The desert of the Tartars, by Dino Buzzati – A review – Anatomy of the Word

book review The desert of the Tartarsa classic of 20th century literature.

HThere are books that manage, with few words, to say what many books are not capable of. A beautiful example is The foreignerby Albert Camus. The desert of the Tartars found on that same select shelf.

Certain clichés are valid, they match reality. The best perfumes are in the smallest bottles, as are the most dangerous poisons. An immense learning is contained in the brief pages of this work of art by Italian Dino Buzzati.

Waiting for what never comes

Giovanni Drogo, a young man in his twenties, was recently promoted to lieutenant. He is then assigned to Fort Bastiani, a military building located in an isolated border region, close to a desert. The author does not specify the location of the setting, which makes the novel even more universal, as the action can take place anywhere.

The fortress is surrounded by a supposedly glorious history, as it has functioned, throughout history, as a shield, protecting your country against invasions by foreign peoples. At first, the legendary historical past impresses the new lieutenant.

However, arriving at the place, he is faced with a much less illustrious scenario, after all the war stopped being a threat a long time ago. Drogo, discouraged, wants to get out of there as soon as possible and asks a doctor for a note, which gives him four months for a relocation.

Time passes, a lot happens, and Giovanni remains at Fort Bastiani. He can’t leave the fortification, something prevents him. What is this something that prevents us?

life is bullet train

The protagonist and his fellow professionals are locked up in Bastiani. Of course, if they wanted to, they could go somewhere else. However, metaphorically, each of them is encased in their personal strength.

Every soldier who arrives at the legendary fort finds it difficult to move forward, to fulfill his desires and ambitions. Young people become frustrated old people. The desert promises a Tartar invasion, and everyone is waiting for the moment to step in, the reason for their existence.

How many people do not live in this doldrums, waiting for something better to come? What do most people do to reach the promised land? How many have the courage and ability to take the decisive step? Now, isn’t that also the logic of capitalist society? “Work hard, one day the reward will come.” In the meantime, the hands spun wildly, and time is something that doesn’t come back.

Our lieutenant Drogo spent a lifetime serving in the army, even got a promotion. In his heart, however, he knows that he has not been honest with himself, that he has given himself over to monotony, to what seemed easier and more comfortable. Dino Buzzati, luckily, gives him redemption. Just as his long-awaited moment appears, he receives a visit from the reaper. In this moment of adversity, he finds courage and bravely faces the unknown.

about editing

Like all volumes in the Gold Classics collection, the edition of The desert of the Tartars it is in hardcover, its inside is in yellowed paper and the layout is pleasant.

Translation by Aurora Fornoni Bernardini and Homero Freitas de Andrade, very good by the way. The text, divided into short chapters, is simple and easy to read.

I read it on my Kindle. Regarding the e-book, it is great, well formatted and working in perfect condition.

The collection had a limited run, so the hardcover editions are sold out. The Nova Fronteira publishing house revamped the collection, but this time the books are in paperback. The price seems good and what really matters is the content of the work, not its visual aesthetic.


Few books can touch the reader in such a personal and universal way. We are all afraid of news; the new scares! Should we act like Giovanni Drogo, comfortable, lying eternally in a splendid crib, or should we face obstacles with a firm hand? Follow our dreams, or give up at the first opportunity?

I live in my own fort Bastiani, and so do you. The decision to leave it is up to us. Otherwise, we will spend our whole lives waiting for something that, in the end, cannot be conquered if we just stand still.

At times the reading is somewhat monotonous and tedious, reflecting the daily lives of military characters. This is the trump card of this little novel: to dialogue with the reader, putting him in reflection about his life and choices.

My grade (from 0 to 5): 4.5 ⭐


Title: The desert of the Tartars
Author: Dino Buzzati
Translation: Aurora Fornoni Bernardini and Homero Freitas de Andrade
Publishing company: New Frontier
Year: 2017
Pages: 176
ISBN: 9788520941799
Find this book on Amazon:

Did you like this review? Did you already know Dino Buzzati’s masterpiece? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear your opinion! Enjoy and follow the blog on social networks, subscribe to the newsletter and leave a like!

Thanks for the visit!

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.