There is a painting - Malevich's Complexe Presentiment. This is the painting of Buzzati's book. This is a book when nothing happens - time stands still, or rather time is simply a single interval between the central character's arrival at the fort and his departure at the end. This interval is filled with the endless repetition of military rituals the only rationale for which is some ill-defined threat from the north, from across the featureless steppe that lies that way .
Nothing happens, every day is groundhog day, the world is bare and featureless, but it is saturated with latent, ill-defined significance; a significance of which we the reader have a presentiment - a complex presentiment.
Initially, our main character and we the readers, find the fort simply cold, uncomfortable and unwelcoming. But the rituals, the endless staring, into nothingness, and the waiting must be for something; something that our endlessly straining senses have only a presentiment but which gives meaning to our existence, or would give meaning if only this something would materialise for us. We produce nothing, our relationships are strictly governed by and frozen within the strict, military protocols of the fort - there is no development, save that of the slow, insidious physical aging and decay of our bodies.
And, eventually, our main character, and some of us, are overwhelmed by this presentiment and it becomes our life's mainspring - something that ritual and organisation gave rise to takes on a life of its own and, for our main character something that he is prepared to die for.
For those interested in seeing Malevich's painting, it is on the cover of the Harvill paperback edition of Platonov's novel - `Soul'. This book is indeed about the steppe; the central asian steppe. But it is very different from Buzzati's book.