Dino Buzzati Traverso

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Dino Buzzati (bew-DZAH-tee) was born Dino Buzzati Traverso at San Pellegrino, near Belluno, in the Dolomite Alps, where his family possessed a summerhouse. The mountains, to which he returned every summer, played an important part in his life (he became a passionate Alpine climber and skier) and influenced his narratives. He received all of his schooling, including a law degree, in Milan, where the Buzzati family resided even after the death, in 1920, of his father, Giulio Cesare Buzzati, a professor of international law. As a teenager, together with his friend Arturo Brambilla, Buzzati developed a passion for Egyptology and an intense interest in the designs of illustrator Arthur Rackham.{$S[A]Traverso, Dino Buzzati;Buzzati, Dino}

In 1928, Buzzati began a journalistic career for Corriere della Sera, the leading Italian newspaper, eventually becoming a chief editor. During World War II, he was a war correspondent with the Italian navy. Although he was only thirty-five years old, he feared that he was losing his youth and his strength, that he would no longer be able to climb his beloved mountains. Indeed, Buzzati would constantly measure his physical strength against the mountain: every year the Dolomites seemed to him to become taller and more difficult to climb, while he worried over the slightest difficulty and, like his characters, expected only catastrophes.

Buzzati was married late in life, at the age of sixty. His wife, Almerina Antoniazzi, became curator of his many papers, including sixty-three volumes of his diary, after he died of cancer in 1972.

Dino Buzzati’s works, often taking a surrealistic and metaphysical turn, can be compared to the fantasies of Franz Kafka; in fact, he has frequently been referred to by literary critics as “the Italian Kafka.” His closest affinity, however, is with the Romantic tradition of E. T. A. Hoffmann and Edgar Allan Poe. Through the themes and style of his short stories and novels—philosophical and symbolic tales of life’s relentless passing, full of metaphysical allegories and strange events—his work can be related to that of other Italian authors such as Tommaso Landolfi and Italo Calvino; the extremism and pessimism of his narratives, however, are uniquely his own. Buzzati’s characters, overwhelmed by cosmic fear, find themselves in a state of isolation and perpetual waiting. Buzzati’s pessimism, however, is somewhat tempered by a vague Christian element, the hope of ultimate redemption from evil through the exercise of free will. Since death is viewed as the only possible conclusion to life, humans’ ability to die with dignity constitutes the greatest heroic deed.

Some critics saw Buzzati’s existentialism as a snobbish and egotistic attitude. Indeed, Buzzati’s works are not easily appreciated by the unprepared reader, who may be puzzled by the strange, often hidden and allegoric meaning of his prose. At the same time, however, the stories are captivating. He manages to maintain a sense of continuous suspense, capturing readers’ attention yet leaving them perplexed.

Translated into several languages, Buzzati’s works became extremely popular in France, where a Buzzati society, Association Internationale des Amis de Dino Buzzati, was established in 1976. His masterpiece The Tartar Steppe influenced Julien Gracq’s novel Le Rivage des Syrtes (1951; the shore of the Syrtes) and resulted in a French-Italian coproduction of a film directed by Valerio Zurlini in 1976. The Tartar Steppe won the Italian Academy Award.

Buzzati received the Gargano Prize in 1951 for In quel preciso momento, the Naples Prize in 1957 for Il crollo della Baliverna, the Strega Prize in 1958 for Sessanta racconti, and the All’Amalia Prize in 1970 for his narrative works in general. He is considered to be one of the most important writers in modern Italy.

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