Before he gets to Bastiani Castle, the troubles begin. When he finally reaches the castle, he decides that he does not want to stay in this forgotten place, alas, he cannot act. While reading the book, I became Drogo. The daily rituals, the strange feeling of military service, and the unimaginable charm of the desert fascinated me. I got used to the room where Drogo stayed; watched the seasons go by like I was watching a movie.
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Is it possible Buzzati knew what lied ahead? 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. 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.
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.
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.
The Tartar Steppe
One of his brothers was the well-known Italian geneticist Adriano Buzzati-Traverso. In , he enrolled in the law faculty of the University of Milan , where his father once taught. As he was completing his studies in law, he was hired, at the age of 22, by the Milanese newspaper Corriere della Sera, where he would remain until his death. He began in the corrections department, and later worked as a reporter, special correspondent, essayist, editor and art critic.
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The Tartar Steppe – Dino Buzzati