Buzzati, Dino

Tagged: Author

(1906-1972) Italian author and journalist. From his first unsettling children's stories in the 1930s he was noted for the Kafka-like anxiety riddling his apparently simple plots. The best-known of them is probably La famosa invasione degli orsi in Sicilia (1945; trans Frances Lobb as The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily 1947), which leaves the bears' success in cohabiting with humans very much up in the air. Catastrophe: The Strange Stories of Dino Buzzati (original stories 1949-1958; coll trans Judith Landry and Cynthia Jolly 1965) is perhaps the most fully successful volume issued during his life; many of its stories are surrealist fables, always with a parable-like moral edge. Later selections, which intensify a sense of the claustrophobia of worlds about to collapse like eggshells into chaos, are Restless Nights: Selected Stories (coll trans Lawrence Venuti 1983) and The Siren: A Selection (coll trans Lawrence Venuti 1984).

Il deserto dei Tartari (1940; trans Stuart C Hood as The Tartar Steppe 1952) surreally describes the interminable tour of duty of soldiers in an Asian outpost, as they await, seemingly for ever, the assault of the Tartar foe; just as the latter does arrive, the protagonist dies: and the story is kaput. Seemingly awkward in its use of traditional material, Buzzati's sf novel, Il Grande Ritratto (1960; trans Henry Reed as Larger than Life 1962), is in fact a complex – and singularly non-Christian – speculative meditation on what makes a human being: the story, complete with Mad Scientist and a sentient Computer which bears/embodies the mind of his dead wife, movingly affirms the ineluctable union of mind and body: there is no soul without world. [JC]

see also: Italy.

Dino Buzzati Traverso

born Belluno, Italy: 16 October 1906

died Milan, Italy: 28 January 1972

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