Sunday, January 19, 2014

"The Tartar Steppe" by Dino Buzzati

This masterpiece of Buzzati from 1938, (in original "Il deserto dei Tartari", in my opinion it is better translated like "The Tartar Desert"). I read it repeatedly during last 30 years, but this was the first time in English translation (the previous was always Croatian). More than language, I think the actual time difference in reading made it somewhat different experience-but always an excellent piece of writing, among the 10 best on my list.

In previous readings I would see the waste of life in unimportant routine. This time, the question "which routine is not unimportant?" showed through. Not the philosophical one, but realistic: when one turns 30 years older, is there still the hope, or passion, in its full measure? Or we just follow the routine, want to find smooth, warm place and calm down, not stirring the air much?

I found that there is, for me. But I need the whole Universe for it, anything less. For others, I leave the question to themselves.

This allegory of Buzzati on life and all that is still a masterpiece, because of the setup he chose: bareness of the military life on the remote outpost, where enemy is not realistically expected in any time on the scale of human life. Everything what happens, is there as an unimportant addition to the routine of...waiting. Like waiting for the barbarians, who never come. When they do come, it is too late, the life is over-is it a punishment for the wasted time? Everything is punishing the main character for the failure, from his own body, to people surrounding him. Does he find consolation in anything? Not really, Buzzati does not leave much of the space for him, nor is the decay of hope long and slow, it is sudden, because life, in reality, is not long and slow. Take what you want, make sure you want something to take from it, as at the end, not much remains.

Positive solution for the book ending, in a given setup, would really be only to die in a battle!

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