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Catastrophe: And Other Stories


Catastrophe: And Other Stories

Having a distinct Kafkaesque bent, Italian surrealist Dino Buzzati’s 20 tales smack of the subtle horror depicted in “The Twilight Zone”, the TV series that aired during the late 1950s and early ’60s. (Click here for subjective synopses of 10 “Twilight Zone” episodes.) Contemporaneously, Buzzati published his collection reminiscent of WAITING FOR GODOT and Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”. Did one genius influence the others, or was there some universal literary Age of Enlightenment redux two centuries later?

“The Collapse of the Baliverna” details a young man fearing that his harmless feat of bravado causes a medieval edifice to collapse, self-imposing a “mean variety of blackmail.”

The title tale’s narrator aboard a train perceives villagers alarmed by something only they can know. “The farther north the train went, the larger the crowds became; and they were all going in the same direction, fleeing the danger toward which we were hurtling at such speed.” Arriving at his destination, the narrator “saw that the station was deserted, the platforms bare and empty, not a human being in sight.”

"Having a distinct Kafkaesque bent, Italian surrealist Dino Buzzati’s 20 tales smack of the subtle horror depicted in 'The Twilight Zone'..."

“The Monster” is in the attic. Or is it? Ghitta “had discovered its secrets by chance and had not known how to keep them.”

In “The Egg,” impoverished Gilda purloins access to an egg hunt reserved for the gentry, for her young child, Antonella. Gilda is enraged when her daughter is accused of stealing an egg given by another child. “Here was a mother offended and humiliated; sometimes an injustice suffered can unleash terrifying power,” bringing to mind analogies to Stephen King’s CARRIE.

My favorite is “Seven Floors,” where “patients were divided into seven successive castes.” As physicians tell the patients their conditions worsen, the inmates move to sequential lower floors. On the first floor, Giovanni Corte “saw that the venetian blinds, in obedience to some mysterious command, were dropping slowly, shutting out the light.”

Although I empathize with declining health (my own taking the express elevator down), I surmise this to be a metaphor for a society’s decline. Each generation feels that its seventh-floor vigor is superior to forebears, though age acts as a gravitational pull to a lower level.

This anthology incorporates existential essence, causing readers to question their own existentialism. We see each story differently, like viewing masterful art in a different light. These stories are to be treasured and enjoyed again, as the light of perception shifts.

Dino Buzzati (1906–1972) was the Italian novelist of THE TARTAR STEPPE, LARGER THAN LIFE and A LOVE AFFAIR. A journalist for Corriere della Sera, Buzzati published several anthologies.

Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on March 30, 2018

Catastrophe: And Other Stories
by Dino Buzzati

  • Publication Date: March 27, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Short Stories
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco
  • ISBN-10: 0062742736
  • ISBN-13: 9780062742735