Henry Darger: In the Realms of the Unreal by John M. MacGregor

On a snowy day in November 1972, a poor, badly crippled old man left his room on the third floor of a rooming house in Chicago for the last time. His name was Henry Darger. He had lived in this room for forty years. It was filthy, crammed with his possessions, mostly things found in the garbage. Henry never threw anything out. The room was filled, almost solid, with junk. He was now eighty years old and far too feeble to carry anything down the stairs. So he left everything behind. He had no need of his possessions. Anyway, he was going to an old folks home to die. When he left the room his life was over. His landlord asked him what he wanted done with his possessions. Henry is said to have replied, "You can have them, Mr. Leonard." At that moment the gift had no meaning. There was nothing in the room but garbage. Everything would have to be thrown out... When Darger's landlord, Nathan Lerner, assisted by a young student, David Berglund, began to clean out Henry's room they found some surprises: an eight volume autobiography, consisting of 5084 handwritten pages, entitled, The History of My Life which Henry had begun writing in 1963 after retiring. The short auto-biographical introduction to what is otherwise an enormous and utterly fantastic piece of imaginative fiction, provided some of the crucial pieces of evidence underlying the biographical reconstruction of Darger's life that form the first chapter of this book. Then, when the old trunks were opened, they made a far more spectacular discovery: a history of another world called, In The Realms of the Unreal in fifteen volumes, 15 145 type written pages, unquestionably the longest work of fiction ever written. In time the room alsoyielded the three huge bound volumes of illustrations for that work, several hundred pictures, many over twelve feet long and painted on both sides. By accident, the landlord had stumbled upon a concealed and secret life work, which no one had ever seen: Darger's alternate world.

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