This is the YA novel for the cynical teen in your life, that teen that has a burgeoning sense of the absurd and the blackly comic. Beyond this book lies Flannery O’Connor, Franz Kafka, and Italo Calvino. Buzzati’s never had a large English language following, and I wonder if there’s something in this book that the American mindset rejects as too cynical on the surface. Granted having taken part in Mussolini’s navy probably doesn’t help.
Above are the covers, half of them Italian. Most of the English versions feature the landscape and a fortress, while the Italian editions all reference the soldier in some wry fashion. The English language copy I read is the rightmost one. It looks like someone applied different photoshop filters to Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist.
I’ll say flat out I love The Tartar Steppe. It is a great book, though I expect it’s one people either love or hate. I’m not going to talk much about the plot. You can speculate upon that from the covers. I do wish more of Buzzati’s work was available in English, especially his short fantasy fiction, (yes, I’ve seen The Bears March on Sicily book), but that’s my wish with a lot of authors. Only with Buzzati there’s something more to my fascination, since he’s an Italian from the same generation as my grandfather, and they appeared to have shared an affinity for the absurd.
A while back my kindle broke and my books didn’t transfer automatically to the replacement one and phone calls to the service center in Ireland were required. Whatever enthusiasm I had for e-books and Amazon pretty much dwindled at that time, and now I generally stick to downloading free stuff off of Project Gutenberg, which is great, because Gutenberg has so much weird random classic stuff on it. Like the other day I was reading Greek and Roman Ghost Stories by Lacy Collison Morley and was on the chapter about necromancy when my 4th graders arrived and began causing a ruckus and … well, let’s just say they’ll get theirs the little ankle-biters.
But I wanted to give a shout out to the Project Gutenberg Project, a great website sifting through the depths at Project Gutenberg. They’re definitely worth checking out.