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Monday, May 25, 2009

Reading for Restless Nights

Restless Nights
Dino Buzzati

Buzzati was a journalist, painter, writer of novels and short stories. His following has always been greater on the continent than in the UK or North America, some say due to late translations. Located for most of his life in Milan, Buzzati blended a journalistic style (sort of in this book) with the fantastic fiction you'd expect from Barthelme and Calvino. I suppose the goal was to ground tales in tropes of reality (there's a good one). Restless Nights consists of about 30 stories. Here we discover prisoners who must face the people of the town to plead for release (none have ever been granted) or who tell the real story of the Eiffel Tower. A girl jumps from a tall building and chats with people on her way down, eventually passing the lower floors as an old woman. I tended to read much of these tales as metaphors for the writing process, and indeed his The Scriveners is about the Lord's (as in ruler of the kingdom) scriveners who eventually are summoned by a red light. When that happens they must write non stop, or as near to that ideal as possible, for the remainder of their lives. Buzzati was a mediocre painter too, you can view some of his work here. These are surrealistic works for the most part, sort of de Chirico meets Art Brut.

Ex voto - Le formiche mentali, 1970

Here's the work of his that I like best, ants crawling through the brain. The stories are quick, fantastic, and worth a read.