The Extraordinary Story of Antonio Porchia
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by Vincenzo Villella

It was, and still is a true and peculiar case in literature, in the sense that it involved a great literary event and because it came about by unforeseen chance.

The Protagonist: a small book entitled simply "Voci". (English: “Voices”) . antonio porchia

The Author: a Calabrian immigrant in Argentina in the early 1900s, Antonio Porchia (1885-1868). The story is truly indicative of a man whose singular biography is identified (as he himself has written) with his only written work, and symbolically with the story of any man. It involves a work, as we’ll discuss soon, that is difficult to assign within the realm of literature, recognized in all Latin American countries, in Canada, the United States, and in some European countries, but utterly unknown, as it often happens, in the land that gave birth to its author: in Calabria and, particularly, in Conflenti, his town of origin. nio porchia

Antonio Porchia was born in Conflenti on November 13, 1885 (not November 20, 1886, as is mistakenly written in all the biographic notes in the various editions of Voci), the son of Francesco Porchia (an abortive priest and a wood merchant) and Rosa Vescio. The head of the family died in 1900, leaving seven children—three girls and four boys--of whom Antonio was the first born. In 1902, Rosa Vescio decided to emigrate to Argentina with all her children, like so many other Calabrian families. In Naples theyembarked on the ship “Bulgaria” under German flag, and after an eventful voyage, they disembarked in Buenos aires. Initially they went to live in a very modest house in the Barracas section of the city. . antonio porchia

Antonio Porchia

To support his siblings, Antonio, who was already 17 years old, applied himself to various trades: carpenter, basket weaver, and pilot in the port. Thanks to his earnings he was able after a while to move his family to a larger house in the San Telmo quarter. There, in 1918, along with his brother Nicola, he bought a small printing establishment on via Bolivar. Working day and night, they were able to enlarge it after a few years. Antonio immediately showed he had a social conscience, by struggling in the rank and file of FORA (the Argentine Regional Workers Federation), and by collaborating in a leftist magazine called La Fragua. In Voci he said “In every part I’m on the left side. I was born on that side.” He frequented anarchist and socialist groups in the Boca section of the city where the Italian immigrants lived. It was one of the poorest quarters of Buenos Aires, with its small houses, each one different from the other, with its coming and going of anonymous people, the sirens of ships, and with its old bars where seamen and port laborers would gather together. . antonio porchia

Together with artist friends, above all painters and sculptors such as Jose Luis Menghi and Agustin Riganelli, he participated in Impulso, the Association of Arts and Letters, which was located on via Lamadrid in the same Boca quarter of town. In 1936, by which time his brothers were getting along on their own and had their own families, Porchia abandoned the printing profession and chose solitude instead, going to live in a house on via San Isidro in the Saavedra section of Buenos Aires. He tended his garden full of roses, and he received visits from his artist friends, some of whom became very famous: Fortunato Lacamera, Petorutti, Benito Quinquela Martin, Victorica, Castagnino, Soldi, Butler, and Former. Economic difficulties eventually forced him to sell his house and buy a more humble one at 1600 via Malaver in the Olivos quarter, where he lived during his last 18 years surrounded by the many paintings given to him by his artist friends. He replied, to all those who suggested that he could overcome his financial straits by selling some of them, that he could not deprive himself of anything that had been a gift. .antonio porchia
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