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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The King of the Storeroom

Antonio Porta

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To purchase The King of the Storeroom

Title: The King of the Storeroom
Author: Antonio Porta
Genre: Novel
Written: 1978 (Eng. 1992)
Length: 149 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: The King of the Storeroom - US
The King of the Storeroom - UK
The King of the Storeroom - Canada
  • Italian title: Il re del magazzino
  • Translated by Lawrence R. Smith

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Our Assessment:

B+ : effective post-apocalyptic vision

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Fall/1992 Francesco Guardiani

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The complete review's Review:

       The King of the Storeroom purports to be a manuscript found in a small storeroom, transcribed by an anonymous figure who offers only some brief 'Preliminary Remarks' about it (but whose presence at least suggests the possibilities of a future in a world that has come to near an end, as the manuscript itself reveals).
       The manuscript takes the form of a diary, and covers a mere thirty-two days. The author uses it less to keep track of what is happening than to hold on to what remnants of civilisation he can; he see's this exercise as almost a necessity for his mental well-being:

I don't want to end up like all the ones I meet who are no longer capable of words, having short-circuited, as they say, the symbolic system of our species and being forced to use violent gestures and barks, which negate the desire to communicate implicit even in howling.
       And he also hopes to use his writing, by reading it aloud to others like him (apparently there still are some), hoping to get a potato or turnip in return.
       The catastrophe that has killed so many and ruined civilisation as we know it is left relatively vague, but it was clearly very much a collapse of civilisation, a snowballing effect where the failure of small parts led to the complete breakdown of everything. Environmental catastrophe is part of it -- the destruction of nature by humans, such as the Lambro River, "turned into that mush called 'liquid waste'" ("in spite of declarations which appeared daily in the 'press'") -- but far more significant is how removed mankind has become from the fundamental tasks that connect it to life:
The increasing gap between doing things (knowing how to do them, even knowing how to use your hands !) and saying them became unbridgeable.
       The consequences are far-reaching;
     If we didn't all die of hunger right away, or within a few months, we owe it to a race of bumpkins, like the farmers, who keep getting older and older, and yet there is no one to step in and take their place.
       The narrator is no better, frustrated at being able to do little more than write and scrounge for food, but also unable to move beyond that. So much for man the maker:
     Homo faber. I'm no Robinson Crusoe. I'm not building any kind of future. If I find abandoned utensils, I pick them up, look at them and then throw them aside.
       Besides his diary-entries he also writes letters -- rewriting old letters he wrote to his children but never sent. Now there's little chance of sending them (though he has some ideas for: "a new kind of postal system: casual, full of suspense", where letters get carried along by whoever picks them up), but it's another form of exercise (and a re-examination of the past). In the form of poems, these are some of the strongest parts of the books, Porta-the-poet strutting his stuff -- though it's a carefully written book throughout.
       Far from the direct and very explicit apocalyptic fiction one usually finds, The King of the Storeroom is almost too elliptical. Yet the account, brief and limited though it is, sounds convincingly authentic -- and even what specific critiques there are (against some manifestations of capitalism, for example) have aged well in this almost vague presentation.
       An interesting curiosity, and some fine expressive writing.

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Reviews: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Italian literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Italian author Antonio Porta (actually: Leo Paolazzi, 1935-1989) is best known for his poetry.

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