by the grace achieved



Considerations on the Italian writer and artist Dino Buzzati

In 1970, the gallery owner Il Naviglio from Venice, commissioned a series of paintings from Dino Buzzati, which, distributed over the four floors of the small place, would constitute a kind of narrative. When thinking about how to translate, in some thirty works, a story with a beginning, middle and end, the artist ended up deciding to tell, in thirty-four paintings conceived as votive tablets, miracles attributed to Santa Rita de Cássia. Thus was born the show I miracoli di a saint, whose catalog (XNUMX copies) was printed in black and white.

Although Dino Buzzati is best known as a writer, an activity he carried out alongside that of a journalist, his incursion into the field of painting was nothing new. The opening of his first exhibition, at the Galleria dei Re Magi, in Milan, took place on December 1, 1958, when he also presented a book with the same title as the exhibition, The story dipint, whose stories were practically written with a brush, since literary texts functioned as corollaries of pictorial works. In May 1966, he exhibited again in Milan, at the Gian Ferrari gallery, and, in January of the following year, at the The Porchetto, in Rho (small town near the capital of Lombardy). The last exhibition was held in November 1971, shortly before his death (January 28, 1972), at the gallery Space of Rome when it was released buzzati pittore, volume about his activity as a visual artist.[1]

After the Venice exhibition (inaugurated on the 3rd of September), the set of works was brought together in a publication, The miracles of Val Morel, with additions and changes in the order of the paintings, each of them now accompanied by a short story, as in The story dipint. Launched in November 1971, the book had new editions: the 1983 edition (entitled By grace received) and that of 2012, on which this text is based. In this edition, which takes up the 1971 edition, with an explanation by the writer himself and a preface by his friend Indro Montanelli – who considered the small volume “one of his most magical tales” –, an afterword by Lorenzo Viganò and the portrait of Santa Rita, painted for an oratory, which is currently located in the headquarters of the Limana town hall, a small community close to San Pellegrino (District of Belluno, in Veneto), where Dino Buzzati was born, on 16 of October 1906. [2]

The dialogue between visual arts and literature in Buzzat's work was also not new, as it had been established since the author's first publications: the novels sent to the periodical The people of Lombardy (1931) barnabo delle montagne (1933) and The secret of Bosco Vecchio (1935). When talking about the drawings of these two novels, Viganò wrote in an introduction to a later work “Small and simple, almost the size of postage stamps, also used as capital letters, those of barnabo delle montagne – to show the face of the young forest ranger, protagonist of the story, the magazine where he has to stand guard, the mountain scenery –, more elaborate and pictorial the ones from The secret of Bosco Vecchio".

The text-image combination also characterized The famous invasion of bears in Sicily (The famous bear invasion of Sicily), published five years after his most famous novel The desert of the Tartars (the desert of the tartars.[3] The story told in this fable was accompanied by drawings in black and white and color illustrations, complemented by captions, in which data provided in the main text was summarized. Apparently intended for a children's audience, the story of the bears returned to themes and atmospheres that were dear to the author from the beginning. As Francesca Lazzarato pointed out: “the story that unfolds through the twelve chapters of the famous invasion it is also a representation of the ages of life. From the mountains of childhood one passes to the rich valley of adolescence, and then to the city where the disappointments of maturity will be known, to finally return to where one came from and disappear into an unlimited, definitive silence”.

The Sicily described in the work was not real, but invented, and its “majestic mountains”, “covered with snow” (according to the text), referred to the dolomitic landscapes of Dino Buzzati’s childhood, those “pointed mountains, realm of mystery and purity” (thus described in the presentation of The mystery boutique). As the author notes, in an excerpt quoted by Giulio Carnazzi in “Cronologia”: “The strongest impressions I had as a child belong to the land in which I was born, the Belluno Valley, the wild mountains that surround it and the Dolomitic Alps so Upcoming. A Nordic world, as a whole”.

The passions that will accompany him for the rest of his life are the mountains, writing and drawing, passions that had manifested themselves in his adolescence, when he started touring the mountains and wrote his first literary text, poetic prose. La canzone alle montagne (1920), and already in childhood, when enchanted by the works of the English watercolorist Arthur Rackham, illustrator of children's works, such as the tales of the Brothers Grimm (1900, 1909), Gulliver's Travels (1900, 1909), by Jonathan Swift, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906), by James Matthew Barrie, Alice in Wonderland (1907), by Lewis Carroll, The Knights of the Round Table (1917), by Howard Pyle, and Cinderella (1919), by Charles Perrault. As Dino Buzzati stated, in words reported by Viganò in the aforementioned introduction: “His ability to represent mysterious atmospheres, the spirits of the mountains and forests, the old enchanted houses, the clouds, the fog, the spells of Christmas was […] love at first sight. It was the full realization of […] the most intimate fantasies”.

ll book of pipe, despite being published in the same year as The famous invasion of bears in Sicily, had been prepared in 1935 and in it the writer had the collaboration of his brother-in-law Eppe Ramazzotti. In this kind of detailed catalog of every type of pipe, real or invented, once again, drawings (executed in the style of the previous century) were integrated into the descriptions of the pieces in such a way as to enrich them. As pointed out in the presentation of Sixty stories: “After having given a human voice to the winds, to the things of nature, now Dino Buzzati tries to instil life even in apparently inanimate objects. The hyper-real way of describing the pipes then becomes a sign of Buzzati's vision, of his way of converting art, in each of its manifestations, into a judgment on men and on the world”.

In 1966, in the pages of Corriere d'Informazione, the writer began My misteri di Milano – Vecchie chronache raccontate da Dino Buzzati, a series of comics, interrupted after the publication of the first three chapters of the first plot.[4] Despite being frustrated, the attempt paved the way for smoke poem (1969), a novel in which he drew more than he wrote the saga of Orpheus and Eurydice, set in a “great and neurasthenic city” (as he called it), modern Milan, with the corners frequented by the author on a daily basis. As Viganò observed (in the aforementioned introduction), incorporating the writer’s own expressions into the work on canvas: “Each page, both in words and in drawings, contains all the ingredients that Dino Buzzati disseminated in the novels and short stories written so far, in his drawings, in journalistic chronicles. There are the 'memories of a boy, the nights, the ghosts, the strange thoughts, the funnel of time, the first forebodings of what awaits him at the end of the poorly started path, for the time being illuminated by the sun'; there are the 'divine mortal anguish', 'the fear, the dreaded thud, the palpitations […], the promising rustle of the wind along the old cemetery'; there are the 'strange noises', coming from the 'old deserted rooms', and the great shadows of the 'wizards of autumn'. There are metaphysical yearnings, fears, fantasies, loneliness, death”.

"smoke poem is a hymn to life through the portrait of death”, summarized Viganò, in the same introduction, and, in fact, it should have been called the face of death (The dear death) – to remember that it is what gives meaning to the existence of human beings –, but the editor found the title too lugubrious. Classifying it is a difficult task, as it is neither a comic book (despite the rare balloons) nor a novel. strict sensu, but of a work in which text and illustration are amalgamated, merged, integrated.[5] As the author himself pointed out, in statements reported by Viganò – “Painting and writing, deep down, are the same thing for me. When painting or writing, I pursue the same goal, which is to tell stories.” – and by Ruggero Adamovit: “It is always literature. Something is counted with the pen and something is counted with the brushes. Equals. I, on the screens, also chronicle”.

This symbiosis between word and image, which will characterize much of the writer's future production, had already established itself in childhood and adolescence, in his diary, in the letters he exchanged with a friend and with his first girlfriend, and in a drawing executed in consonance with with the gothic and fantastic character of the poem that inspired it, the haunted palace (1839), by Edgar Allan Poe, whose text he copied by hand on the same sheet, inserting it in the illustration (1924). Dino Buzzati began to take an interest in Poe and Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann around the age of thirteen or fourteen, before becoming immersed in reading Fyodor Dostoyevsky, while it was only in 1934 that he discovered Franz Kafka, an author with whom his literature has constantly been linked. compared.

If Albert Camus, in 1955, on the occasion of the Parisian production of An interesting case (A clinical case, 1953), which he had adapted into French, relativized the presence of Kafka or Dostoievski in Buzzath's production[6], the poet Eugenio Montale was more explicit when referring to the writer's masterpiece (in a passage reported in the introduction of A love): “Who remembered the name of Kafka in relation to The desert of the Tartars deserves to be forgiven if you didn't know the previous novel, barnabo delle montagne, which develops more or less the same theme (the greatness and dignity of life in solitude), and which introduces Dino Buzzati's first truly original character: a crow. From then on, it should have been clear that Dino Buzzati's animals (and men) belong to the inner world of a man for which there is a truth, however hidden, and there is a life, however betrayed by man, which deserves to be lived”.

In March 1965, during a trip to Prague, Dino Buzzati visited the residence of the author of The process, to “exorcise” his supposed presence in his work, and dedicated the article to him The case of Kafka, published in Corriere della Sera, in which he declared: “Since I started writing, Kafka has been my cross. He had no short story, novel, comedy written by me in which someone did not find similarities, derivations, imitations or even blatant plagiarism at the expense of the bohemian writer. Some critics denounced guilty analogies even when I sent a telegram or filled out the income tax return form” (excerpt from the presentation to Sixty stories).

Invoking Kafka, Dostoyevsky, Hoffmann, Poe, Rackham or comics means entering the vast array of references present in Buzzat's production, which, with their citations (explicit or reworked) to their own work or to other authors, puts the repertoire of each reader-viewer to the test. Icons of mass culture and literary classics coexist in his universe. If, in Dino Buzzati, the confrontation between good and evil can also take root in reading the adventures of Diabolik[7], the anti-hero created by the sisters Angela and Luciana Giussani, in 1962 – “our opposite, Mister Hyde hidden in each of us, that dark side that he always recounted, sought, plucked from the shadows, showed (in painting, theater, poetry), without ever falling into easy moralism” (according to Viganò) –, the fantastic, which permeates all of his work, with the most diverse gradations and nuances, is associated with everyday life, with the chronicle, as in To divine comedy: “Because Dante, in Hell, had not only encountered unheard-of monsters or incredible conditions of death, but friends and neighbors, characters from his time and political, religious and civil acquaintances from his historical contemporaneity”, as Claudio Toscani pointed out, reporting an interview with the writer. The combination of the real and the imaginary is constant in Dino Buzzati, who also declared: “I, when telling a fantastic character, must try to make it as possible and evident as possible. The fantastic thing must come as close as possible to the chronicle”.

The option for a clear, simple language, without fancy terms, almost close to speech, sometimes led critics to relate Dino Buzzati's writing to journalistic language, a fact that, as Toscani reported, did not bother the author, considering that journalism was just one of the facets of his craft: “Certain chronicle experiences, by the way, I believe to be extremely advantageous for artistic purposes”. As Francesca Lazzarato underlined, the language used by the writer was not “poor, static and uniform; you can see it clearly in the Famous invasion, where Dino Buzzati proves capable, even without giving up the criterion of rigorous simplicity, of undoubted lyrical coloring”.

In fact, the author was able to attribute to the words an aura of ambiguity, mystery, illogicality, something indecipherable and incomprehensible to the intellect at first sight, as if each layer of meaning concealed another, and another, and yet another, in order to awaken in the reader strong, unknown and disturbing feelings. For Toscani: “All it takes is an intense and opportune adjective, an appropriate taste for rhythm to transform a journalistic, quick and spontaneous sentence into an expression capable of evoking images, impressions, premonitions and indications. […] Dino Buzzati writes fear, if it is fear, but he knows how to combine or approximate terms that make precise, for example, his feeling of anguish or nightmare, obsession or vertigo, magic or fable”.

In spite of this writing apparently in a minor key, the mastery of words allowed him an investigative depth – either in the texts of greater length, or in those synthesized to the extreme –, but without falling or dragging the reader into unfathomable abysses, preferring to let go of the shackles of reason through the bias of imagination and fantasy, without ever losing contact with reality.

In his writing career, Dino Buzzati did not disdain short texts, alternating the publication of novels with articles, chronicles, poetry, librettos, plays and short stories. In relation to the novel, the short story was not a less significant work for him, it was just a more synthetic text, in which, quickly but incisively, he delineated situations, characters, atmospheres that took the reader out of everyday life to face him so much with the " existence of the extraordinary” and with the “extraordinariness of existence” (as Toscani said), to show him that, on the other side of the “apparent normality of things” (as reported in the presentation of Sixty stories), mystery and the surreal lay in wait.[8]

And this is also what characterized his last verb-visual book, The miracles of Val Morel, composed of thirty-nine short and very short texts (from four to sixteen lines, except for one of one line and another of twenty-seven, in verse and prose) and the genesis of the work, in fact, the longest of the fantastic tales (six pages) that populate it, which serves as a frame and mooring to the others. In it, Buzzati reports having discovered, in 1938, in his father's library, a notebook about the miracles performed until 1909 by Santa Rita in his native region and the presence of an oratory, which he was unaware of. He manages to locate it and there he finds an elderly man, symptomatically called Toni Della Santa, author of the notebook's reports and connoisseur of several other miracles, who, like his ancestors from time immemorial, was the guardian of the small sanctuary and its objects and votive tablets, which he painted at the request of pilgrims. Upon returning to the region in 1946, Dino Buzzati, no longer finding the oratory or the little house of his guardian, based on the notebook and other reports he remembered, decided to paint pictures about unpublished miracles of Santa Rita.

The miracles performed by the saint between 1500 and 1936, in fact, were not unknown, but invented by the writer, and although he makes use of an extremely popular artistic expression, the ex-voto, the end result is quite different and very instigating. Ex-voto is the abbreviated form of the Latin phrase former vote suspect, that is, “the vow made”, a formula placed on objects offered to God, Our Lady or saints, as thanks, according to the promise made, for a grace achieved. It represents the renewal of a covenant of faith. In its pictorial version, the ex-voto portrays the fact that motivated the request – almost always an illness, an incident, a natural calamity –, the prayer and divine intervention (present in a section usually suspended), and may be accompanied by a chart summarizing what happened.

What is present in Dino Buzzati's ex-vows? Natural calamities and incidents, which are fantastic when not the projection of an inner disturbance: there is a flying whale that caused floods (“2. La balena steering wheel”, 1653); a tower cut in half by lightning (“14. La torre dei dottori”, 1543); a volcanic eruption of cats (“17. I gatti vulcanici”, 1737); ants that penetrate into the brain, driving people crazy (“19. Le formiche mentali”, 1871); drones that attack a young girl (“31. I vespilloni”, 37th century); a cloud of serpents, which decimate crops and cattle (“1881. La nube di bisce”, 1); or a ship attacked by a monster (“1867. Il colombre”, 3); an invasion of flying saucers (“1903. I dischi volanti”, 4); a bogeyman who attacks a woman (“1926. Il gatto mammone”, 12); a large snake threatening a gunboat (1915. Il serpenton dei mari, 21); a young lady who rushes out of her burning house (“1832. Caduta dalla casa Usher”, 39); Martians invading a city (“1527. I marziani”, 24). Only the board that represents the wife of the lineman who avoids an incident on the train (“1914. La casellante”, XNUMX) refers to more canonical ex-votos.

As for the illnesses, they are of psychological origin, as they relate to the anguish of human beings and the manifestation of hidden desires, of a sexual nature, mainly female: a count lost in the labyrinth of his mansion (“8. Il Veneza”, 1933) ; a man fleeing, pursued by an indecipherable figure, reminiscent of the bogeyman (“9. Uomo in fuga, 1522); an old marquis sued for the rhinos he killed in his hunts (“10. I rinoceronti”, 1901); the mountain old man who threatens an alpine village (“13. Il vecchio della montagna”, 1901); the despair that seizes a group of friends at a party night (“15. Serata asolana”, 1936); a black man who, with his threatening shadow, causes the death of those who come across him (“25. L'uomo nero”, 1836); a bear that pursues a man all his life (“32. L'orso inseguitore”, 1705); a public dormitory in which the saint overcomes despair and nocturnal nightmares (“34. Il pio riposario”, 1860); a priest tempted by a devilish porcupine, resembling a toothed vagina (“5. Il diavolo pigspino”, 1500); the attempted kidnapping of a girl (“6. Una ragazza rapita”, sd); collective hysteria in a female boarding school (“7. Fattacci al collegio”, 1890); a bunch of devils tempting a bishop (“11. Attacco al vescovo”, 1511); a man who loses his head over a girl's seductive smile ("16. Il Sorri Fatale", 1912); gnomes attacking a young woman returning home after a night of love (“18. Ironfioni”, 1892); a robin who becomes gigantic to kidnap a bride he is in love with (“20. Il pettirosso gigante”, 1867); a huge ant trying to seduce a girl (“22. Il formicone”, 1872); an alpine guide enslaved by the love of a woman (“23. Schiavo d'amore”, early 26th century); a girl raped by a robot (“1920. Il robot”, 1930s or 27s); Little Red Riding Hood about to be attacked by the wolf (“28. Cappuccetto rosso”, nd); the saint who extracts little devils from the body of a possessed woman (“1901. I diavoli incarnati”, 29); a young woman kidnapped by a devil riding a goat (“1899. Il caprone satanico”, 30); a demon who tempts a girl (“33. Il tentatore”, nd); a countess and her daughter who encounter a pack of wolves while traveling in a carriage (“1827. I lupi”, 35); a girl enslaved by Moorish pirates, who is freed by a Sicilian merchant (“1892. Schiava dei mori”, 36); a woman victim of a vampire (“1770. Ilvampire”, 38); the saint who cures an alcoholic (“1935. La bottiglia”, XNUMX) – with a deepening of eroticism in the final part of the book.

The effigy of the intercessor was painted in almost all the paintings, most of the time in a static way, according to the tradition of ex-votos, accompanied by the acronym PGR (thank you ricevuta, that is, for the grace achieved) and for the cartouche that summarizes the event, although the representation of the prayer and the invocation are absent. In this way, while each ex-voto constitutes a narrative unit in itself, the stories that accompany the paintings end up functioning more as a paratext, as they need them to complete their meaning and do not always refer to Santa Rita's intervention: they are more connected cases. to popular legends and traditions, mainly from the region of Dino Buzzati, when not entertainment intertextual texts or reports full of eroticism (implicit or explicit), almost all treated with fine irony, which are opposed to the domesticated representation of an event.

On many boards, Santa Rita appears acting, as when, suspended from heights, with her habit she protects a place from the flood caused by a whale; she grabs the moon in the sky, preventing the gnomes from attacking a girl; sends the ants out of a man's brain; extracts little devils from a lady's body; pulls a man away from a gigantic bottle of whiskey; or flies to intercept the flying saucers that threaten a young girl, to protect a priest from a porcupine, to rescue an earl in a labyrinth, to chase away what frightens a fleeing man, to lash out at the demons that torment a bishop, to face the great snake, to beat the old man on the mountain with a broom, to hold up the broken tower, to hold back the volcanic cats, to keep Miss Usher from falling, to catch the big bad wolf by the tail, to talk a bear out of chasing a man, to ward off nocturnal anguish in a bedroom, to stop a cloud of serpents, to save a city from invading Martians.

In this way, Santa Rita, more than being the intermediary between man and God, is the one who effectively performs miracles, often endowed with superpowers, as if she were a comic book heroine. The desacralization of the saint becomes evident in the painting destined for the oratory, in which she appears with painted nails (despite the representation of four miracles and roses, an element that refers to her traditional iconography), and in the eroticization of her image on two boards and respective tales in which she exorcises a woman (with a hint of the excitement that derives from the practice of exorcism) and when she dissuades a man from drinking (as he assaults an enormous bottle that merges with the nun's body).

The reference to comics brings up, once again, the question of verbal or visual quotations and self-citations in Buzzat's work, also present in The miracles of Val Morel. As had happened previously, this book also includes a recovery, in full or in part (most of the time), of works by Buzzati himself; these, in turn, refer to a vast repertoire, whose appreciation will depend on the knowledge of each reader-viewer.

In the visual field, the writer's dialogue with other authors and artistic expressions ranges from Hieronymus Bosch[9] to Surrealism (André Breton, Salvador Dalí, Paul Delvaux, René Magritte), from Giuseppe Arcimboldo to the Metaphysics of Giorgio De Chirico and the New Figuration of Francis Bacon, “which he admired unreservedly” (according to Carnazzi, in an introduction); from Francisco Goya to Pop Art, especially Roy Lichstenstein and Claes Oldenburg; from Caspar David Friedrich to Edvard Munch; from Arthur Rackham to Achille Beltrame (illustrator of The Sunday of the Courier), without leaving aside comic books, the advertising universe[10], the images bondage of the 1950s and erotic figures of the following decade.

Point this dialog at The miracles of Val Morel it is not an easy task, due to the little iconographic material available, but, even so, it is possible to risk some hypotheses, based on what could be ascertained. If, in some compositions, the “formal evidence” stands out, as Alessandro Del Puppo pointed out, in others, “the work of recovering and reworking the sources is more complex and stratified, and implies […] a certain dose of malice: the acceptance of the challenge that the author throws at his audience”.

The representation of colombre, marine animal invented by Dino Buzzati – which had already integrated Miscellaneous (1964) and resurfaced in The colombre (1966), with the duplication of the character's eyes, which will characterize other Buzzathian paintings – also shows the contact with the work of Katsushika Hokusai, in particular the print the big wave (1830 or 1831). The flying whale derives directly from The flying whale (1957), while characters such as the bogeyman and the big snake, present in The famous invasion of bears in Sicily, or like the bogeyman,[11] already portrayed in “Il babau” (1967) and in Poem in comics. The bear is also derived from the children's book, which has turned into a stalker, in addition to the mountainous landscape in which the harassing gnomes live and the spatial arrangement of the small town invaded by the Martians.

The bestiary of this 1945 work also seems to refer to the porcupine that tempts the priest, who can be confronted with the figure of the wild boar and with “Maiali volanti (1957) and the winged beings – be they demons that instigate the bishop to to sin, bumblebees that infest a house, birds that accompany flying saucers or a goat that carries a satanic being and its prey – which bear a resemblance to the birds that fly over the demon-possessed citadel and have an illustrious ascendant in the volatile animals that surround a man resting in The sleep of reason produces monsters (1797), by Goya. Other constant beings in the Buzzathian bestiary, the wolves – which chase Little Red Riding Hood or the carriage with the two women – have affinities with the one portrayed in the 1969 work (as well as the horses), all related to the one who knocks on the door in “Toc, toc” (1957) or the persecutors of “I lupi nuotatori” (1958). The black silhouettes of the wolf and the trees in the aforementioned painting seem to be inspired by the illustration. Cinderella (1919), by Arthur Rackham, and, before appearing in “Cappuccetto rosso”, they had already returned in Poem in comics, although in this book the composition dialogued mainly with Hill and plowed field near Dresden (1824), by Friedrich. This last work by Dino Buzzati also seems to derive “Il pio riposario”.

The black man, with his menacing and baleful shadow, drawn from smoke poem, had already appeared in the story about the bears, in which the subdivision of a composition into smaller images also appears to account for a longer-lasting narrative sequence, an expedient present at the meeting of friends in the mansion in the Asolo region and, previously in the 1969 book and in several of the painted stories: “Il delitto di Via Calumi” (1962), “Il visitatore del mattino” (1963), “La vampira” (1965), “La casa dei misteri” (1965), “I misteri dei condomini” (1967), “Il pied-à-terre dell'on. Rongo-Rongo” (1969), for example.

In all these works, as well as in “Il circo Kroll” (1965), “Uno strano furto” (1966), “L'urlo” (1967) and “Un utile indirizzo” (1968), the theme of sexually subjugated women is present. The contorted body, which reappears in smoke poem, is the re-elaboration of a drawing bondage by Adolfo Ruiz, Kidnapped and enslaved (1950s). In the case of “Il visitatore del mattino”, the dialogue is established again with the aforementioned work, with “Un invadente parliamente” (1964) and with “Il formicone” and “Il robot”, in which sexual predators resemble mechanical artifacts rather than animals; while “Il circo Kroll” and “Un utile indirizzo”, as well as some pages of the 1969 book, refer directly to “Schiava dei mori”. Sadism permeates all these works.

The representation of the female victim of the vampire, translated from Poem in comics – as well as that of the young woman enslaved by the Moors and that of “La vampira”, in which there is an insinuation of lesbianism – still bears resemblance to several heroines sexy comics from the 1960s, in which the writer was interested: Barbarella, created by Jean-Claude Forest, Valentina, by Guido Crepax, Satanik, by Max Bunker (Luciano Secchi) and Magnus (Roberto Raviola), Selene, by Paul Savant (Marco Rostagno) and Victor Newman (Corrado Farina).

Entering the universe of comics also means referring to Pop Art, which so fascinated Dino Buzzati. In early 1964, after a visit to the United States, the writer became enthusiastic about this artistic manifestation, which would emerge victorious at the Venice Biennale that same year. A new trip to New York, in December 1965, took him to the studios of several of his exponents, including Andy Warhol. It goes without saying that the writer was a staunch supporter of figurative art.[12]

The face of the kidnapped girl's sister, in the foreground, reveals the admiration for Lichstenstein, already manifested in "La vampira", "Un utile indirizzo" and "Un amore" (1965), while the empty coat of the man enslaved by the love of a young woman is a tribute to Oldenburg, previously rendered in the last painting mentioned, in “Laide” (1966) and “Ritratto di un vecchio nobile austriaco” (1967). It is not rare for Buzzathean women to be caught in lascivious poses (derived from the languor of Madonna of Munch in its various versions), such as the aforementioned “Laide” and those that occupy countless pages of smoke poem (some of which are inspired by French erotic periodicals from the 1960s, or offer their tempting lips, such as those that predominate in the illustration of “Il Sorri Fatale”.[13]

In the field of literature, the mention of novels Moby Dick (1851), by Herman Melville, and The fire (1900), by Gabriele D'Annunzio, in “Il colombre” and “Il Veneza”, respectively; to the short story “The fall of the Usher house” (1839), by Poe, in “La caduta dalla casa Usher” [14]; to the fable of Little Red Riding Hood, in “Cappuccetto rosso”, and to the thought of Pierre Klossowski, in “Il formicone”[15], is explained by the author himself, although it may be a false lead. Among the literary works, they could be listed even Morel's invention (1940), by Adolfo Bioy Casares, in the title of the book, the rhino (1959), by Eugène Ionesco, in “I rinoceronti”, and Bondage human (1915), in “Schiavo d'amore”, since this was the translation of the title of the novel by William Somerset Maugham in Italian.

In any case, the theme of the man who succumbs to the charms of a woman, also present in “Il Sorri Fatale”, had already been addressed by Dino Buzzati in Un love (1963), a novel that, for part of the critics, was affiliated with Lolita (1955), by Vladimir Nabokov, narrating the story of a mature and successful architect, who falls in love with Laide, a young woman from the village who works as a prostitute in a meeting place.

The allusion to the theater of the absurd would be given not by the plot itself, but by the same atmosphere of strangeness, created by an unusual situation (as in the play), a fact reinforced by the use of hieroglyphic characters in the balloons that record the thoughts of the rhinos, in which Dino Buzzati recovered one of his adolescence passions: the discovery of Egyptology. It would not be the first time that the name of Dino Buzzati would be associated with that of Ionesco and Samuel Beckett, if we remember that Martin Esslin, creator of the concept of theater of the absurd, also included A clinical case among the representative pieces of the “crisis dramaturgy” (information provided by Carnazzi in the “Cronology”).[16]

Although the Italian geographical maps register Valmorel (a town in the vicinity of Belluno) and not Val Morel, which in “literary fiction, actually encompasses the territories of the Valley of Belluno” (according to Viganò in his afterword), the hypothesis could be raised that, in the toponym that integrates the title of the book, Buzzati wanted to pay homage to the Argentine novel, released in Italy in 1966, due to the same sensation of displacement in relation to the common perception of reality that the two books raise.

Among the cited literary works, the fable is perhaps the one that offers a reading key to The miracles of Val Morel. the adventure of Little Red Riding Hood, collected by Charles Perrault in the 1812th century and reworked by the Brothers Grimm in XNUMX, before being metaphorized, was a legend common to several European cultures in which wolves were a real presence. And this is what Buzzati seems to have done when he proposed his “version” of stories basically linked to the folklore of his region: he forged a series of small fables, introduced by a larger one, based on stories that, like that of little hat red, are part of a tradition of popular culture[17]: the oral transmission of stories and events, extraordinary or not, which are lost in the mist of time.

In this sense, The miracles of Val Morel ends up being a sort of summation of the writer's entire work, since he ideally returns to his native land, to the mountains of his childhood, to say goodbye to life, after having traversed the other stages of his existence (the plain of youth and the city of maturity), as the protagonists of The famous invasion of bears in Sicily.

Despite the apparently religious theme, which turns out to be rather popular and fanciful, what the author sought was not so much an approximation of God in the face of the imminence of the fatal outcome, as a way to exorcise one's fears, overcome the anguish of metaphysical waiting and go serenely towards the one that inevitably awaits every man at the end of his journey: the one he called “the face of death".

*Mariarosaria Fabris is a retired professor at the Department of Modern Letters at FFLCH-USP. Author, among other books, of Italian cinematographic neorealism: a reading (Edusp).

Revised and expanded version of the paper presented at the VI National Meeting Unusual in Question in Fictional Narrative, Rio de Janeiro, UERJ, March 30-April 1, 2015.


ADAMOVIT, Ruggero. “La foresta delle tele parlanti” (2013). Available in .

AQUILA, Giulia Dell'. “Cronaca di una visione: Dino Buzzati e Hieronymus Bosch”. Italianistica: rivista di letteratura italian, Pisa-Rome, year 38, n. 3, Sept.-Dec. 2009.

BUZZATI, Dino. The famous bear invasion of Sicily. Trans. Nilson Moulin. São Paulo: Berlendis & Vertecchia Editores, 2001.

BUZZATI, Dino. The miracles of Val Morel. Milano: Mondadori, 2012.

BUZZATI, Dino. smoke poem. Milano: Mondadori, 2010.

CARNAZZI, Giulio. "Chronology". In: BUZZATI, Dino. smoke poem, cit.

CARNAZZI, Giulio. “Introduction”. In: BUZZATI, Dino. Selected works. Milano: Mondadori, 2002.

COGLITORE, Roberta. “The device dell'ex Voto ne I miracoli di Dino Buzzati”. Magazine Sans Soleil – Estudios de la imagen, v. 5, no. 2, 2013.

“Dino Buzzati”. In: BUZZATI, Dino. A love. Milano: Mondadori, 1985.

“Dino Buzzati”. In: BUZZATI, Dino. The mystery boutique. Milano: Mondadori, 2015.

“Dino Buzzati”. In: BUZZATI, Dino. Sixty stories. Milano: Mondadori, 2015.

FABRIS, Mariarosaria. "Dino Buzzati's fabulous foray into children's literature". think about magazine, São Gonçalo, n. 9, 2016.

FARIA, Almeida. The passion. São Paulo: Cosac Naify, 2014.

LAZZARATO, Francesca. “A book for everyone”. In: BUZZATI, Dino. The famous bear invasion of Sicily, cit.

MONTANELLI, Indro. “Preface”. In: BUZZATI, Dino. The miracles of Val Morel, cit.

PUPPO, Alessandro Del. “Fonti visive e intezioni narrative nel Buzzati illustratore” (2013). Available in


TOSCANI, Claudio. “Introduction”. In: BUZZATI, Dino. Il colombre and another fifty racconti. Milano: Mondadori, 1992.

VIGANÒ, Lorenzo. “Introduzione – La discesa nell'Aldilà: l'ultimo viaggio di Dino Buzzati”. In: BUZZATI, Dino. smoke poem, cit.

VIGANÒ, Lorenzo. “Postfazione – Dino Buzzati and the miracle of his life”. In: BUZZATI, Dino. The miracles of Val Morel, cit.


[1] Buzzati was also a set and costume designer for the ballet Jeu de cartes (1936-1937), by Igor Stravinsky, presented at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, in the late 1950s; and set designer of two lyrical operas in one act, with a libretto by himself and music by Luciano Chailly: the mantello (Florence, Teatro della Pergola, 1960) and It was forbidden (Milan, Piccola Scala, 1962-1963).

[2] In relation to the exhibition, were added The colombre, Il cat mammome, The giant pettirosso, Cat from the Usher house e I marziani. For Roberta Coglitore, the votive tablets “should also be added to the one painted in the summer of 1971 for Doctor Giovanni Angelini, who took care of the author in his final months”.

[3] The first version, entitled The famous invasione degli orsi, was partially disclosed in chapters in the children's periodical Courier for children, between January 7 and April 29, 1945, when publication was interrupted due to the end of the war. To be published in a book, the fable was reworked by the author. For more information about this work, see my text published in think about magazine, available on the internet.

[4] The complete story of Alberto Olivo – who traveled from Milan to Genoa in order to throw his wife’s dismembered body into the sea, transported in a suitcase (1903) – has been published in full in the volume Crimes, which is part of the work The “nera” of Dino Buzzati (2002)

[5] Buzzati's book helped to affirm the graphic novel, a genre that became popular in the late 1970s.

[6] Carnazzi noted in the “Cronologia”, Camus's sayings: “Even when Italians pass through the narrow door shown to them by Kafka or Dostoievski, they pass with all the weight of their body. And its darkness, however, shines. I found this tragic and familiar simplicity in Buzzati's play and, as an adaptor, I tried to be at his service”. For Francesca Lazzarato too, the Venetian author “does not fit right, after all, the clothes of a Kafka on a small scale (an insistent and precisely unpleasant approach for the writer, far removed from the denial with no exits that is at the base of Kafka's work )”.

[7] By 1967, Buzzati had painted the character on canvas. Diabolik, under the impact of the work of Roy Lichstenstein (the artist who had reinvented comics), appreciated, that time, at the Venice Biennale the previous year.

[8] To attest to the importance of the author's brief texts, it would be enough to remember that, when referring to the writings of that kind of diary that Buzzati has been updating since its first edition in 1950, In what precise moment, Eugenio Montale defined them as “poetry confetti” (an expression quoted by Viganò).

[9] In 1966, Buzzati wrote the fantastic short story “Il maestro del Giudizio Universale”, which served as the introduction to the volume dedicated to Bosch in the collection “Classici dell'arte” by the publisher Rizzoli in Milan. According to Giulia Dell'Aquila: “The work of the XNUMXth-century painter – so linked to a wide range of erudite and popular sources (books of dreams and visions, alchemical and astrological treatises, even literary texts) – reconciles well with Buzzathian writing, which has always been sustained by quite varied interests and sources”.  

[10] Like the house of the roadman in “Il vecchio della montagna”, taken from the label of Braulio digestive liqueur.

[11] “Gact mammone"and "babau” correspond, in Portuguese, to “bogeyman”. In the first case, it was preferred to opt for “bogeyman cat”, due to the presence of the feline in the story.

[12] Buzzati did not hide his aversion to abstract art, even writing short stories to mock his followers, such as “Battaglia noturna alla Biennale di Venezia” and “Il critico d'arte”, which are part of Sixty stories (1958)

[13] The works cited in this paragraph as well as in the penultimate and antepenultimate ones are part of the 2013 volume of The story dipint: “Il delitto di Via Calumi”, “Il visitatore del mattino”, “A parliamentary invader”, “La vampira”, “La casa dei misteri”, “Un amore”, “Il circo Kroll”, “Uno strano furto” , “Il babau”, “Ritratto di un vecchio nobile austriaco”, “Laide”, “I misteri dei condomini”, “L'urlo”, “Un utile indirizzo” e “Il pied-à-terre dell'on. Rongo”. Due to the dates, only “Toc, toc”, “Maiali volanti” and “I lupi nuotatori” must also have been part of the 1958 publication.  

[14] “Il colombre” actually derives from another short story with the same title published in The mystery boutique (1968). Buzzati dismisses the comparison with the whale immortalized by Melville, as his sea monster is not evil. As for “La caduta dalla casa Usher”, it is a joke on the part of the narrator: in the text itself, he specifies that what happened to Miss Usher, when she fell out of her burning house, has nothing to do with the tale of the American writer. Indeed, what is linked to Poe's work is “Il crollo della Baliverna” (1954), later published in Sixty stories. It narrates the story of a building built in the 1962th century, a home for the homeless, which an unsuspecting passer-by causes to collapse by accidentally pulling out an iron bar. The description of the back façade of Baliverna, with its windows that looked more like loopholes, recovered by Buzzati in the illustration of the house in flames, had already been used in “Ragazza che precipita” (XNUMX), a pictorial elaboration of the homonymous story, which integrates The mystery boutique, from which the author seems to have extracted the fall of Bernardina Usher (followed by the saint), along a building that resembles a skyscraper.

[15] Mainly the rehearsal Diana's bath (1956)

[16] In The story dipint, “Le sedie” (1965) already alluded to the work of Ionesco and, more specifically, to the 1952 play, which the author himself defined as “tragic farce”: The chairs (The chairs), performed for the first time in Italy in July 1956, at the Piccolo Teatro in Milan. The Buzzathian chairs lined up on top of a platform, at whose feet lies a human figure who can no longer speak, while they whisper old stories to each other, refers to the stage of the theatrical montage, in which the silence of the deaf-mute speaker is interrupted, in the end, by the rising and falling murmur of an invisible multitude.   

[17] Ex-votos are also a manifestation of popular culture. The Portuguese writer Almeida Faria, in his novel The passion (1965), called them “pictures made of people”: “the hermitage is a silence of the sun, as close to the sky as to men [...]; every day there people pay promises to a God who does not hear them and who persecute them; in the sacristy there are braids, wax hands, feet, family portraits, effigies of soldiers and pictures made of the people, with the bed, the sick person (sometimes a woman, suffering the pains of childbirth, her belly rising under the sheets, a large matrix of plebs, the fertile and prodigal world of the earth) and coca nurses and the beautiful Virgin wrapped in a cloud, descending in an easy flight along the walls of the room, before the afflicted family full of surprise, and in verse captions with mistakes and truth: to santanossasenhora for having saved me from dying when I was dissatisfied with the pains of childbirth”.

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