THE SIREN: Selected Stories by Dino Buzzati

THE SIREN: Selected Stories

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Following Restless Nights (1983): a second helping of Buzzati's fantasias, with a theme (developed by editor/translator Venuti) twining around the primal human encounters with Death and Time. In ""The Bewitched Bourgeois,"" an adult man is impressed into a game of cowboys-and-Indians by some passing boys and is mortally wounded by an imaginary arrow that turns deadly--because ""he played with a ponderous, rabid faith which he had brooded for who knows how many years without being aware of it"" (unlike ""the angelic lightness in children""). In ""The Gnawing Worm"" and ""Confidential,"" all-too-expected doppelgangers inhabit and take over lives; in ""An Interrupted Story,"" a ten-year hiatus changes the characters of an unfinished piece of fiction so that even the singing voice of one--pure and light and innocent--has roughened with knowledge. Again, then, the great flaw in Buzzati's didactic fables is that the ironic moral of each story emerges far too soon, far too obviously. (In ""The Time Machine,"" you know that the city protected by a machine that slows down time will crumble with insane temporality once the device fails and time lurches forward at a mad speed. In ""Personal Escort,"" the shadowy figure bearding the narrator has to be--and is!--death.) Yet this volume does begin with a small masterpiece: Buzzati's first piece of fiction, ""Barnabo of the Mountains""--which has its pious side (a man's struggle with his own elusive bravery) but is also a ravishing piece of nature writing, of stilo rusticano set in the Italian Alps among foresters and brigands. (A cowardly man is transformed into yet another jutting part of nature, like the ravines and paths and clean clear light of the mountains.) And though Buzzati was either unable or unwilling to follow up the rich texture of ""Barnabo"" in his later work, it's almost magical enough--with a vivid sense of interior and exterior spaces--to justify this whole, largely disappointing collection.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1984
Publisher: North Point