Other Literary Forms

Dino Buzzati is best known as a writer of narrative fiction. He published several novels, the most famous of which is Il deserto dei Tartari, 1940 (The Tartar Steppe, 1952), and numerous collections of short stories, including I sette messaggeri (1942) and Sessanta racconti (1958). Buzzati was also an artist and illustrated some of his books, including La famosa invasione degli orsi in Sicilia (1945; The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily, 1947), which was later dramatized, and Poema a fumetti (1969). He also designed scenery for A. Lualdo’s Il diavolo nel campanile, presented for the festival Maggio Musicale in Florence in 1951.

Achievements

Most of Dino Buzzati’s awards were made in recognition of his work as a writer of narrative fiction. He won the Gargano Prize in 1951 for his story In quel preciso momento (1950), the Naples prize in 1957 for Il crollo della Baliverna (1954), the Strega prize for his collection Sessanta racconti, and the All’Amalia prize for his narrative work in general. His play, Un caso clinico, won the Premio Saint Vincent in 1953. In 1958 he won the Viareggio Prize for Literature. His work has been especially popular in France, where he was honored by the creation of a special society, the Association Internationale des Amis de Dino Buzzati, in Paris in 1976. The film adaptation of his novel The Tartar Steppe, directed by Valerio Zurlini, won an Italian Academy Award. He was highly regarded as a journalist and critic.

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Dino Buzzati is best known as a novelist. His third novel, Il deserto dei Tartari (1940; The Tartar Steppe, 1952), critically acclaimed as his masterwork, has been translated into the major European languages as well as Japanese. Structured along the themes of time, obsession, solitude, waiting, and renunciation, it is set against the majestic beauty and mystery of rugged and timeless mountains. In The Tartar Steppe, these themes, present in the novella Bàrnabo delle montagne (1933; Bàrnabo of the Mountains, 1984), and the novel Il segreto del Bosco Vecchio (1935), become more existentialist. The protagonist’s life, symbolic of life in general, is viewed as a perennial waiting, in which hope for heroic deeds results only in failure and final renunciation—for the inevitable destiny of all humans is death, symbolized in the novel by the Tartars.

Buzzati’s Il grande ritratto (1960; Larger than Life, 1962) and Un amore (1963; A Love Affair, 1964) have different outward environments: The first has a science-fiction frame; the second is founded on erotic realism but is actually an artistic transposition of the author’s painful personal experiences dating back to the 1940’s. Inwardly, however, Buzzati’s usual themes remain visible: solitude, anguish, and alienation, in a foreboding and mysterious atmosphere and ending in death.

Buzzati wrote...

(The entire section is 513 words.)

Achievements

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

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 will remain perplexed before 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 the reader’s attention yet leaving him 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 of modern Italy.

Other literary forms

Dino Buzzati (bewd-DZAH-tee) is best known for his short stories, published in many collections. In both his short fiction and his novels, he uses similarnarrative techniques. He captures the reader’s attention by ably depicting a strange and mysterious situation in which a catastrophe is inevitable, yet at the end of the story he offers no explanation of what actually happened, if anything did happen. He fuses concrete, everyday reality with surrealistic and absurd events to form a magical world full of fear, one that goes beyond all sense of reason or time concept and approaches the metaphysical or science fiction. The English translators of a selection of his short stories chose a title that is very much to the point: Catastrophe: The Strange Stories of Dino Buzzati (1966). A similar mood is evoked by the original titles of several of Buzzati’s story collections: Paura alla Scala (1949; fear at the Scala Theater), Esperimento di magia (1958; experiment with magic), and Le notti difficili (1971; restless nights). The selection of Buzzati’s stories in English translation published under the title Restless Nights (1983) is drawn from several of these collections, including Le notti difficili.

Buzzati’s plays, most of which derive from his stories, are also characterized by a dreamlike, often nightmarish, atmosphere. Perhaps the best of these is Un caso clinico (1953), based on his...

(The entire section is 590 words.)

Achievements

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Dino Buzzati is one of the few representatives in Italy of the surrealistic and metaphysical fiction made famous by Franz Kafka. Perhaps Buzzati’s closest affinities are with the Romantic tradition of E. T. A. Hoffmann and Edgar Allan Poe, authors to whom he was attracted as a child, but his version of the fantastic is sui generis. Buzzati’s originality lies both in his narrative technique and in his choice of themes, which range from philosophical and symbolic tales to metaphysical allegories and sheer fantasies. His pessimistic outlook, full of existential anguish, contains a vaguely Christian element, reflecting both the doctrine of original sin, the Christian insistence on the reality of evil, and the promise of ultimate redemption. Thus, Buzzati’s pessimism is tempered by a hope of salvation from life’s illusions. Destiny, a recurring theme in Buzzati, is viewed not as capricious or absurd but rather as a logical consequence of free will and personal choice. Buzzati’s characters find themselves embroiled in isolating solitude, overwhelmed by cosmic fear, in perpetual waiting, faced with the relentless passing of time that leads them to renunciation.

Unlike most Italian writers of the postwar period, Buzzati managed to remain aloof from political involvement, not only in his writings but also in his private life—no small achievement in modern Italy. Although this fact earned for him the reputation of being a snobbish and egotistic...

(The entire section is 455 words.)

Bibliography

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Biasin, Gian-Paolo. “The Secret Fears of Man: Dino Buzzati.” Italian Quarterly 6, no. 2 (1962): 78-93. Focusing on the magical rather than moral aspect of Buzzati’s allegorical narratives, Biasin’s well-presented article elucidates major elements in Buzzati’s fiction, including tensely brooding atmosphere, crystalline symbolism, journalistic technique or matter, and the themes of human fragility and the fear of death and the unforeseen.

Cary, Joseph.“Restless Nights: A Review.” Parabola 8, no. 4 (1983): 120-122. Opening the essay with Buzzati’s definition of fantasy (“Things that do not exist, imagined by...

(The entire section is 635 words.)