Towards the end of 2020, the writer Ronald De Feo sent me this story by Dino Buzzati, “sometimes called the Italian Kafka.” In ‘Seven Floors’, Giovanni Corte arrives at a sanatorium that specialises in the illness from which he is suffering. His case is “extremely slight” so he is given “a cheerful room on the seventh and uppermost floor”, where “only the very mildest cases were treated”. The worse a patient’s condition, the lower the floor on which they are accommodated, with the first floor reserved for “those for whom all hope had been abandoned.” When Corte is moved down to the sixth floor, it is for purely logistical reasons, and so on. It’s a beautifully crafted story, simultaneously uneasy and funny, with a powerful sense of gravity.
Originally published in La Lettura, March 1937. Published in English in Catastrophe and Other Stories, Calder and Boyars, 1965