Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Giovanni Drogo

Giovanni Drogo (jee-oh-VAHN-nee DROH-goh), a newly commissioned officer posted to Fort Bastiani. Very young when he is first sent to Fort Bastiani, Drogo is sad at leaving the exciting life of the town for the isolated and gloomy fort. Perhaps because of his melancholy and introspective nature, Drogo is self-conscious about every gesture that he makes. As his time at the fort stretches on and on, Drogo loses all contact with the world outside. Like Captain Ortiz, Drogo allows his life to be spent in hope, waiting in vain for the glorious war that seems never to arrive. When it finally does, Drogo is sent away from the fort before the action starts because he is ill. Even though Drogo (now a major) is second in command, he is powerless to prevent his commanding officer, Simeoni, from ignoring his pleas.

Francesco Vescovi

Francesco Vescovi (frahn-CHEHS-koh vehs-KOH-vee), a childhood friend of Drogo. Vescovi has chosen the opposite path to Drogo. Drogo has become an officer; Vescovi has stayed in the “easy elegant life” in town, getting fatter as the years go by, in marked contrast to Drogo and the boniness of his frame by the end of the novel. It is Francesco’s sister Maria to whom Drogo is unofficially engaged. As the years pass, Drogo drifts apart from both Francesco and Maria....

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The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Critics have tried to identify Giovanni Drogo, the principal character of The Tartar Steppe, with the writer himself. Drogo, however, is far from being an autobiographical portrait of Dino Buzzati. What Drogo does reflect, as Buzzati has explained, is the author’s sense of the ineluctable passage of time,as day followed day, while he worked the night shift as editor of the Corriere della sera. Swamped in monotony, Buzzati wondered if all of his youth, all of his life, would waste away, as had those of other, older men, whom he watched working on to oblivion. This experience is transposed, in The Tartar Steppe, into a military setting because it seemed to him that in such a setting the story would “acquire the force of allegory referring to all mankind.” Moreover, military life corresponded to his nature, insofar as it provided security to the individual, even of weak character, as opposed to the feeling of anxious waiting and anticipating the worst.

Although Buzzati himself admitted that he lacked the ability to create characters, Giovanni Drogo and some of the other officers closely associated with him achieve a real presence. Nothing is known about Drogo’s appearance, only that he is not handsome, and that, old and ill, he is even thinner than he was formerly. Giovanni Drogo is not a completely individualized psychological entity—his preoccupations with the passage of time and wasted youth, the endless wait for the enemy and longing for military glory, are shared by, and reflected in, other characters—but he is recognizably human, not merely a type. He is not strictly speaking a hero, nor is he the conventional antihero, but...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Atchity, Kenneth John. “Time in Two Novels of Dino Buzzati,” in Italica. LV, no. 1 (1978), pp. 3-19.

Barberi Squarotti, Giorgio. “La fortezza e la forma: Il deserto dei Tartari,” in Dino Buzzati, 1982. Edited by Alvise Fontanella.

Geerts, Walter. “Forma, spazio, visione: alcune osservazioni sul Deserto dei Tartari,” in Dino Buzzati, 1982. Edited by Alvise Fontanella.

Livi, Francois. Le Desert des Tartares: Dino Buzzati, 1973.

Mignone, Mario B. Anormalita e angoscia nella narrativa di Dino Buzzati, 1981.

Rawson, J. “Dino Buzzati,” in Writers and Society in Contemporary Italy, 1984. Edited by Michael Caesar and Peter Hainsworth.

Schettino, F. “The Dream-like Technique in Il deserto dei Tartari:The Reader’s Digest and the Critic’s Nightmare,” in The Anxious Subject, 1983. Edited by Moshe Lazar.

Veronese-Arslan, Antonia. Invito alla lettura di Buzzati, 1974.