From a selection of Dino Buzzati’s short stories called Restless Nights
The Survivor’s Story
We arrive from distant countries, from wars, from cataclysms. As the speeding train hastens our return, we look forward to the joys of our native land. Among the greatest of these is the joy of telling stories. We could continue for days without stopping, we could deliver lectures, write huge volumes. The things we have seen were beautiful, bizarre, frightening. Just to be able to tell our friends about them would be worth the pain of so much effort. The train hurries us home, and we seem to be happy.
But how strange! No sooner do we enter our houses than the long tale dies in our breast. We relate two or three things, and then that’s it. Suddenly we stop, feeling that we no longer have anything important to say. Where have our romantic adventures gone? Where are the dangers, mysteries, encounters of which we were proud? Have they disappeared, then? Have all the days and months and years that we spent in faraway lands vanished into thin air? Does nothing remain? Oh no: every dawn, every sunset, every night lies within us one on top of the other, intact, with profound significance. The problem is that when we tell our stories—what a bitter surprise!—they now appear vague, strange, boring, and no one is willing to listen to them, not even our mothers.
“I remember,” we begin, “one morning just at the edge of the forest…”
“But tell me,” someone interrupts, “now that you’ve returned, what do you think you’ll do?”
“The worst encounter happened last March,” we begin, “when the order came to…”
“Excuse me,” another person says, “but I’m already late for an appointment. We can get together tomorrow, can’t we?”
“For two months,” we begin, “we slept in some sort of cave, but we had to make sure that…”
“What about women?” someone else interrupts. “How did you make out with the women down there?”
Then you begin to understand how so many memories, etched into the vital essence of our souls, now sustain our lives. For the others, for everyone else without exception, our memories are only empty phantasms, mere words. Yet they are the people who love us most, they are true friends, ready to sacrifice themselves for us. Nonetheless, they don’t give a damn about our stories, they don’t know what to make of our treasure. And so, all of a sudden, you realize how alone we are in the world.