cover image The King of the Storeroom. [Pub. in 1978 as Il Re del Magazzino.]

The King of the Storeroom. [Pub. in 1978 as Il Re del Magazzino.]

Antonio Porta, Antonio Porta. Wesleyan University Press, $19.95 (149pp) ISBN 978-0-8195-5247-1

With this experimental, futuristic novella about a violent postcapitalist society, the late Italian author (he died in 1989) reveals himself to be a daring, brilliant craftsman. Porta's haunting images of the apocalypse are anchored by a discontinuous but tautly integrated narrative, which purports to be a series of journal entries by a dying intellectual. In an anguished howl, achieved by combining narrative, poetry, newspaper clippings and scraps from scientific texts, the narrator bears witness to the demise of modern social and political institutions. The setting is Italy in an unspecified future, when the economy has collapsed and anarchy begins; the government interns people in labor camps; organized religion dies; starvation is endemic; cannibalism occurs; mass suicide and random executions proliferate as the natural order breaks down. Yet the narrator's last words suggest a future redeemed: he describes a world returned to a preindustrial state, the ecology of the countryside miraculously revived, ``the notes of the blackbirds. . . announce the dawn.'' Porta was best known in his native country as a poet and editor of the journal Alfabeta ; this is the first of his works to be issued here. (June)