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Buzzati, Dino

Buzzati, Dino

▪ Italian author
born Oct. 16, 1906, Belluno, Italy
died Jan. 28, 1972, Rome

      Italian journalist, dramatist, short-story writer, and novelist, internationally known for his fiction and plays.

      Buzzati began his career on the Milan daily Corriere della Sera in 1928. His two novels of the mountains, written in the style of traditional realism, Barnabò delle montagne (1933; “Barnabus of the Mountains”) and Il segreto del bosco vecchio (1935; “The Secret of the Ancient Wood”), introduced the Kafkaesque surrealism, symbolism, and absurdity that suffused all of his writing.

      The novel generally considered Buzzati's finest, Il deserto dei Tartari (1940; The Tartar Steppe), is a powerful and ironic tale of garrison troops at a frontier military post, poised in expectancy for an enemy who never comes and unable to go forward or retreat.

      His collections of tales include Sessanta racconti (1958; “Sixty Tales”), which included the previously published novellas I sette messaggeri (1942; “The Seven Messengers”) and Paura alla scala (1949; “Terror on the Staircase”). Among his other novels are Il grande ritratto (1960; Larger Than Life), a science fiction novel, and Un amore (1963; A Love Affair), the story of a middle-aged man who is captivated by a devious young vixen.

      Of Buzzati's extremely popular plays (some of which were taken from his short stories), the most important is Un caso clinico (performed and published 1953; “A Clinical Case”), a modern Kafkaesque horror story in which medical specialists and machinery destroy a perfectly healthy man. Buzzati's other plays include Il mantello (performed 1960; “The Overcoat”), a supernatural drama in which a soldier who has been declared missing mysteriously returns and is discovered to be a spirit, and L'uomo che andrà in America (performed and published 1962; “The Man Who Will Go to America”), the story of an old painter who realizes, on being told that he has won a coveted American prize, that the news also means the end of his life work and his death.

      Though influenced by Kafka, Buzzati has a devastating skill and a detached sort of irony and humour of his own. An English translation of some of his stories is Catastrophe: The Strange Stories of Dino Buzzati (1966). Cronachi terrestri (1972; “Earthly Chronicles”) and an autobiography (1973) were published posthumously.

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Universalium. 2010.

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