THE TARTARI STEPPE PDF
The Tartar Steppe [Dino Buzzati, Stuart C. Hood] on cittadelmonte.info *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Often likened to Kafka's The Castle, The Tartar Steppe is. By Dino Buzzati, Stuart C. Hood. Usually likened to Kafka's The citadel, The Tartar Steppe is either a scathing critique of army lifestyles and a meditation at the. Chapter 7 Beyond the Tartar steppe: EUROSUR and the ethics of European border control practices. Julien Jeandesboz Introduction This chapter interrogates.
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The Tartar Steppe is both a scathing critique of military life and a meditation on the human thirst for glory. It tells of young Giovanni Drogo, who. PQU83 D - The Tartar Steppe - Ebook download as PDF File .pdf ), Text File .txt) or read book online. Deserto dei tartari by Dino Buzzati, , Carcanet edition, in English.
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President George W. Der Derian, ; Mattelart, In the EU context, these orientations have developed in a more discreet fashion, possibly giving the impression that European practices in the contemporary management of in security are somewhat more lenient than those of the United States. With regard to border control and surveillance, however, one can note that the establishment of pan-European databases for the purpose of controlling and watching movements across borders was foreseen as early as the late s in the context of the Schengen agreement.
Eurodac, the first EU-wide automated fingerprint identification system — used for collecting fingerprints of asylum seekers and migrants crossing the external borders of EU member states — was 6 The BORTEC study is not publicly available. The EU version would concern all travellers, including those who do not face a visa requirement for short-term stays of less than 90 days.
The Tartar Steppe
Of course, the technological imperative in itself is not limited to the management of in security, and whether it is a characteristic of the contemporary period remains open to discussion e.
Mattelart, An important point to stress, however, is that this imperative is more a reflection of the struggles among governmental agents than of the achievements of the technical systems themselves, although it shadows these struggles. In the case of contemporary European border control practices, the technological imperative veils the transformations that these practices are undertaking. What is at stake, however, is not a mere technical upgrading: Expanding on the prescriptions tied to the IBM concept, on the other hand, EUROSUR would further accelerate the displacement of border control practices in both space and time, in two ways.
It is grounded in the capacities of different kinds of technologies and particularly sensors. One should of course treat this assertion of a shift in border control practices carefully. Elements can also be found in the work conducted by Amicelle et al.
See Amicelle et al. This remark operates as a caveat to the points that will be developed in the next section. Since the argument so far has been that contemporary European border control practices reflect a shift from the traditional ethics sketched out in the first section, the remaining paragraphs will place the emphasis on three components that illustrate most strikingly this shift, namely proactivity, instantaneity and risk and the way in which they reflect specific problematisation of space, time and identity.
As suggested previously, proactivity comprises both a spatial and a temporal component. Spatially, it relates to the idea that border control cannot be limited to the checking of effective crossings.
Control is redeployed through practices of surveillance both within the EU e. Faure Atger, and beyond the border-line as such, in third countries but also in spaces that are not delineated through the practices of sovereign territoriality e. Basaran, Proactivity simultaneously incorporates a temporal component. To relate it to the parable developed previously, the immobile vigilance that characterised the service of Giovanni Drogo on the walls of Fort Bastiani is here placed in tension with an imperative to move beyond the spatial horizon of the border, and beyond the temporal horizon of the moment when the crossing by an enemy, by a traveller, or a barbarian occurs.
In its spatial and temporal dimension, proactivity is authorised by a two-pronged claim. Three elements, of course, are underplayed here. The first one is that this humanitarian deed is to be achieved by generalising the surveillance of all movements at sea, and through the confusion between questions of maritime safety and questions of policing, interception and interdiction.
The second, in this regard, is that the practices of surveillance that are called upon to save lives are simultaneously putting the persons in question at risk.
Risky journeys cannot be reduced to the individual actions of the persons seeking entry in the EU. To mention but the best documented case, it is the initial deployment of the Spanish maritime surveillance system SIVE in the strait of Gibraltar that led the persons who were using this itinerary to seek longer and more perilous routes — for instance through the Canary islands, which subsequently triggered the launching of the first major Frontex operation and the extension of SIVE to this area Thirdly, the authorization of proactivity through humanitarian claims shadows the fact that the targeted persons are not only bodies to be saved, but subjects of rights.
These considerations, however, need to be further refined by examining the second ethical component highlighted by EUROSUR, namely instantaneity. Instantaneity appears as a central issue in the ultimate objectives of the programme.
Going back, again, to The Tartar Steppe, contemporary border control practices do away with the perpetual present of vigilance on the border-line and the excruciatingly slow passing of time.
The key ethical premise, here, is speed, and the possibility of projecting controls as quickly as possible at any given point that is considered problematic. Speed is also important heuristically, because it offers the possibility to avoid a certain sense of radical change with regard to contemporary practices: Borders have not been made, all of the sudden or in response to a specific event such as the attacks of 11 September , mobile and global: The issue with regard persons seeking entry into the EU and the possibility for them to be considered as legal and political subjects endowed with fundamental freedoms and rights, then, does not only involve spatial and temporal displacement, but also the speed at which this displacement is operated.
It further enhances questions regarding the possibility for them to effectively claim the rights they are entitled to, when policing operates faster than legal guarantees. This is not to say that the latter are absent, but that they face a further challenge. This twofold challenge — of proactive policing and speedier policing — is further reinforced by the third component of the contemporary ethics of European border control, namely risk.
See Carrera On the one hand, it enables a certain number of claims about the possibility to know the future: Risk here is articulated with the temporal dimension of proactivity and instantaneity. On the other, it stands as a set of governmental techniques operating through the interweaving of the singular e.
The Tartar Steppe, in this regard, might be less of a relevant parable for contemporary practices than Pattern Recognition, to cite a more recent work of fiction Gibson, In the process, the persons seeking entry into the EU are identified less through their belonging to a sovereign enemy or as barbarians to be civilised, than according to the degree of risk that can be inferred from their practices of circulation.
The point is not confrontation, but, as Neal In addition, risk is an asymmetrical calculation: The vigilance of Giovanni Drogo on the walls of Fort Bastiani is reconfigured into the proactive surveillance of populations in their travels towards the EU. This, of course, has severe implications for the persons seeking entry into the EU. The former claim is easy enough to discard: Their presumed reinforcement through EUROSUR, while possibly contributing to save some lives, will only result in accentuating this trend.
Furthermore, ICT-mediated surveillance increases the speed of control practices and the differential between the legal borders of rights and of policing, which casts a doubt over the pertinence of the latter claim. For further explorations, see Bigo, b. Official Journal of the European Communities, 22 September: EU Council, EU Council, a.
EU Council, b. European Commission, European Commission, a. European Commission, b. European Commission, c. European Commission, d. House of Lords, Laitinen, Ilkka, Catalogue of security and border technologies at use in Europe today, Oslo: Blackwell Publishing.
No, you have to cross that river down there, go over those green hills. Haven't we perhaps arrived already? Aren't these trees, these meadows, this white house perhaps what we were looking for? For a few seconds we feel that they are and we would like to halt there. Then someone: So the journey continues ; we wait trustfully and the 42 days are long and peaceful. The sun shines high in the sky and it seems to have no wish to set.
But at a certain point we turn round, almost instinc- tively, and see that a gate has been bolted behind us, barring our way back. Then we feel that something has changed; the sun no longer seems to be motionless but moves quickly across the sky; there is barely time to find it when it is already falling headlong towards the far horizon. We notice that. Then we under- stand that time is passing and that one day or another the road must come to an end.
At a certain point they shut a gate behind us, they lock it with lightning speed and it is too late to turn back. But at that moment Giovanni Drago was sleep- ing, blissfully unconscious, and smiling in his sleep like a child. Some days will pass before Drago understands what has happened. Then it will be like an awakening.
He will look around him incredulously; then he will hear a din of footsteps at his back, will see those who awoke before him running hard to pass him by, to get there first. He will feel the pulse of time greedily beat out the measure of life. There will be no more laughing faces at the windows but unmoved and indifferent ones. And if he asks how far there is still to go they will, it is true, still point to the horizon-but not good-naturedly, not joyfully.
Meanwhile his companions will disappear from view. One gets left behind, exhausted ; another has out- stripped the rest and is now no more than a tiny speck on the horizon.
Another ten miles-people will say--over that river and you will be there. Instead it never ends. The days grow shorter, the fellow-travellers fewer; at the windows apathetic figures stand and shake their heads. At last Drago will be all alone and there on the horizon stretches a measureless sea, motionless, leaden. The good things lay further back-far, far back and he has passed them by without knowing it. But it is too late to turn back; behind him swells the hum of the following mul- titude urged on by the same illusion but still invisible on the white road.
At this moment Giovanni Drago is sleeping in the third redoubt. He is smiling in his dreams. For the last time there come to him by night the sweet sights of a completely happy world. It is as well that he cannot see himself as he will one day be-there at the end of the road, standing on the shores of the leaden sea un- der a grey, monotonous sky.
And around him there is not a house, not one human being, not a tree, not even a blade of grass. And so it has been since time immemorial. Amongst it there was a brand new cloak of extreme elegance. Drogo put it on and looked at himself inch by inch in the little mirror in his own room. He decided that he must not spoil it on duty, during the nights spent on guard or among the damp walls.
It was even a bad omen to put it on for the first time up here as if admitting that he would not have better occa- sions. And yet he was sorry he could not show it off and although it was not cold he wanted to put it on, at least to go as far as the regimental tailor from whom he would buy an ordinary one. So he left his room and set off down the stairs noting, when the light permitted, the elegance of his own shadow. Yet the further he descended into the heart of the Fort his cloak seemed somehow to lose its original splendour.
Moreover he noticed that he did not manage to wear it naturally-as if there were something odd about it, something too conspicuous. So he was glad that the stairs and corridors were almost deserted. When at last he met a captain the latter returned his salute without more than the neces- sary glance. Nor did the rare soldiers turn their eyes to look at him.
He went down a narrow winding stair cut out of the heart of the ramparts and his footsteps resounded above and below him as if there were others there. The rich folds of the cloak swung to and fro and struck the white mildew on the walls. Thus Drogo arrived below ground; for the workshop 45 of the tailor, Prosdocimo, was accommodated in a cellar.
When the days were fine a ray of light shone doWn. Only a few patches of the great room were lit up-a table at which an old man was writing, the bench where the three young assistants worked.
All around scores upon scores of uniforms, greatcoats and cloaks, hung limply with the sinister abandon of hanged men. His rank was that of sergeant-major, but by virtue of being tailor he could apparently allow himself a certain ironical familiarity with his superiors.
You will have paid a fine price for it, I imagine, they don't do things by halves down there in the city.
He looked it all over like a craftsman then shook his head so that his full ruddy cheeks trembled. Fashion must be according to the regulations and the regulations say 'the collar of the cloak will be tight, stand up and be three inches high.
But many officers have a high opinion of me- in the city, too-important officers. I am here on a merely temporary basis," and he measured out the syllables ofthe last three words as if it were a statement of great importance.
Drogo did not know what to say. But what are you people laughing at? Now they had their heads bent and were exaggeratedly intent on their work.
The old man went on writing and kept to himself. You'll find that out one of these days. Prosdocimo was wanted up- stairs by the sergeant-major in charge of the clothing store. Drogo sat down and prepared to wait. Now that their master was gone, the three assistants had broken off their work. The old man at last raised his eyes from his papers, ro,se to his feet and limped over to Drogo. Do you know, sir, how long he has been in the Fort?
This must be their daily butt. The old man paid not the slightest attention. You're new, sir, watch out-you're newly arrived; watch out while there is time. Great events are coming, he began to tell me, I remember very well- it will be eighteen years ago. These were his words.
He got it into his head that the Fort is tremendously important, much more im- portant than all the others and that. A war you mean? Of course no one will come. But there was no sound of anyone. For fifteen years he's been waiting too. But you don't believe it, sir, I see that, you don't say anything and think it is nothing but a lot of stories. His elder brother?
I was a soldier too, once-then I broke a leg and now I'm reduced to this. So even this old man hidden away in his lair in the cellar casting accounts-even this obscure and humble being looked forward to a heroic fate? Giovanni looked him in the eyes and the other shook his head a little with a mixture of sadness and bitterness, as if to indicate that there was indeed no remedy: Evety now and again they stopped and there was a break; soon they started again, coming and going like the slow breathing of the Fort.
At last Drago had understood. He gazed at the mul- tiple shadows of the uniforms hanging there-shadows which trembled with the flicker of the lights and thought that at that precise moment, the colonel in the secrecy.
It was quite certain-at a moment like this, so sad with darkness and autumn, the commandant of the Fort looked north, towards the black gulfs of the valley. U was from the northern steppe that their fortune would come, their adventure, the miraculous hour which once at least falls to each man's lot. Because of this remote possibility which seemed to become more and more uncertain as time went on, grown men lived out their lives pointlessly here in the Fort.
They had not come to terms with ordinary life, with the joys of common people, with a mediocre destiny; they lived side by side, with the same hopes, never speaking of them because they were not aware of them or simply because they were soldiers who kept to them- selves the intimacies of their hearts. Perhaps Tronktoo-probably so.
Tronk followed the clauses of the regulations, the mathematical discipline, knew the pride of painstaking responsibility and de- luded himself that that sufficed. Yet if they had said to him: Im- possible, he would say. Something different must come along, something truly worthy of him, so that he could say: Now it is over and I have done what I could.
Drago had understood their simple secret and thought with relief that he was an outsider, an uncon- taminated spectator. In four months' time, thank God, he would leave them for ever. The obscure attractions 50 of the old fortress had vanished ridiculously. So he thought. But why did the old man keep on looking at him with that ambiguous expression? Why did Drago feel a desire to whistle softly, to drink some wine, to go into the open air?
Was it perhaps to prove to himself that he was really free, really calm? There remain only an orderly leaning against the lintel of a distant door and. Eight bottles stand out darkly against the tablecloth among the dis- orderly remains of the dinner. They are all somewhat excited-partly by the wine, partly by the night, and when their voices fall silent one can hear the rain outside. The dinner is in honour of Count Max Lagorio who is leaving next day after two years in the Fort.
Angustina, too, had completed his two years' duty but he did not want to leave. Angustina was pale and sat with his usual air of detachment as ifhe were quite uninterested in them and were there by pure chance. His blue sun-bleached uniform stood out among the others with a certain faded elegance. Lagorio turned to the others-to Morel, to Grotta, to Drogo. All of them would, I think.
I said it would do you good.
Angustina smoothed his moustache with two fingers-he was obviously bored. Imagine ifyour mother Lagorio noticed it and changed the subject. I don't remember. It's impossible to talk to you about anything-that's a fact. There's no mystery about it, is there? People saw you together every day. Yes, Claudina-do you know she won't even remember that I exist.
They fell silent. Outside the sentries paced to and fro in the autumn rain. The water hissed on the terraces, gurgled in the gutters and streamed down the walls. Outside the night lay deep; Angustina had a slight fit of coughing. It seemed strange that a sound so disagree- able should proceed from such a refined young man. But he coughed with due restraint, lowering his head 53 each time as if to indicate that he could not help it- that it was really something he had nothing to do with but which he must endure.
So he transformed the cough into a kind of Wilful habit for others to imitate. Yet a painful silence had fallen ; Drago felt he must break it. I wanted to leave earlier but I have to say goodbye to the colonel. On my last morning at least I want to take it easy. No one is going to rush me. The room was heavy with the thoughts which come by night, when fears emerge from the crumbling walls and unhappiness is sweet to savour, and over humanity, as it lies sleeping, the soul proudly beats its wings.
The glassy eyes of the colonels looking out of the great por- traits foretold heroic deeds. And outside it still rained.
The best society, music, pretty women. I shall be walking about the city," and he laughed at the idea: But behind his words the image of the distant city appeared to his comrades with its palaces and its great churches, its airy domes and the romantic avenues along the river. Now, they thought, there would be a thin mist over it and the streetlamps would give a faint yellow light'; this was the time when there were couples in the lonely streets, the cries of the coachmen under the lighted windows of the Opera, echoes of violins and laughter, women's voices in the gloomy entries to the wealthy houses, and lighted windows incredibly high up among the labyrinthine roofs.
It was the fascinating city of their youthful dreams, their still unlived adventures. They realised that they were not there to send off Lagorio but in reality to salute Angustina who alone would remain. One by one after as their turn came, the others too would go-Grotta, Morel and even before that Giovanni Drago who had scarcely four months to do. But Angus- tina would stay on-why they did not know, but they perfectly understood it.
And although they felt ob- scurely that on this occasion too he was conforming to 55 his ambitious style oflife they could not find it in them to envy him; it seemed to be nothing more than an abs11rd mania. But why is Angustina, that damned snob, still smiling?
Why, being as ill as he is, doesn't he run and pack his kit and get ready to leave?
The Tartar Steppe ( edition) | Open Library
Why is he staring instead i11to the shadows in front of him? What is he thinking about? What secret pride keeps him in the Fortress? Is he another? Look a: Lagorio left next morning. His two horses were wait- ing for him with his batman at the gate of the Fort. The sky was overcast but it was not raining.
Lagorio looked happy. He had left his room without so much as a glance at it, nor when he was in the open air did he look round at the Fort. The walls rose a,bove, gloomy and beetling; the sentry at the gate was motion- less ; there was not a living soul on all the vast level space. From a little hut which leant against the wall of the Fort there came the rhythmic beat of a hammer.
Angustina had come down to say goodbye to his friend. He stroked the horse. Lagorio was going away, going down to the city, where life was easy and happy. But he was staying on; with expressionless eyes he watched his comrade busy with the horses and he tried to smile.
And after a pause he added: We are quite different beings and I have never really understood what you were thinking. You seemed to have obsessions-! It was an astonishing thing even to see them together such was Angustina's superiority. She knows that you are here.
He struck in his spurs and the horse moved off. At this moment Angustina raised his right hand slightly as, if to recall his companion, to ask him to stay another moment for he had one last thing to tell him. Lagorio 57 saw the gesture out ofthe corner of his eye and halted a few yards away. The snow covered the whole width of the glacis; along the crenellations it had laid a rim of white; it plunged from the gutters with a little hollow noise; every now and again for no apparent reason it detached itself from the sides of the precipices and terrible masses roared smoking down into the gulfs.
It was not the first snow but the third or fourth fall, and was a sign that many days had gone by. It seemed like yesterday and yet time had slipped away with its unvarying rhythm, no slower for the happy man nor quicker for the unlucky ones of this world.
Another three months had passed-passed neither slowly nor quickly. Christmas had faded from sight in the distance and the New Year had come, bringing mankind a few strangely hopeful minutes.
Giovanni Drago was already preparing to depart. He still had to have the medical inspection which Major Matti had promised him and then he would be able to go. He kept telling himself that this was a happy event, that in the city the life awaiting him was easy, amusing and perhaps happy, and yet he was not pleased. On the morning of the tenth of January he entered the medical officer's room on the top floor of the Fort.
The doctor was called Ferdinanda Rovina; he was over fifty with a flabby, intelligent face, an air of tired resig- nation, and wore not a uniform but a long darkjacket which made him look like some sort of magistrate. He was sitting at his table with various books and charts before him; he sat' quite still and it was impossible to tell what his thoughts were.
The two officers saluted and Giovanni quickly saw that the doctor was fully informed of his case. You are quite right, you young people, not to moulder up here," Rovina went on, "there are far better chances down in the city.
Sometimes I think myself that if I could. It's too late, my boy, I should have thought of it sooner.
PQ4807.U83 D413 1952 - The Tartar Steppe
He invited Giovanni to sit down, made him give his name and surname which he wrote in the prescribed place on the form according to the regu- lations. Your system doesn't stand up to the height, isn't that it?
Shall we say that? No leave. At your age I had no such scruples. The sun had barely set; a blue shadow had spread over the walls. Yet it's a pity. Then he seemed to see the yellowing walls of the courtyard rise up into the crystal sky, with above them, higher still, solitary towers, crooked battlements crowned with snow, airy outworks and redoubts which he had never seen before.
A bright light from the west still illuminated them and thus they shone with an inscrutable life. Never before had Drogo noticed that the Fort was so complicated and immense. At an almost incredible height he saw a window--or perhaps a loophole open on to the valley.
Up there there must be men whom he did not know-perhaps even an officer like himself with whom he could be friends. In the abyss between bastion and bastion he saw geometrical shadows, frail bridges suspended among the rooftops, strange postern gates barred and flush with the walls, ancient machicolations now blocked up, long roof-trees curved with the years. Against the dark blue background of the courtyard he saw in the light of lanterns and torches soldiers of 3 On the brightness of the snow they formed black, im- mobile files, as if made of iron.
They were very beauti- ful to see and stood like stone while a trumpet began to sound. The blasts spread through the air, gleaming and alive, and struck straight into the heart.
This year. It shook once more, warlike and dashing. When it fell silent it left even in the doctor's office an enchantment no words could describe. The silence became such that you could hear someone's long pace crunch on the frozen snow. The colonel had come down in person to take the salute. Three trumpet calls of extraordinary beauty cleft the sky. Even Morel, I bet he will have to go down to the city next year to be looked after. I bet he finishes by falling ill too.
In the dusk the lines of bayonets were silver bars. Fromimpossibly far off there came the echo. The doctor was silent. Then he rose and said: I'll go now and get it signed by the commandant. The rhythm of their steps made a dull noise on the snow, but overhead flew the music of the fanfares.
Then, strange as it might seem, the walls-already beleaguered by the night-rose slowly towards the zenith and from their topmost height, framed with patches of snow, white clouds began to rise like great birds sailing between the stars. The memory of his native city passed through Drogo's mind-a vague image of noisy streets in the rain, of plaster statues, of damp barracks, tuneless bells, tired and misshapen faces, endless afternoons, dirty dusty ceilings.
But here the deep mountain night was approaching with clouds flying up over the Fort, harbingers of wonders to come.
And from the north, from the north invisible there behind the ramparts, Drogo felt the onset of his own destiny.
You don't want to leave any more? What has happened to you? Drogo has decided to stay; what keeps him there is a longing, but more than that alone-for perhaps the heroic cast ofhis thoughts itself would not have sufficed.
For the time being he thinks he has done something noble, and is genuinely surprised to find himself a better man than he had thought. Only many months later, looking around him, will he recognise the paltry ties which bind-him to the ,Fort. Suppose the trumpets had sounded, suppose he had heard martial songs, suppose disturbing messages had come from the north-if that had been all there was to it Drogo would have left just the same; but- he had within him dull sluggishness born of habit, military vanity, love for the accustomed walls which were his home.
Four months passing with the monotonous rhythm of routine duties had been enough to en- trammel him. He had got used to guard duties, which the first few times had seemed an unbearable burden; little by little he had learned the rules, the turns of speech, the whims of his superiors, the topography of the redoubts, the sentry-posts, the corners out of the wind, what the trumpets said. He derived a special pleasure from his mastery of the routine and savoured the growing respect of soldiers and N.
He had got used to the good and comfortable mess, the welcoming fire in the ante- room always lit day and night; the attentions of his batman-a good creature called Geronimo-who had little by little learned his particular wishes. He had got used to the trips every so often with Morel to the nearest village, a good two hours on horseback through a narrow valley which by now he knew by heart-an inn where there were new faces to be seen at last, lavish dinners and the fresh laughter of girls with whom one could make love.
He had got used to the wild races up and down the level ground behind the Fort where on free afternoons he vied with his comrades in dashing horsemanship, and to the patient games of chess in the evenings which Drogo often won; but Captain Ortiz told him: It happens to them all-they think they are really good but it's really only a question of novelty; then the others learn our system too and one fine day we can do nothing right any more.
He now knew how to place himself in the morning as he shaved before the mirror so that the light would fall on his face from the correct angle, how to pour water from the ewer into the basin without spilling, how to open the way- ward lock of a drawer by holding the key down a little.
All these things had now become part of himself and it would have hurt him to leave them. But Drogo did not know, he did not suspect, that his departure would have been an effort nor that life in the Fort would swallow up the days one after another, one exactly like the other, at a giddy speed. Yesterday and the day before it were the same; he could no longer have dis- tinguished one from the other. Something which hap- pened three days before or three weeks before seemed equally distant.
Thus unknown to him time fled on its way. But for the time being here he is, cocksure and heed- less, on the ramparts of the fourth redoubt on a pure frosty night. A greatkoon of extraordinary whiteness lit the world. The Fort, the crags, the rocky valley to the north were flooded with wonderful light -even the curtain of mist which hung in the extreme north shone with it. Down below in the room set aside for the orderly officer, in. Shortly Drogo had begun to write a letter; he had to reply to Maria, Vescovi's sister, his friend's sister, who might one day be his bride.
This was the lowest stretch of the fortifications corre- sponding to the deepest point in the defile. Here in the ramparts there was the gate through which the two 66 states communicated with each other.
From time im- memorial the massive, ironshod portals had not been opened. And the guard for the New Redoubt went out and in every day by a postern, barely wide enough for one man and guarded by a sentry. It was the first time Drogo had mounted guard in the fourth redoubt. As soon as he came out into the open he looked at the overhanging rocks to the right, all encrusted with ice and gleaming in the moonlight.
Gusts of wind began to bear little white clouds across the sky and shook Drogo's cloak, the new cloak which meant so much to him. Without moving he gazed at the barrier of rocks be- fore him, the impenetrable distances of the north, and the ends of his cloak rustled like a flag and assumed wild forms.
That night Drogo felt he possessed a proud and soldierly beauty, upright on the edge of the terrace with his fine cloak shaken by the wind. Tronk at his side, wrapped up in a wide greatcoat, seemed no soldier at all. Tronk, seeing that the lieutenant had nothing more to say, went offalorig the edge ofthe terrace bent as always on checking the routine. Drogo remained alone and felt almost happy. He relished with pride his determination to remain, the bitter pleasure of leaving the little assured happinesses for something which a long time hence might perhaps prove to be good and great-and underneath there was the consoling thought that there was always time still to leave.
A presentiment-or was it only a hope? He had so much time before him. Even women, these strange and loveable creatures, he looked forward to as a certain happiness, formally promised him by the normal course of life.
How much time there was before him! A single year seemed immensely long and the good years had barely begun. There was no one to say to him: But Drago had no knowledge of time. Even if he had had before him hundreds and hundreds of years of youth that, too, would have seemed no great thing to him. And instead he had at his disposal only an ordinary simple life, a short human youth, a miserly gift which could be.
What a long time: And yet-so he had heard tell-men exist who at a. Drago smiled to think of it and as he did so, urged on by the cold, he began to walk up and down.
At that point the ramparts followed the slope of the valley and so formed a complicated staircase of terraces andplatforms.
Below him, pitch-black against the snow, Drago saw the various sentries by the light of the moon; their methodical pacing made a creaking noise on the frozen ground. But Drogo heard him singing a lament to himself in a low voice.
It was a succession ofwords, which Drogo could not make out, strung together by a monotonous and unend- ing tune. Speaking, and worse still, singing on duty was severely forbidden.
Giovanni should have punished him but instead took pity on him, thinking of the cold and the loneliness of the night. Then he began to descend a short staircase which lead on to the terrace and gave a slight cough to put the soldier on his guard.
The sentinel turned his head and seeing the officer corrected his posture but did not interrupt his lament. Drogo was overcome with rage-did these men think they could make a fool of him? He would give him a taste of something. The sentry at once remarked Drago's threatening attitude and although the formality of giving the pass- word, by an ancient tacit agreement, was not used between soldiers and the guard commander he had an excess of scruple.
Raising his rifle he asked with the peculiar accent used in the Fort: In the clear light of the moon he could see the soldier's face perfectly clearly perhaps less than five yards away- and the mouth was shut. But the lament had not been interrupted. Where did it come from then, that voice? Since the soldier stood there and waited, Giovanni, pondering the strange phenomenon, mechanically gave the password: It was water, that was what it was-a distant cascade dashing down the steep sides of the crags.
The wind causing the great jet to quiver, the mysterious play of the echoes, the varying sounds of the struck rocks made of it a human voice which spoke and spoke-spoke of our life in words which one was within a hair's breadth of understanding but never did. So it was not the soldier who was singing under his breath, not a man sensitive to cold, to punishments and to love, but the hostile mountain.
What a terrible mis- take, thought Drago, perhaps everything is like that- we think there are beings like ourselves around us and instead there is nothing but ice and stones speaking a strange language ; we are on the point of greeting a friend but our arm falls inert, the smile dies away because we see that we are completely alone. The wind blows against the officer's splendid cloak and the blue shadow on the snow waves, too, like a flag.
The sentry stands motionless. The moon moves on and on, slowly but not losing a single moment, impatient for the dawn. In Giovanni Drago's breast his heart beats hollowly. Twenty-two months had passed without bringing anything fresh and he had stayed there waiting,. Yet twenty-two months are a long time and a lot of things can happen in there is time for new families to be formed, for babies to be born and even begin to talk, for a great house to rise where once there was only a field, for a beautiful woman to grow old and no one desire her any more, for an illness-for a long illness-to ripen yet men live on heedlessly , to consume the body slowly, to recede for short periods as if cured, to take hold again more deeply and drain away the last hopes; there is time for a man to die and be buried, for his son to be able to laugh again and in the evenings take the girls down the avenues and past the cemetery gates without a thought.
But it seemed as if Drago's existence had come to a halt. The same day, the same things, had repeated themselves hundreds of times without taking a step for- ward. The river of time flowed over the Fort, crumbled the walls, swept down dust and fragments of stone, wore away the stairs and the chains, but over Drago it passed in vain-it had not yet succeeded in catching him, bearing him with it as it flowed.
And this night, too, would have been like all the others if Drago had not had a dream.
The Tartar Steppe
He was a child again; it was night and he was standing at a window. To one side the house fell away and opposite, across the space he saw in the moonlight the fas: And the attention of the little boy who was Drago was all intent on a high narrow window crowned by a coping of marble.
The imoon, shining through the fell on a table on which there was a 71 runner, a vase and a few ivory statuettes. How wonderful; thought Drogo, to be able to live in these salons, to wander through them for hours discovering ever new treasures. Meanwhile between the window where he stood and. They floated through the air, whirling gently, and returned again and again to brush past the narrow window. By their nature they seemed logically to belong to.
So the fairies, too, kept away from common children and had time only for people blessed by fortune, who did not even stand watching but slept indifferently under silken baldachins.
And indeed not one of them seemed to hear, none of them drew even a few feet nearer to his window. But suddenly one of these magic beings caught at the sill of the window opposite with what seemed to be its arm and knocked gently on the glass as if calling someone.
Angustina, who was strikingly pale, wore a little velvet dress with a collar of white lace and seemed far from pleased with the silent serenade.
Drogo thought that, if only out of courtesy, his com- rade would have invited him to play with the phan- toms. But no. Angustina seemed not to notice his friend and did not even look round when Drogo called him: The spirit made a sign and, following the direc- tion in which it pointed, Drogo turned his gaze to a great square which stretched out in front of the houses, completely deserted.
Across this square a little proces- sion of spirits advanced, some thirty feet above the ground, bearing a litter. With his usual expression of detachment and boredom Angustina watched it approach; evidently it came for him. The injustice of it struck Drogo to the heart. Why did Angustina get everything and he nothing?
With some- one else it would not have mattered-but with Angus- tina who was always so proud and arrogant! Drogo looked at the other windows to see whether there were someone who might perhaps intervene for him-but he could see no one. At last the litter stopped, swaying directly in front of the window and all the phantoms clustered around it suddenly in a wavering circle. All were turned towards Angustina-no longer obsequiously but with avid and almost malignant curiosity.
Left abandoned, the litter remained in mid-air as if suspended from invisible threads. He saw Angustina standing upright at the window and his eyes fix themselves on the litter.
Yes, it was for him they had come tonight, the fairy messengers, but on what an errand! So the litter had to serve for a long journey and would not come back before the dawn, nor the next night, nor the next night again, nor ever.
The salons of the palace would await their master in vain, a woman's hands would cautiously close the window which the fugitive had left open and all the others too would be bolted to brood in the dark over the lamenting and desolation. So the phantoms, which had seemed so friendly, had not come to play with the moonbeams, they had not come like innocent creatures from scented gardens, but derived from the abyss.
Other children would have cried, would have called on their mothers, but Angustina was not afraid and talked calmly with the spirits as if to clear up some points of ceremonial. Clustered round the window like a drift of foam, they climbed on top of each other, pressing forward towards the child and nodding to him as ifto say: Still with his air of boredom Angustina climbed over the window sill-he seemed already to have become as light as the phantoms-and sat in the litter like a great gentleman, and crossed his legs.
As they wheeled in the semicircle the litter, too, passed close to Drago's window; waving his arm he tried to shout his last greeting: But slowly Angustina's face unfolded in a smile of com- plicity as if he and Drogo could understand a great deal the phantoms did not know-a last desire to make a joke, the final opportunity to show that he, Angustina, did not need anyone's pity. This was an ordinary occurrence, he seemed to say, here was nothing to be surprised at.
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