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The Singularity

The Singularity

by Dino Buzzati, translated from the Italian by Anne Milano Appel

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The June 2024 selection of the NYRB Classics Book Club

At the beginning of Dino Buzzati’s The Singularity, Ermanno Ismani, an unassuming university professor, is summoned by the minister of defense to accept a two-year, top-secret mission at a mysterious research center, isolated from the world among forests, plunging cliffs, and high mountains. What’s he supposed to do there? Not clear. How long will he be there? No saying.

Still, Ismani takes the mystifying job and, accompanied by his no-nonsense wife, Elisa, heads to the so-called Experimental Camp of Military Zone 36, wondering whether, in the midst of the Cold War, it’s some sort of nuclear project he’s been assigned to. But no, the colleagues the couple meets on arrival assure them, it’s nothing like that. It’s much, much more powerful.

At the center of the research complex is strange, shining, at times murmurous, white wall. Behind it, a deep gorge drops away, full of wires and radio towers and mobile sensors and a host of eccentric structures. A question begins to dawn: Could this be the shape of consciousness itself? And if so, whose?

Buzzati's novella of 1960, a pioneering work of Italian science fiction, is published here in a brisk new translation by Anne Milano Appel. In it, Buzzati explores his favorite themes of love and longing while offering a startlingly prescient parable of artificial intelligence.

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681378008
Pages: 136
Publication Date:


Can the human soul be re-created? And if so, is it ethical to do so? Dino Buzzati asked himself these questions in 1960, when, after reading about contemporary cyber­netics, he wrote The Singularity . . . which repurposes Buzzati’s great themes in a sci-fi setting. If you have read The Stronghold, you will find the atmosphere familiar.
—Gloria M. Ghioni, Criticaletteraria

Dino Buzzati is one of the great literary practitioners of the dark marvelous. To my mind, he constitutes one corner in the triangle of indispensable twentieth-century Italian fantasists, a status he shares with his contemporaries Italo Calvino and Tommaso Landolfi.
—Kevin Brockmeier, Electric Literature

Dino Buzzati was an individualist . . . akin to Italo Calvino in his taste for the bizarre and the fairy tale.
—N.S. Thompson, Times Literary Supplement

Dino Buzzati’s 1960 science fiction novel The Singularity—translated by Anne Milano Appel—tells the story of a scientist summoned to a mysterious research outpost. … This is another memorable entry in a stunning bibliography.
—Tobias Carroll, Reactor

The Singularity stages this complicity between science and military power, warning us against any facile belief that such knowledge can be acquired without cost or risk … Although Buzzati anticipated many of the specific threats associated with artificial intelligence, his exploration of generalized dread makes his work more relevant than ever.
—Gianna Albaum, Reading in Translation

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