“The Writer’s Secret” by Dino Buzzati Summary

The Writer's Secret Dino Buzzati Summary
“The Writer’s Secret” Summary

“The Writer’s Secret” is a short story by Dino Buzzati that can be found in his collection Restless Nights: Selected Stories. It’s about an old writer, once famous and greatly admired, whose reputation has been destroyed by a succession of steadily declining works. He wants to reveal the secret of why this happened and leave instructions for after his death. Here’s a summary of “The Writer’s Secret”.

“The Writer’s Secret” Summary

A writer is ruined but happy. The quality of his work has been declining for thirty years. He’s done it on purpose, as part of a wise plan.

He achieved splendid success but didn’t desire any more. After reaching a great height, he’s been descending gradually. It’s pitiful to onlookers but satisfying to him. He’s going to explain the secret reason for his decline and store it away to be read after his death.

At forty, he is a highly successful and admired writer. His destiny of worldly glory seems worthless. He’s already rich, so more money doesn’t matter. Adulation from people leaves a bitter taste in his mouth.

On the negative side, the media obligations and interruptions from the public don’t bother him much. His real concern is the profound envy that his success stirs in the hearts of his friends and colleagues. He gets only a meagre satisfaction from his success, while it causes others a notable misery.

He decides to remedy the situation by offering consolation to his friends. He’s going to continue writing, with each piece being less impressive than the previous one, thus creating the illusion of creative degradation. The envious will then take pleasure in his downfall.

It’s a simple plan, but there are two difficulties. First, he needs to receive negative reviews from critics. He’s so highly regarded that they will be reluctant to do this. They might not even perceive the drop in quality and, instead, continue to praise him. Second, repressing his genius will be extremely challenging. His brilliance might still shine through despite his attempts to be mediocre.

He succeeds on both counts. He writes progressively weaker books that are unworthy of his talent. With each new book, his associates become more calm and confident and they love him again. The admiration and adulation he used to receive are replaced by kindness and gratitude.

However, his calling was not just to write for his friends and colleagues. He feels indebted and obligated to the masses who are uplifted by his writing. For this reason, he won’t withhold his true talent from them.

Secretly, he’s also been writing to his true potential. There are twelve volumes in his strongbox that can be read after his death. His friends will forgive a dead man for having such remarkable talent. They’ll laugh at how they thought he was senile when they read these masterpieces.

The writing stops abruptly at this point. The old writer is found dead at his desk with his head on the paper. After reading this final confession, his family opens the strongbox. There are twelve large envelopes, each containing hundreds of pages. Every page is blank. 

I hope this summary of “The Writer’s Secret” by Dino Buzzati was helpful.

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