The Tartar Steppe

"The Tartar Steppe" ( _it. Il deserto dei Tartari) is a novel written by Dino Buzzati and published in 1940. The novel tells the story of a young officer, Giovanni Drogo, and his life spent guarding the Bastiani Fortress, an old, unmaintained border fortress. The central plot of the novel focuses on Drogo's lifelong wait for a great war in which his life and the existence of the fort can prove its usefulness. The story's focus on the human need for giving life meaning and the soldiers desire to glory are the over-riding themes of the novel. Drogo, who is posted to the remote outpost overlooking a desolate Tartar steppe, spends his entire career waiting for the barbarian horde rumored to live beyond the steppes. Without noticing, Drogo finds that in his watch over the fort he has let years and decades pass, and that while his old friends in the city have had children, married and lived full lives, he has come away with nothing except a shared solidarity with his fellow soldiers in their long, patient vigil. The story is fundamentally about a person's search for a meaning in life, and the ultimate dissolution of the hope that life has any meaning at all.

South African-born novelist J.M. Coetzee used "Tartar Steppe"'s plot to write his 1980 masterpiece, "Waiting for the Barbarians", whose title he borrowed from Greek poet Constantine P. Cavafy's poem of the same name.

In 1976 the novel was adapted into an eponymous film (known in English as "The Desert of the Tartars") by Italian director Valerio Zurlini and starring Jacques Perrin as Drogo with Max von Sydow as Horitz and Vittorio Gassman as Filimore. The film omits certain parts of the novel, especially those relating to the lives of Drogo's friends in his home town.

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