Authors: Alberto Moravia

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Italian novelist, short-story writer, and travel writer

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Gli indifferenti, 1929 (The Indifferent Ones, 1932; also known as The Time of Indifference, 1953)

Le ambizioni sbagliate, 1935 (The Wheel of Fortune, 1937; also known as Mistaken Ambitions)

La mascherata, 1941 (The Fancy Dress Party, 1947)

Agostino, 1944 (English translation, 1947)

La romana, 1947 (The Woman of Rome, 1949)

La disubbidienza, 1948 (Disobedience, 1950)

L’amore coniugale, 1949 (Conjugal Love, 1951)

Il conformista, 1951 (The Conformist, 1952)

Il disprezzo, 1954 (A Ghost at Noon, 1955)

La ciociara, 1957 (Two Women, 1958)

La noia, 1960 (The Empty Canvas, 1961)

L’attenzione, 1965 (The Lie, 1966)

Io e lui, 1971 (Two: A Phallic Novel, 1972)

La vita interiore, 1978 (Time of Desecration, 1980)

1934, 1982 (English translation, 1983)

L’uomo che guarda, 1985 (The Voyeur, 1986)

Il viaggio a Roma, 1988 (Journey to Rome, 1990)

Short Fiction:

La bella vita, 1935

L’imbroglio, 1937

I sogni del pigro, 1940

L’amante infelice, 1943

L’epidemia: Racconti surrealistici e satirici, 1944

Due cortigiane, 1945

L’amore coniugale, e altri racconti, 1949

I racconti, 1927-1951, 1952

Bitter Honeymoon, and Other Stories, 1954 (selections from I racconti)

Racconti romani, 1954 (Roman Tales, 1956)

Nuovi racconti romani, 1959 (More Roman Tales, 1963)

The Way ward Wife, and Other Stories, 1960 (selections from I racconti)

L’automa, 1963 (The Fetish, 1964)

Una cosa è una cosa, 1967 (Command and I Will Obey You, 1969)

I racconti di Alberto Moravia, 1968

Il paradiso, 1970 (Paradise, and Other Stories, 1971; also known as Bought and Sold, 1973)

Un’altra vita, 1973 (Lady Godiva, and Other Stories, 1975; also known as Mother Love, 1976)

Boh, 1976 (The Voice of the Sea, and Other Stories, 1978)

La cosa, e altri racconti, 1983 (Erotic Tales, 1985)

Drama:

Gli indifferenti, pr., pb. 1948

La mascherata, pr. 1954

Beatrice Cenci, pr. 1955 (English translation, 1965)

Teatro, pb. 1958, 1976

Il mondo è quello che è, pr., pb. 1966 (The World’s the World, 1970)

L’intervista, pr., pb. 1966

Il dio Kurt, pr., pb. 1968

La vita è gioco, pb. 1969

L’angelo dell’informazione e altri testi teatrali, pb. 1986

Nonfiction:

Unmese in U.R.S.S., 1958 (travel sketch)

Saggi italiani del 1959, 1960

Un’idea dell’India, 1962 (travel sketch)

L’uomo come fine, e altri saggi, 1964 (Man as an End: A Defence of Humanism, Literary, Social, and Political Essays, 1965)

La rivoluzione cultural in Cina, 1967 (travel sketch; The Red Book and the Great Wall, 1968)

A quale tribù appartieni?, 1972 (travel sketch; Which Tribe Do You Belong To?, 1974)

Impegno controvoglia: Saggi, articoli, interviste, 1980

Lettere dal Sahara, 1981

L’inverno nucleare, 1986

Passeggiate africane, 1987

Vita de Moravia, 1990 (with Alain Elkann; Life of Moravia, 2000)

Children’s/Young Adult Literature:

Tre storie della preistoria, 1977

Quando Ba Lena era tanto piccola, 1978

Un miliardo di anni fa, 1979

Cosma e i briganti, 1980

Cama Leonte diventò verde lilla blu, 1981

Storie della preistoria, 1982

Biography

Alberto Pincherle Moravia (moh-RAH-vyah) was baptized in the Catholic religion of his mother, although his father was Jewish by origin. At a very early age, Alberto was stricken by tubercular osteomyelitis, and he remained bedridden for long periods during his childhood. Illness did not prevent him from exploring the world of fiction and creativity, however, and he began writing his first published work, The Time of Indifference, when he was only eighteen years old. With its success, he became one of Italy’s leading literary figures. By 1930, Moravia was sufficiently cured to begin to travel widely, first in Europe and eventually–as a foreign correspondent for at least two different Italian newspapers–in the United States and China. By 1935, the year in which his second novel, The Wheel of Fortune, appeared, his reputation as a writer was established enough for Columbia University to present him with an award and to host a series of his lectures on contemporary Italian authors. When he returned to Italy in 1936, however, he discovered that Benito Mussolini’s government had put his work on an official blacklist.{$I[AN]9810000881}{$I[A]Moravia, Alberto}{$I[geo]ITALY;Moravia, Alberto}{$I[tim]1907;Moravia, Alberto}

Alberto Moravia

(Library of Congress)

It is not immediately clear why Moravia’s work was censored in this fashion. Part of the reason, no doubt, had to do with the fact that his themes, particularly in his early works, explore the moral dislocation of the Italian bourgeoisie, which seemed to be obsessed by the idea of serving its self-interest and searching for pleasure. The Wheel of Fortune was potentially even more scandalous than The Time of Indifference in its condemnation of the destructive nature of human egoism and false values. In this sense, both novels, but particularly the much more successful The Time of Indifference, represent existentialist perspectives several years before the formal birth of this literary movement in the postwar period. Over the next decade and beyond, Moravia dedicated himself to writing dozens of short stories and at least two short novels. The former, eventually collected and republished, represent a genre that earned for him an international literary reputation. Many of Moravia’s early short stories are masterly works of political satire which, in an indirect fashion, criticize the Mussolini regime. His short novels, on the other hand, especially Agostino and Disobedience, focus on the psychological stages of adolescence.

Moravia returned to the full-length novel and entered a new stage of his career as a writer in 1947, when he published The Woman of Rome. This book is notable for its exploration of Italian working-class and rural farm life–both social settings that are notably absent in the author’s earlier “high bourgeois” phase. It is also the first time that Moravia uses first-person narrative in his fiction, which becomes a characteristic of most of his post-World War II writings. Most of Moravia’s novels continue to focus on either the complicated psychology of conjugal love (as in Conjugal Love and A Ghost at Noon), or personal political repercussions of the Fascist regime during or after World War II (as in The Conformist and Two Women). With the translation of these works, his reputation spread to the English-speaking world.

Beyond his impressive output of book-length fictional works and explorations into the realm of theatrical drama, Moravia worked continuously on the series of short stories that first appeared in collected form as Roman Tales and More Roman Tales. These stories and others originally published in the Rome daily newspaper Corriere della sera are recognized as representing Moravia’s masterful stylistic skill at its best. Pithy and satirical, the racconti (tales) survey all facets of Italian life as seen from the first-person perspective of an anonymous member of the Roman working class.

BibliographyAillaud, Charlotte. “A Visit with Italy’s Man of Letters.” Architectural Digest 45 (March, 1988): 210. Discusses Moravia’s childhood, during which he read extensively while convalescing from tuberculosis; Moravia contends he would like to have been a painter because painting is “closer to reality than writing.”Dego, Giuliano. Writers and Critics: Moravia. New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1967. A valuable overview of Moravia’s early production, with discussion centering on his naturalistic presentation, his remarkable descriptive ability, his major theme of alienation, and his ceaseless exploration of crisis.Haberman, Clyde. “Obituary.” The New York Times, September 27, 1990, p. B10. A brief but useful retrospective of Moravia’s life and work. Includes many quotes from the author and from those, such as the president of Italy, who have long appreciated his fiction.Heiney, Donald. Three Italian Novelists: Moravia, Pavese, Vittorini. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1968. Concentrates on Moravia as creator and craftsman, not as political thinker, psychologist, sociologist, or philosopher. Contains some discussion of characters, themes, and techniques in the short stories, which Heiney considers “models” of the novels. Notes, bibliography, index.Kozma, Janice M. The Architecture of Imagery in Alberto Moravia’s Fiction. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993. A monograph in the North Carolina Studies in the Romance Languages and Literatures series (no. 244). Kozma carefully examines how Moravia organizes his imagery into simple and complex forms, and into “discrete and seemingly discrete” categories. A set of appendices analyzes the imagery of women, men, war, nature, architecture, machines, the body, food, and sex. Includes a bibliography.Lewis, R. W. B. “Alberto Moravia: Eros and Existence.” In From “Verismo” to Experimentalism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1969. Lewis, describing Moravia as a minor master of the strategy of “artistic conversion, of the transformation of one set of values into another,” succinctly analyzes the “sexualization” of objects, values, and relationships in Moravia’s fiction.Paterson, Harriet. “Mourning the Maestros.” The Independent, July 7, 1991, p. 26. A tribute to, and discussion of, four of Italy’s late, great postwar authors. Notes that the deaths of Moravia, Italo Calvino, Primo Levi, and Leonardo Sciascia signal the end of a generation who stood for the new left-wing ideal in Italy; with Moravia’s death, Paterson asserts there is no one left to make angry judgments in the country.Peterson, Thomas Erling. Alberto Moravia. New York: Twayne, 1996. Comprehensive coverage of the life and works of Moravia. Includes critical analysis of major works, as well as information on personal and public activities. Describes the political climate in Italy and its relevance to Moravia’s life.Rebay, Luciano. Alberto Moravia. New York: Columbia University Press, 1970. This very abbreviated introduction to Moravia’s life and novels offers insight into the short stories as well; Rebay emphasizes that Moravia gladly accepted the charge of being “monotonous” in his concentration on tragic human emptiness, spiritual crisis, and sex. Supplemented by a bibliography.Ross, Joan, and Donald Freed. The Existentialism of Alberto Moravia. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1972. Placing Moravia in the context of the literature and philosophy of existentialism, this thoroughly conducted analysis underscores the considerable significance of the concepts of love, suffering, and reality within this broader framework. Complemented by notes and an index.Schifano, Jean-Noel. “A Moravian Perspective.” World Press Review 32 (August, 1985): 59-60. In this interview, Moravia discusses his collection of stories entitled The Thing, as well as his novel and play; also discusses the Catholic Church, Rome, and travel.Weaver, William. “Roman Candle.” The New York Review of Books 45 (June 25, 1998): 49-52. Discusses the life and works of Moravia, whom Weaver befriended for four decades; notes that Moravia claimed the determining factors in his life were his aversion to Fascism and a childhood illness that denied him both a normal adolescence and a traditional education; notes how the anti-fascist stance and sexual candor of his novels antagonized both the church and the wartime government.Wood, Sharon. Gender, Discourse, and Politics: Woman as Object–Language and Gender in the Work of Alberto Moravia. London: Pluto Press, 1990. Examines Moravia’s treatment of female characters in his works. Includes bibliographical references and an index.Wood, Sharon. Woman as Object: Language and Gender in the Work of Alberto Moravia. London: Pluto, 1990. Cogent and sensitive, this excellent study explores the relationship of language to sex and power, and to experience–both gender bound and intimately individual–in Moravia’s work. The author concludes that Moravia’s attempts at representing experience from the female perspective ultimately fail. Includes excellent, extensive notes, a bibliography, and an index.
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