It’s Day 9 of the #A2ZChallenge. This year, I invite you to read and discuss short stories with me. Each day, I bring you a ‘Read of the Day,’ so that we can indulge in the joy of reading. You can visit my site daily for a short story with analysis and participate in the discussion in the comments.
Read of the Day
Today, we will read The Falling Girl by Dino Buzzati.
You can read the short story online here.
About the Author
Dino Buzzati was an Italian journalist, novelist, short story writer, poet, and painter. He became famous for his Italian novel, The Tartar Steppe, which featured in Le Monde’s 100 Books of the Century list. I hope to read the English translated version of the novel someday. Buzzati has written numerous radio and theatre plays, operas, novels, short stories, and poems.
It’s surreal how classic stories make so much sense even today, in times of a catastrophic pandemic in 2021.
Many of us relieved a sigh of relief and inhaled a huge whiff of hope that 2021 would pan out to be better than 2020. We started on an ecstatic and hopeful note with the news of the vaccine rollout. But here we are back to square one in April 2021, when it’s absolute mayhem in India right now with escalating COVID-19 cases and reports of new variants of the virus. Not to forget the ever-widening chasm between the elite and the common class globally. Humankind is a funny, pathetic race, and generations after generations have never failed to prove it.
When I read The Falling Girl for the first time, it dawned upon me that I had just read art in its finest form. From the bizarre idea conceptualization, the vivid imagery, to lucid poetic prose, this is a stunning piece of art.
The Falling Girl is an Italian fable written by Dino Buzzati and translated into English by Lawrence Venuti. The story opens on a feel-good note as Marta, the nineteen-year-old protagonist, is on top of the world literally as she views the city from the topmost floor of a skyscraper. And then, falls! Of course!
When Marta starts to fall, things are pleasant in line with her expectation for a better life. She’s noticed by the rich who stay on the top floors of skyscrapers where they have lavish parties and silly conversations. Thankfully, the sun comes to her rescue, illuminating the cheap dress that makes her look chic. You see flashes of Buzzati’s humour in this story that starts shaping into a social satire.
Even though Marta is wooed by filthy rich, young men who may or may not be sincere in their advances towards her, she has to fall towards her destination. Marta feels wonderful being watched by the rich who question her about her destination, and even invite her to their party. The irony is that the rich know where Marta is headed towards and no stranger to falling girls like her. In fact, they paid astronomical amounts for the distraction of the magnificent fall of young girls like Marta. Marta knows her current place in society as well and toes the line in her interactions with the rich and powerful.
“At that hour the terraces and balconies of the top floors were filled with rich and elegant people who were having cocktails and making silly conversation. They were scattered in crowds, and their talk muffled the music. Marta passed before them and several people looked out to watch her.
Flights of that kind (mostly by girls, in fact) were not rare in the skyscraper and they constituted an interesting diversion for the tenants; this was also the reason why the price of those apartments was very high.
The sun had not yet completely set and it did its best to illuminate Marta’s simple clothing. She wore a modest, inexpensive spring dress bought off the rack. Yet the lyrical light of the sunset exalted it somewhat, making it chic.”
From social satire, Buzzati steers the story on an unexpected path with the employment of magical realism. Things start getting more exciting as Buzzati defies all forces of gravity and commonplace logic.
As the sun sets, Marta slowly realizes that there is a huge gap between her destination and her status. She is now anxious if she would reach her destination point in time. The fall is brutally slow, and Marta transitions to the lower floors of the overtired working class who look on at her fall with envy.
As Marta falls further down, she’s surprised to see more falling girls like her. Better looking and better dressed to fit in with the rich and mighty class at the entrance door on the ground floor. Her hopes plummet, and the story ends on a cold, disturbing note.
“Glancing upwards she saw the pinnacle of the skyscraper in all its cruel power.”
Much like modern art, The Falling Girl is left open to diverse interpretations by its readers. The story could be about a girl who fell accidentally or purposefully towards her end goal. It could be a story about an outsider, misfit, or outcast who’s on the desperate edge of gaining entry into and get approval and acceptance from the 1% elite. Marta hopes to attain eternal salvation through her sudden fall.
Whatever be our interpretations of the story, we could all agree that Marta was in a happier place at the start of the story despite the challenges. Then towards the end, she realizes her folly and the eventual cruel outcome of the mighty fall.
“So self-assured when she began the leap, Marta now felt a tremor growing inside her; perhaps it was just the cold; but it may have been fear too, the fear of having made an error without remedy.”
So, did Martha land at her destination? Or did she keep falling?
You have to read the story to get to the answer in the powerful climax.
What Buzzati does in The Fallen Girl is extraordinary, and how he makes a social commentary via the course of Marta’s life. There’s a whole lot of learning and wisdom this story offers to us, readers – On mindless pursuits of superficial dreams of name, fame, money, and glory, self-acceptance, and contentment. For writers who read, the story is an institution by itself on the techniques of good writing.
The Fallen Girl is a whacky, light, and lingering short story. Highly recommend!
Did you enjoy reading The Falling Girl by Dino Buzzati? I’d love to hear from you.
*I’m participating in the #BlogchatterA2Z Challenge.