensign in to the Italian army.

The Tartar Steppe

Enshrouded by misty hills, there lies Fort Bastiani,  a remote fortress of the Italian Army. Drogo is a happy go lucky fellow from the city, who gets a posting there.  Everyone there are waiting for an invasion. An invasion by the Tartars who would cross the adjacent desert to attack the fort.  Which never materializes. Actually there are no Tartars. It’s a fable conjured up by someone.  But in a trance like state, every soldier holed up inside the fort,  believe an attack is imminent. No one can escape the fort once entangled in its spider web like omnipotence. Slowly Drogo also starts believing in the fairy tales of the Tartars.

Every night he or any other officer would take the Telescope and spot silhouettes moving in the desert. They believe it is them!!! Nothing in the world can shatter this mountain of foolishness.  They are damn sure that there are Tartars and they are waiting for the right moment.

Life is a comedy of sorts in the fort, and all of them are happy about it .  Drogo loses his love for life, and becomes a part of the foolish fable.  Then time goes on and on. He becomes an old man, and the real war then comes.  What happens next is the suspense here.

Writing style

This novel is often compared with the works of Kafka and Camus. Like the enigmatic Herr Klamm in the Castle, the illusory Tartars attain some sort of a larger than life image. There are numerous Kafkaesque, Camus-like metaphors scattered here and there. Buzatti has conjured up an enigmatic, surrealistic world of illusions.

Rating

4/5

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