Read again today The Tartar Desert by Dino Buzzati – which for many was a school reading – is an exciting experience. Because this book published in 1940 questions through the figure of Drogo the enjoyment and the terror of the perpetual assignment to a place, Fort Bastiani in this case. It also questions our ambiguous relationship to the disaster, to the threat: the more diffuse it is, the longer it takes, the more desirable the confrontation becomes …
For the record, the young officer Giovanni Drogo goes to Fort Bastiani, his first assignment, a citadel lost in the high mountains, from which one can guess, between steep peaks, the triangle of a stony desert, enemy territory s’ extending as far as the eye can see; you have to go to an advanced fortification to embrace it as a whole, without seeing more.
Drogo wants to flee, but he will stay there, and burn his life watching for imperceptible movements in the plain, waiting for a battle against the almost invisible enemy, fascinated, hypnotized, seduced by the promise – however threatening – of a confrontation heroic … “It was from the northern desert that their luck, the adventure, the miraculous hour that sounded at least once for everyone should come.”
Re-reading Buzzati’s novel in 2020 brings out strange echoes with a recent saga, The iron Throne. There, a night guard, both renegade and heroic, watches along a wall, a northern territory, hostile, asleep for centuries until winter, and the enemy with it, ends by arriving.