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Buzzati, Dino

Entry updated 23 October 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1906-1972) Italian journalist, artist and author, active from before 1930, much of his work being fantasy irradiated by the surreal as conveyed through narratives whose speculative thrusts have at times a profoundly non-mimetic, almost allegorical clarity, though (see Fantastika) they seem invariably to benefit from being read literally; he shares many characteristics with his compeers Italo Calvino and Tommaso Landolfi. From his first unsettling children's stories in the 1930s, beginning with Bàrnabo della montagne ["Barnabo of the Mountains"] (1933 chap), he was noted for the Kafka-like anxiety riddling his apparently simple plots, though he argued futilely against the link. His best-known early work 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.

Buzzati wrote short fiction throughout his active career, the most definitive assembly being Sessanta racconti ["Sixty Stories"] (coll 1958). English translations from this and other volumes begin with Catastrophe: The Strange Stories of Dino Buzzati (original stories 1949-1958; coll trans Judith Landry and Cynthia Jolly 1965; exp vt, some new trans E R Low some anonymous, as Catastrophe and Other Stories 1982; further exp 2018) [for details see Checklist] 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, include Restless Nights: Selected Stories (coll trans Lawrence Venuti 1983) and The Siren: A Selection (coll trans Lawrence Venuti 1984) (they are also taken from various sources).

Il deserto dei Tartari (1940; trans Stuart C Hood as The Tartar Steppe 1952; new trans Lawrence Venuti vt The Stronghold 2023) surreally describes the thirty-year tour of duty of its soldier protagonist in a remote outpost overshadowed and ensorcelled by the highest of mountains; here he awaits, seemingly for ever, in an eerie routine-obsessed Kafkaesque trance, the assault of the Tartar foe; just as the latter do arrive, he dies: and the story is kaput, just short of the World War Two it conspicuously anticipates. 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 Antonio Buzzati-Traverso

born San Pellegrino, Belluno, Italy: 16 October 1906

died Milan, Italy: 28 January 1972


collections and stories

  • Bàrnabo delle montagne ["Barnabos of the Mountains"] (Milan, Italy: Treves-Teccani-Tumminelli, 1933) [story: chap: binding unknown/]
  • I sette messaggeri ["The Seven Messengers"] (Milan, Italy: Mondadori, 1942) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Paura all Scala ["Terror on the Staircase"] (Milan, Italy: Mondadori, 1949) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • In quel preciso momento ["At That Precise Moment"] (Vicenza, Italy: Neri Pozza, 1950) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Il crollo della Baliverna ["The Collapse of Baliverna"] (Milan, Italy: Mondador, 1957) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Sessanta racconti ["Sixty Stories"] (Milan, Italy: Mondadori, 1958) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Catastrophe: The Strange Stories of Dino Buzzati (London: Calder and Boyars Limited, 1965) [coll: trans by Judith Landry and Cynthia Jolly from various sources: hb/John Sewell]
    • Catastrophe and Other Stories (New York: Riverrun, 1982) [coll: vt and possible exp of the above: trans by Judith Landy (credited) and E R Low (uncredited) and others also uncredited from various sources: pb/]
  • Il colombre ["The Colomber"] (Milan, Italy: Mondadori, 1966) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Le notti difficili (Milan, Italy: Mondadori, 1971) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • The Siren: A Selection from Dino Buzzati (San Francisco, California: North Point Press, 1984) [coll: trans by Lawrence Venuti of various stories including Bàrnabo delle montagne above: pb/Dino Buzzati]


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