The Desert of the Tartars by Dino Buzzati

Review, arguments and curiosities of The Desert of the Tartars by Dino Buzzati

I got this book out of the library because my coworker had recommended it to me. We are already getting to know our tastes and when he recommends something to me he is usually right. The desert of the Tartars is the masterpiece or magnum opus by Dino Buzzati. In this edition of Alianza Editorial the translation is by Esther Benítez.

With the first Spanish translation in Gadir Editorial in 1985 came a foreword by Borges. Let's see if I can find the edition or the prologue and I can read it that it did not come with the one from Alianza Editorial.


The lieutenant Giovanni Drogo is assigned to the Bastiani Fortress, a border fortress, which borders the desert where they have to defend the country from an invasion, that of the Tartars that never arrives.

The desire of all the members of the fortress is to achieve greatness in combat, defending their homeland, but Bastiani is a dead frontier in front of a desert where we will see the lives of men pass within the daily routine. Having nothing to do and nothing to aspire to. Monotony. The call of the desert, the melancholy. routine

If I had to define this book with a single word it would be melancholy. I would hesitate between routine and melancholy, but I would leave out sadness (for Grave of the Fireflies), or loneliness that would be assigned to Yellow rain.

The passage of time, inexorable, letting life go by in exchange for hope instead of making the most of it.

Reaching the end of life and realizing the mistake.

If you are one of those who likes action in novels, don't try to read it, if you want a cheerful reading to lift your spirits, I don't recommend it either. On the other hand, if you want to reflect on the important things in life and when to live them, give it a try.

It's curious because the book as soon as it was finished left me a little indifferent. But as the weeks go by, the sense of greatness intensifies when talking about him and appears in many of my reflections. And I really value these books that the more time passes, the more you remember them ..

The passage of time

Something that I usually write down are the references they make over time. It is a theme that is becoming recurrent within my interests. If you also like you can read How time works Yellow rain

In this book I have not been able to resist transcribing a couple of fragments that I have liked a lot about the passage of time.

And meanwhile, precisely that night - oh, if he had known, perhaps he would not feel like sleeping - precisely that night the irreparable flight of time began for him.

Until then he had advanced through the carefree age of his first youth, a path that seems infinite as a child, through which the years pass slowly and with light steps, so that no one notices his departure. We walk placidly, looking around with curiosity, there is no need to hurry, nobody harasses us from behind and nobody waits for us, also the companions advance without apprehension, often stopping to joke. From the houses, at the doors, the elderly salute benignly, and make gestures indicating the horizon with smiles of intelligence; Thus the heart begins to beat with heroic and tender desires, the eve of the wonderful things that are expected later on is savored; They still see us, no, but it is certain, absolutely certain, that one day we will reach them.

Is there still much left? No, it is enough to cross that river at the bottom, to cross those green hills. Have we not already arrived, by chance? Are not perhaps these trees, these meadows, this white house what we were looking for? For a moment it gives the impression that yes and one wants to stop. Later it is heard to say that ahead is better, And the way is resumed without thinking.

So you continue walking in the midst of confident waiting, and the days are long and calm, the sun shines high in the sky and it appears that you never want to fall towards the west.

But at a certain point, almost instinctively, you turn back and a gate has jammed behind you, closing the way back. Then you feel that something has changed, the sun no longer seems immobile, but is moving rapidly, alas, there is hardly time to look at it and it is already rushing towards the edge of the horizon; One notices that the clouds no longer stagnate in the blue gulfs of the sky, but flee, overlapping one another, so much is their haste; one understands that time passes and that the journey will have to end one quiet day as well.

At a certain point behind us they close a heavy gate, close it with lightning speed and there is no time to return. But Giovanni Drogo at that moment slept, ignorant, and smiled in his dreams like children do.

It will be days before druggone realizes what has happened. It will then be like an awakening. He will look around in disbelief; then you will hear a stamping of footsteps that come behind you, and you will be ahead of you to arrive first. You will hear the beat of time eagerly scan through life. Smiling figures will no longer appear at the windows, but immobile and indifferent faces. And if he asks how much road is left, they will point to the horizon again, yes, but without any kindness or joy. Meanwhile the companions will be lost from sight, some will be left behind exhausted; another has escaped ahead; now it is but a tiny point on the horizon.

Behind that river - people will say - ten more kilometers and you will have arrived. But it never ends, the days get shorter and shorter, the travel companions scarcer; apathetic pale figures shake their heads at the windows.

Until Drogo is completely alone and the fringe of an immense blue sea, of lead color, appears on the horizon. Now he will be tired, the houses along the road will have almost all the windows closed and the few visible people will respond with a disconsolate gesture: the good is behind, far behind, and he has passed in front without knowing it. Oh, it is too late to return, behind him the roar of the crowd that follows him widens, pushed by the same illusion, but still invisible on the white deserted road.

And later near the end of the book

Oh, if only she had thought about it the first night she took the stairs one at a time! He felt a little tired, it is true, he had a ring in his head and no desire for the usual card game (also previously, otherwise, he had sometimes given up running up the stairs because of occasional discomforts) . He was not struck by the remotest suspicion that that night was very sad for him, that on those steps, at that specific hour, his youth was ending, that the next day, for no special reason, he would no longer return to the old system, not the next day, not later, not ever.

Photo Gallery

Some photos I took from the books. Although there is no talk of any oasis or because of the setting, it seems that it is a desert that contains oases. I was amused to put one. But I have not abused and I have not put camels ;-)

The film

Now while I am writing this review and looking for some information, I have seen that there is a film, a 1976 adaptation by Valerio Zurlini, it is an Italian-French-German production.

I'm going to try to find it and if I can see it, I'll tell you here how's it going.

Waiting for the barbarians of the Nobel Prize in Literature has also been written John Maxwell Coetzee in 1980 inspired by Buzatti's book

Who are the Tartars?

We cannot leave the book without referring to the Tartars. According to Wikipedia It is the collective name given to the Turkic peoples of Eastern Europe and Siberia. Originally the Mongol peoples of the thirteenth century were called thus, but it ended up being generalized and calling any Asian invader from Mongolia and western Asia Tatar.

It is a subject that for the moment I am not going to expand, but that I leave here I write down in case in the future my interest awakens and I return to it.

If you are a restless person like us and want to collaborate in the maintenance and improvement of the project, you can make a donation. All the money will go to buy books and materials to experiment and do tutorials

Leave a comment