“Prank” by Dino Buzzati Summary

Prank Dino Buzzati Summary
“Prank” Summary

“Prank” is a very short story by Dino Buzzati, an Italian writer known for, among other things, his well-regarded short stories. Many of Buzzati’s stories contain elements of science fiction or fantasy or seem allegorical. This one definitely falls into the latter category. It’s about a man who’s running home at night and realizes he’s being chased. I’m not sure what it represents, but I’ll offer a guess at the end. I recommend reading the story itself, but if you’re having trouble finding a copy, here’s a summary of “Prank”.

“Prank” Summary

One night, the narrator runs home down a deserted, muddy street. When he turns a corner, he hears someone running behind him. He wonders who is chasing him. When the sound is a few meters away, he stops and turns around. It’s a man of about thirty who slows to a walk and asks his pardon for bothering him. The narrator is confused and starts moving again.

The stranger stands still until the narrator is about a hundred meters away then he starts running after him again. When he gets close, the narrator turns around again. The man apologizes for frightening him. It’s not the same man, though. He’s a bit older and more shabbily dressed.

The scenario plays out a third time. The narrator resists the urge to turn around. The stranger passes and stops in front of him. He’s scornful and comments on the narrator not being afraid this time. The narrator is annoyed. In the dim streetlight, he notices this man looks different again. He asks the man if he’s the same person from earlier.

The stranger explains it doesn’t matter. What matters is he feels like he’s being followed. If he was a faster runner, the narrator would have been afraid.

The narrator looks the stranger over and doesn’t notice anything remarkable about him. He’s angry and calls the situation a ridiculous, idiotic prank.

The stranger is amazed at this interpretation, surprised that the narrator still doesn’t understand.

I hope this summary of “Prank” by Dino Buzzati was helpful.

What does it mean? I’m not sure, but it could be an allegory for death. People feel it “chasing” them at times. If it feels closer than usual for whatever reason, they’re more afraid. Once they accept that death is inevitable in old age, they could accept it more, like in the third pursuit. If the stranger could run faster, he says the narrator would have been afraid, which could parallel the fear people feel if death is approaching too quickly, when they’re too young.

In any case, it’s an interesting story. If you think you know what it represents, let me know in the comments.

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