The Tartar Steppe – Dino Buzzati

The Tartar Steppe was the second book I read after the beautiful storybook by Dino Buzzati, La boutique del mistero. This is his first novel and known as the author’s most famous book. It is also in the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. If you’re going to read only 100 from that list, this book should be in the top 10.


The Tartar Steppe begins with young lieutenant Giovanni Drogo on his way to Bastiani Castle. Before he gets to Bastiani Castle, the troubles begin. Drogo’s fate slowly reveals itself on the very first pages. When he finally reaches the castle, he decides that he does not want to stay in this forgotten place, alas, he cannot act.

The Tartar Steppe - Dino Buzzati

While reading the book, I became Drogo. The daily rituals, the strange feeling of military service, and the unimaginable charm of the desert fascinated me. I got used to the room where Drogo stayed; watched the seasons go by like I was watching a movie. And, like other soldiers, waited for the Tartars to come. I could not get out of this order as days turned into months and months into years. Throughout the book, I felt numb, just like Drogo.

No matter where you are in your life, you will be Drogo; with each page, you will be under the influence of that sweet drowsiness and acceptance. When you look back at your life, you will be afraid, and feel like you can kill for a change. And wonder if you can get out of your castle any time soon, before its too late.

It was at this period that Drogo realised how far apart men are whatever their affection for each other, that if you suffer the pain is yours and yours alone, no one else can take upon himself the least part of it; that if you suffer it does not mean that others feel pain even though their love is great: hence the loneliness of life.

Dino Buzzati, The Tartar Steppe
The Tartar Steppe - Dino Buzzati

The Tartar Steppe

Idealistic young officer Giovanni Drogo is full of determination to serve his country well. But when he arrives at a bleak border station in the Tartar desert, where he is to take a short assignment at Fort Bastiani, he finds the castle manned by veteran soldiers who have grown old without seeing a trace of the enemy. As his length of service stretches from months into years, so he continues to wait patiently for the enemy to advance across the desert, for one great and glorious battle…
Written in 1938 as the world waited for war, and internationally acclaimed since its publication, The Tartar Steppe is a provocative and so frightening tale of hope, longing and the terrible sorcery of dreams and desires.

Dino Buzzati

Dino Buzzati-Traverso was an Italian novelist, short story writer, painter and poet, as well as a journalist for Corriere della Sera. His worldwide fame is mostly due to his novel The Tartar Steppe, and he is also know for his well-received collections of short stories.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

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