Ben Winch's Reviews > The Tartar Steppe

The Tartar Steppe by Dino Buzzati
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Oct 22, 13

bookshelves: mainland-european, italian

The first time I read this I liked it a lot. I didn’t quite love it, but then I was at a period in my life where it would have been hard for me to love (or at least to notice whether I had loved) anything, so great was my absorption in my own distress. Yet in that context, The Tartar Steppe made an impression. It may even have benefited from that context, given that I, like its protagonist, was all but consumed by waiting. The dreamlike feel, the mountain setting, the debt to Kafka, the meditative pace – all led me to believe that this might be, if read in another state of mind, a favourite.

Well, I reread it a month or two ago and I was disappointed. Yes, the dream-feel is great, at times, and the descriptions of the mountains are thrilling. For the first few chapters I thought, ‘A classic!’ But by its end I found it heavy-handed, contrived, somewhat wooden and dead. It’s one of those books that seems to be about what its author takes it to be about, but in fact could be about something else entirely. It’s hemmed in, stunted, made to grow only in the direction Buzzati allows it to grow. At times it takes flight, almost despite itself. And I like it. But I don’t love it. And I so easily could have.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Fionnuala (new)

Fionnuala I like the idea that this book might have a parallel existence other than the one the author intends. It underlines the magic of the enormous potential packed inside the covers of books.

message 2: by Ben (last edited Oct 13, 2013 06:26PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ben Winch Y'know, I'd say a lot of (if not most, if not all!) books have that parallel existence. Borges cautioned against books that try to exhaust their own possibilities, but I'd say all books are somewhere on that continuum between narrowness and girth.

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