Dino Buzzati Long Fiction Analysis
Dino Buzzati’s novels, which upon first reading might seem very different from one another in style and content, are bound together by common themes. These themes—time, obsession, solitude, waiting, and renunciation—evolve throughout his novels and give Buzzati’s oeuvre a cyclical unity. At the core of all the novels is humankind’s problem of coming to grips with an elusive and mysterious reality. The outward environment contributes to human isolation, but it is never the main factor. The period in which the action takes place is usually vague if not completely timeless. What counts is the problem of existence itself, the torments that come from within. As a result, Buzzati’s characters have a universal quality that makes them very human, almost always average, for their social positions and professions are secondary to their status as human beings trying to reconcile themselves with the human condition. Thus, the reader can identify with detailed depictions of mundane realism, reflected in the characters’ habits, mental laziness, and apathy, which do not yield before the relentless passing of time.
Buzzati’s characters, though, have a choice, and if they fail at the end, there is a lesson to be learned: that one must not make their mistakes, that one must be content with life’s small joys and should not expect more than can be had. Taken together, Buzzati’s novels make up a coherent whole. They are the work of a pessimist, but a pessimist who has not ceased to hope. In his oblique way, he warns others not to lead a senseless life, and he pleads for more understanding, sincerity, and love.
Stylistically, Buzzati has the capacity to maintain the flow of his narratives, which he keeps free of unnecessary interruptions and deviations. He uses a sentence structure that proceeds rapidly and rhythmically, aiming at the exact. His prose is a curious mixture of precise, concrete indications combined with vague elements never fully explained. While he may give the exact time, hour, and minute of an event, he may leave unclear the century in which it occurs; he may realistically provide the exact year of the action but surrealistically transport the reader to a forest inhabited by spirits and speaking animals. In any event, Buzzati succeeds in capturing the reader’s attention and building his or her curiosity about the mysterious atmosphere that unfolds and progressively intensifies.
Bàrnabo of the Mountains
Buzzati’s novella Bàrnabo of the Mountains is the story of a young forest warden who fails miserably in an action against local bandits, for which he is punished with banishment and forced to descend into the valley, where he is unable to establish roots. He longs for his mountains and dreams of restoring his dignity. After five years, he returns to the house of the wardens, but finding many changes, he accepts the lonely post of custodian of the now-abandoned powder magazine. The day of the bandits’ return arrives, and Bàrnabo prepares to take his revenge, but when the four pitiful-looking men are within range of his rifle, he lets them pass, this time moved not by fear but by the realization that killing the bandits would, after so many years, be a senseless and unnecessary act.
The book already contains Buzzati’s main themes. They are reflected in the protagonist’s solitude, marked by the continuous passing of time; his waiting for the great occasion for revenge; and his final renunciation, through which he attains a superior wisdom. These motives are set against the majestic beauty and mystery of the rugged and timeless mountains and are embellished with tales of alpine legends.
Il segreto del Bosco Vecchio
In Il segreto del Bosco Vecchio, Buzzati carries the Nordic mountain myths a step further, bringing the forest alive with talking animals, birds, winds, and tree spirits. The plot centers on Colonel Sebastiano Procolo and his twelve-year-old nephew, Benvenuto. Together they have inherited a large forest called Bosco Vecchio (Old Wood). Greed makes Procolo attempt to get rid of the boy, first by employing the complicity of the Wind Matteo and subsequently, after the latter’s failure, by abandoning the boy in the forest. Procolo himself becomes lost, however, and after a long, aimless wandering, he stumbles across the boy and, in spite of himself, returns home with him, guided by a magpie. Somewhat later, Benvenuto falls gravely ill. His uncle, now changed, desperately tries to save him. He even appeals to the genies of Bosco Vecchio and accepts their help in exchange for their freedom from his subjugation. The Wind Matteo, who knows nothing about Procolo’s new sentiments, arrives one evening and tells him that Benvenuto is dead, buried under a snowslide while skiing. The uncle immediately sets out to...
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