Alberto Moravia

Alberto Moravia

Alberto Moravia, born Alberto Pincherle, (November 28, 1907 – September 26, 1990) was one of the leading Italian novelists of the twentieth century whose novels explore matters of modern sexuality, social alienation, and existentialism.

He is best known for his anti-fascist novel "Il Conformista" ("The Conformist"), the basis for the film "The Conformist" (1970) by Bernardo Bertolucci. Other novels of his translated to the cinema are "Il Disprezzo" ("A Ghost at Noon" or "Contempt") filmed by Jean-Luc Godard as "Le Mépris" ("Contempt") (1963); "La Noia" ("Boredom"), filmed with that title by Damiano Damiani in 1963 and released in the US as "The Empty Canvas" in 1964; and "La Ciociara" filmed by Vittorio de Sica as "Two Women" (1960).


Early years

Alberto Pincherle (the pen-name "Moravia" is the surname of his maternal grandfather) was born on Via Sgambati in Rome, Italy, to a wealthy middle-class family. His Jewish father, Carlo, was an architect and a painter. His Catholic mother, Teresa Iginia de Marsanich, was from Ancona, but of Dalmatian origin.

Moravia did not finish conventional schooling because, at the age of nine, he contracted tuberculosis of the bone that confined him to bed for five years. He spent three years at home, and two in a sanatorium at Cortina d'Ampezzo, in northeastern Italy. Moravia was an intelligent boy and devoted himself to reading books: some of his favourite authors included Dostoevsky, Joyce, Ariosto, Goldoni, Shakespeare, Molière, Mallarmé. He learned French and German, and wrote poems in both languages.

In 1925 he left the sanatorium and moved to Brixen, where he wrote his first novel, "Gli Indifferenti" ("Time of Indifference"), published in 1929. The novel is a realistic analysis of the moral decadence of a middle-class mother and two of her children. In 1927, Moravia met Corrado Alvaro and Massimo Bontempelli, and started his career as a journalist with the magazine "900", which published his first short stories, including "La Cortigiana Stanca" ("The Tired Courtesan" or in French as "Lassitude de Courtisane", 1927), "Delitto al Circolo del Tennis" ("Crime at the Tennis Club") (1928), "Il Ladro Curioso" ("The Curious Thief") and "Apparizione" ("Apparition") (both 1929).

"Gli Indifferenti" and Fascist ostracism

"Gli Indifferenti" was published at his own expense of 5,000 Italian lira. Literary critics welcomed the novel as a noteworthy example of contemporary Italian narrative fiction. Fact|date=February 2007 The next year, he started collaborating with the newspaper "La Stampa", then edited by author Curzio Malaparte. In 1933, together with Mario Pannunzio, he founded the literary review magazines "Caratteri" ("Characters") and "Oggi" ("Today"), and started writing for the newspaper, "La Gazzetta del Popolo".

The years leading to World War II were problematic; the Fascist regime seized "La Mascherata" ("Masquerade") (1941), prohibited reviews of "Le Ambizioni Sbagliate" (1935), and banned publication of "Agostino" ("Two Adolescents") (1941). In 1935 he traveled to the United States to give a lecture series on Italian literature.

"L'imbroglio" ("The Cheat") was published by Bompiani in 1937. To avoid Fascist censorship he wrote mainly in the surrealist and allegoric genres, among the works is "Il Sogno del Pigro" ("The Dream of the Lazy"), however, the Fascist seizing of the second edition of "La Mascherata", in 1941, thereafter forced him to write under a pseudonym. That same year, he married the novelist Elsa Morante, whom he had met in 1936; they lived in Capri, where he wrote "Agostino".

After the Armistice of 8 September 1943, Moravia and Morante took refuge in Fondi, on the border of Ciociaria; the experience inspired "La Ciociara" ("The Woman of Ciociara") (1958).

Return to Rome and national popularity

In May 1944, after the liberation of Rome, Alberto Moravia returned and began collaborating with Corrado Alvaro, writing for important newspapers such as "Il Mondo" ("The World") and "Il Corriere della Sera" (The Evening Courier); the latter published his writing until his death.

At war's end, his popularity steadily increased, with works such as "La Romana" ("The Woman of Rome") (1947), "La Disubbidienza" ("Disobedience") (1948), "L'Amore Coniugale e altri racconti" ("Conjugal Love and other stories") (1949) and "Il Conformista" ("The Conformist") (1951). In 1952 he won the Premio Strega for "I Racconti", and his novels began to be translated abroad. That same year "La Provinciale" was cinematically adapted by Mario Soldati; in 1954 Luigi Zampa directed "La Romana", and in 1955 Gianni Franciolini directed "I Racconti Romani" ("The Roman Stories") (1954) a short collection that won the Marzotto Award. In 1953, Moravia founded the literary magazine "Nuovi Argomenti" ("New Arguments"), which featured Pier Paolo Pasolini among its editors.

In the 1950s, he wrote prefaces to works such as Belli's "100 Sonnets", Brancati's "Paolo il Caldo" and Stendhal's "Roman Walks". From 1957 onwards, he also reviewed and criticised cinema for the weekly magazine "L'Espresso"; it is collected in the volume "Al Cinema" ("At the Cinema") (1975).

"La noia" and later life

In 1960, he published one of his most famous novels, "La Noia" ("Boredom" or "The Empty Canvas"), the story of the troubled sexual relationship between a young, rich painter striving to find sense in his life and an easygoing girl, in Rome. It won the Viareggio Prize and was filmed by Damiano Damiani in 1962. An adaptation of the book is the basis of Cedric Kahn's the film "L'ennui" ("The Ennui") (1998).

In 1960, Vittorio De Sica cinematically adapted "La Ciociara" with Sophia Loren; Jean-Luc Godard filmed "Il Disprezzo" ("Contempt") (1963); and Francesco Maselli filmed "Gli Indifferenti" (1964).

In 1962 Moravia and Elsa Morante parted; he went to live with the young writer Dacia Maraini. Increasingly, he concentrated on theatre; in 1966, he and Maraini and Enzo Siciliano founded the company called "Il Porcospino", which staged works by Moravia, Maraini, Carlo Emilio Gadda, and others.

In 1967 Moravia visited China, Japan, and Korea. In 1971 he published the novel "Io e lui" ( ["I and He"] "The Two of Us") about a screenwriter and his independent penis and the situations to which he thrusts them, and the essay "Poesia e romanzo" ("Poetry and Novel"). In 1972 he went to Africa, which inspired his work "A quale tribù appartieni?" ("Which Tribe Do You Belong To?"), published in the same year. His 1982 trip to Japan, including a visit to Hiroshima, inspired a series of articles for "L'Espresso" magazine about the atomic bomb. The same theme is in the novel "L'Uomo che Guarda" ("The Man Who Looks") (1985) and the essay "L'Inverno Nucleare" ("The Nuclear Winter") including interviews with some contemporary principal scientists and politicians.

The short story collection, "La Cosa e altri racconti" ("The Thing and other stories"), was dedicated to Carmen Llera, his new companion (forty-five years his junior), whom he married in 1986. In 1984 he was elected to the European Parliament as member from the Italian Communist Party. His experiences at Strasbourg, which ended in 1988, are told in "Il Diario Europeo" ("The European Diary"). In 1985 he won the title of "European Personality".

In September 1990, Alberto Moravia was found dead in the bathroom of his Lungotevere apartment, in Rome. In that year, Bompani published his autobiography, "Vita di Moravia" ("Life of Moravia").

Themes and literary style

Moral aridity, the hypocrisy of contemporary life, and the substantial incapability of people finding happiness in traditional ways such as love and marriage are the regnant themes in the works of Alberto Moravia. Usually, these conditions are pathologically typical of middle-class life; marriage, in particular, is the target of works such as "Disobedience" and "L'amore coniugale" ("The Conjugal Love") (1949). Alienation is the theme in works such as "Il disprezzo" ("Contempt" or "A Ghost at Noon") (1954) and "La noia" ("The Empty Canvas"), from the 1950s, despite observation from a rational-realistic perspective. Political themes are often present: an example is "La Romana" ("The Woman of Rome")(1947), the story of a prostitute entangled with the Fascist regime and with a network of conspirators. The extreme sexual realism in "La noia" ("The Empty Canvas") (1960), introduced the psychologically experimental works of the 1970s.

Moravia's writing style was highly regarded for being extremely stark and unadorned, characterised by very elementary, common words within an elaborate syntax. A complex mood is established by mixing a proposition constituting the description of a single psychological observation mixed with another such proposition. In the later novels, the inner monologue is prominent.


*"La cortigiana stanca" (1927) ("Tired Courtesan")
*"Gli indifferenti" ("Time of Indifference", 1929)
*"Inverno di malato" (1930) ("A Sick Boy's Winter")
*"Le ambizioni sbagliate" (1935)
*"La bella vita" (1935)
*"L'imbroglio" (1937, novellas) ("The Imbroglio")
*"I sogni del pigro" (1940)
*"La caduta" (1940) ("The Fall")
*"La mascherata" (1941) ("The Fancy Dress Party", 1952)
*"La cetonia" (1943)
*"L'amante infelice" (1943) ("The Unfortunate Lover")
*"Agostino" ("Two Adolescents", 1944)
*"L'epidemia" (1944, short story collection)
*"Ritorno al mare" (1945) ("Return to the Sea")
*"L'ufficiale inglese" (1946) ("The English Officer")
*"La romana" ("The Woman of Rome", 1947)
*"La disubbidienza" ("Disobedience", 1947)
*"L'amore coniugale" (1947, short story collection)
*"Il conformista" ("The Conformist", 1947)
*"L'amore coniugale" ("The Conjugal Love", 1949)
*"Luna di miele, sole di fiele" (1952) ("Bitter Honeymoon")
*"Racconti romani" ("Roman Tales", 1954)
*"Il disprezzo" ("A Ghost at Noon" or "Contempt", 1954)
*" La ciociara " ("Two Women", 1957)
*"Nuovi racconti romani" (1959)
*"La noia" ("The Empty Canvas", 1960)
*"L'automa" ("The Fetish", 1962, collection of short stories)
*"L'uomo come fine" (1963, essay)
*"L'attenzione" (1965)
*"La vita è gioco" (1969)
*"Il paradiso" (1970)
*"Io e lui" ("Him and Me", 1971)
*"A quale tribù appartieni" (1972)
*"Un'altra vita" (1973)
*"Al cinema" (1975, essays)
*"Boh" (1976)
*"Una vita interiore" (1978)
*"Impegno controvoglia" (1980)
*"La cosa e altri racconti" (1983, short story collection)
*"L'uomo che guarda" (1985)
*"L'inverno nucleare" (1986, essays and interviews)
*"La villa del venerdì e altri racconti" (1990)

External links

* [ The Paris Review Interview]
* [ Alberto Moravia biography]
* [ Listen to "Pioggia di Maggio" by Alberto Moravia] free download on mp3
* [ Listen to "Romolo e Remo"] , one of Moravia's "Racconti Romani"

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