Today in history: Alberto Moravia died in 1990

Twenty-five years ago, on September 26, 1990, Italian writer Alberto Moravia died in his Rome apartment at the age of 82. In the same year his autobiography, Vita di Moravia (“Life of Moravia”) was published.

Born as Alberto Pincherle in 1907, Moravia was a novelist and journalist. His novels explored matters of modern sexuality, social alienation, and existentialism.

Moravia once remarked that the most important facts of his life had been his childhood illness, a tubercular infection of the bones that confined him to bed for five years, and fascism, because they both caused him to suffer and do things he otherwise would not have done. “It is what we are forced to do that forms our character, not what we do of our own free will.” His writing was marked by its factual, cold, precise style, often depicting the malaise of the bourgeoisie, and was rooted in a high social and cultural awareness.Between 1959 and 1962 Moravia was president of the worldwide association of writers, PEN International.

The pen-name “Moravia” was the surname of his paternal grandmother. Born in Rome to a wealthy middle-class family,his Jewish Venetian fatherwas an architect and painter; his Catholic mother was of Dalmatian origin.

Moravia did not finish conventional schooling because, at the age of nine, he contracted the disease that kept him abed. During those early years he devoted himself to reading. He learned French and German, and wrote poems in French and Italian.

His 1929 debut novel Gli indifferenti (“Time of Indifference”) was a realistic analysis of the moral decadence of a middle-class mother and two of her children. He wrote short stories for the magazine 900. He collaborated with the newspaper La Stampa, the literarymagazines Caratteri (Characters) and Oggi (Today), and started writing for the newspaper Gazzetta del Popolo(The People’s Gazette).

He had cousins passionately devoted to the anti-fascist cause, and also an uncle on his mother’s sidewho was an undersecretary in the National Fascist Party cabinet. The fascist government confiscated some of his books, banned publication of others, and prohibited publication of reviews of his works. To avoid fascist censorship he adopted a surrealist and allegoric style, and after 1941 wrote under a pseudonym. Moral ambiguity and circumstantiality figured into the thematic terrain that Moravia explored.

After the armistice of September 8, 1943, Moravia and his wife Elsa Morante took refuge in Fondi, on the border of Ciociaria, the experience that inspired La ciociara (“The Woman of Ciociara,” also known as “Two Women”) in 1958.

In May 1944, after the liberation of Rome, Moravia returned and began 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, and with the end of censorship, his popularity steadily increased. His novel La provinciale(“The Provincial”) 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”), 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.

Several more films were based on his novels: in 1960, Vittorio De Sica cinematically adapted La ciociara(Two Women) with Sophia Loren, which also served as the source for a new opera in 2015; La noia (Boredom or The Empty Canvas)by Damiano Damiani in 1962, which was also adapted for Cedric Kahn’s film L’ennui (Ennui) in 1998;Agostino, filmed with the same title by Mauro Bolognini in 1962; in 1963 Jean-Luc Godard filmed Il disprezzo (Contempt); in 1964 Francesco Maselli filmed Gli indifferenti (1964). His anti-fascist novel Il conformistawas the basis for the 1970 film The Conformist by Bernardo Bertolucci.

In 1967 Moravia visited China, Japan, and Korea. In 1972 he went to Africa, which inspired his work A quale tribù appartieni? (Which Tribe Do You Belong To?). His 1982 trip to Japan, including a visit to Hiroshima, inspired a series of articles for L’Espresso magazine about the atomic bomb. He addressed the same theme in the novel L’uomo che guarda (“The Man Who Looks”) and the essay L’inverno nucleare (“The Nuclear Winter”), which included interviews with contemporary scientists and politicians.

In 1984 Moravia was elected to the European Parliament as member from the Italian Communist Party. His experiences at Strasbourg, ending in 1988, are told in Il diario europeo (“The European Diary”). In 1985 he won the title of “European Personality.”

Adapted from Wikipedia.

Photo: Wikipedia (CC)


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