Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Like Kafka’s Das Schloss (1926; The Castle, 1930), Buzzati’s novel functions above all on a symbolic plane. Giovanni Drogo’s life, which is nothing but an endless wait for an event which will not materialize, or at least, not for him, is the symbol of human existence which wastes away in the futile anticipation of a significance which will bring brightness into its dull monotony.

Within the solid, geometric lines of the fortress, Drogo is cocooned in the illusion that he can escape the inexorable passage of time which shapes men’s destiny. “There was no one to say: Beware, Giovanni Drogo! Life appeared to him inexhaustible, obstinate illusion, although the bloom of youth had already begun to fade.” The passage of time is the dominant theme of this novel, but there are two dimensions of time. There is the time which flows scarcely at all, as represented by the mountains and the desert, and by the fortress in its cycle: an important outpost lauded by His Majesty, then neglected with its personnel heavily cut back, then catapulted into importance again with several battalions being rushed to it to face the enemy threat. Like the steppe and the mountains, the fortress achieves a feeling of timeless permanence. Opposed to this is the time of the human individual, measured by the course of a brief life span. The life of the fortress renews itself constantly, as young men replace those who have grown old in its service; for the...

(The entire section is 496 words.)