At the start of Dino Buzzati’s The Stronghold, newly commissioned officer Giovanni Drogo has just received his first posting: to the remote Fortezza Bastiana. North of this stronghold are impassible mountains; to the south, a great desert; and somewhere out there is the enemy, whose attack is imminent.
This is the enemy that Lieutenant Drogo has been sent to draw out of his lair. This is the enemy over which Drogo is confident he and his fellows will score a definitive defeat, sending them home as heroes. And yet time passes and where is the enemy?
As the soldiers in the fortress await the foretold day of reckoning, they succumb to inertia, and though deaths occurs, it is not from bravery. Decades pass. A lifetime passes. Drogo, however, still has his lonely vigil to keep.
Buzzati is one of the great Italian writers of the twentieth century, renowned for a touch that is as lyrical as it is light, as well as for his fantastical imagination. The Stronghold, previously translated as The Tartar Steppe, is his most celebrated work, a book that has been read as a veiled attack on Mussolini’s fascist militarism, a prophetic allegory of the Cold War, and as an existentialist fable.
Lawrence Venuti’s new translation reverts to the title that Buzzati originally intended to give his book, and seeks to bring out the human and the historical dimensions of a story of proven power and poignance.