As someone around here said, if it had been on any compulsory reading list, I would have skilfully avoided it, but since it was casually mentioned by one of my friends (though I have the feeling it was on her compulsory reading list at uni) I thought I'd give it a try. This was 5 or more years ago, when I bought the book and tried to read it. I gave it up after 40 pages or so due to my lack of patience. I terribly needed things to happen at the very beginning to keep me focused and interested. Same thing happened to Waiting for the Barbarians, which is said to be inspired by Buzzati's work.
Now, being older and wiser, I decided it's time I gave the book a fair chance to impress me.
First things first. I'm really pissed by my lack of reading Italian authors and I have no idea why this is happening. I abandoned two novels by Umberto Eco (which I'm determined to actually read one day) and I browsed Dante and Boccaccio a long time ago. And, to my knowledge, the few authors I actually read, one book each, unfortunately, are de Amicis, Svevo, Pirandello and Eco. I don't remember if Boffa is Italian or not. The truth is I have no talent in choosing Italian literature and no friends or acquaintances who read it and whose opinions I can rely on.
Not the most captivating novel, but interesting nonetheless. Historically and geographically vague - no idea when it takes places or where, no political strings attached. Looking back, I find it disturbingly sad. I guess.
*** POSSIBLE SPOILER *** Giovanni Drogo, young officer, is sent to a far fort at the border of the Tartar Steppe (btw, Il deserto dei Tartari sounds so much better), where he has no reason to be, because nothing ever happens there and as a young aspiring military he should be looking for more challenging possibilities elsewhere. But, like every other soldier at the fort, he decides to remain for a few months, hoping for a war or something that would gain him military glory. But months turn into years, and when he's on the deathbed, guess what?, a war is about to start.
I'm not into military and stuff and I really didn't feel the book as such. I felt for Drogo, I actually took things on a very personal level, which I think every reader did - the solace, (re)considering expectations, missing opportunities, the comfort of routine.