Alberto Moravia was born in Rome the 28th November 1907 from Carlo Pincherle, architect and painter, and from the mother of Ancona of the family De Marsanich. Until the age of nine the small Albertos life unravels in a double direction: in the real consistence of the bourgeois world where he was born, among the affectionate cares of his sisters Adriana and Elena; and in the more true world, but raw and disarming, of the under urban Rome, with its poverties and existential constraints" (Pandini).
At the age of ten, Moravia got sick of bony shoal tuberculosis and for this reason he had to interrupt the gymnasial studies and, forced to stay in bed, he started the readings of his favourite authors: Dostoevskji, Goldoni, Shakespeare, Baudelaire, Leopardi, Manzoni, the classical theater, Eliot, Apollinaire. In this climate his vocation of precocious writer starts. From 1923 to 1924 his illness reached very serious points, but the well-chosen and precise cares of the sanatorium brought him to the recovery and in 1925 he could spend a period of convalescence in Bressanone.
Moravia begun to write Gli indifferenti from 1925, but he published it in 1929 to own expenses because the publisher Alpes of Milan wanted £. 5.000 for the publication of his novel.
The critical success and the polemic-realistic spirit of the novel put in contrast Moravia with the fascist regime, in fact he preferred to escape from the oppressive climate of the regime and he went to London in 1931 and then to Paris. Then he went to New York in 1934, where he was called by Prezzolini at the Columbia University, where he made lectures on Manzoni, Verga, Fogazzaro, DAnnunzio. In 1935 he returnes to Italy and meanwhile the Ethiopian war ends and Mussolini is approached to Germany starting an imperialistic politic that ended in the Rome-Berlin axis.
He started again his trips and the years between 1933 and 1943 were the worst of his existence from the point of view of the public life, for the Nazi persecution against the Hebrews. He himself said:
Perhaps for this reason I went on a lot of trips, to subtract myself from an atmosphere poisoned by the lie by the fear and the conformism.
The important events in this period were the marriage with Elsa Morante (1940) and, after a period of escape and absconding, he succeded to arrive to Fundi with his wife, where he found hospitality in the family of a friend, the judge Mosillo, who let him lodge in a barn. In La Ciociara a lot of the experiences of this period will relive. In 1945 he was rewarded for the novel Agostino, written in 1943. The end of the war gave to the author the possibility to take again his activity with the publication of La Romana (1947), La disubbidienza (1948) and Il conformista(1951).
In 1952 he won the prize Strega and his books, while from one side they were put to the index, they were translated in almost all the languages and some books were used as themes of great successfull films in a Neorealistic key: Woman of Rome with the direction of Zampa, Racconti romani with Franciolinis direction, Two women with De Sicas direction, and Time of indifference with Masellis direction.
Moravianas production, from the ' 47 to the ' 59, from La Romana to The Nuove Storie Romane (1959) infact has been judged by a certain critic as the most adherent to the poetic of the Neoralism. " But seeing Moravia, if we except the Neorealistic language of the sketches of popular type, he remains faithful to his "indifference" of the beginning, as the substance of an existential punishment towards the crisis developped in breast to the traditional humanism" (Pandini).
The Italian managing class of the immediate postwar period brought a strong reaction to Neoralism, arousing busier polemic attitudes on the front of the neovanguard, and Moravia seeing in the polemic the hypocrisy of a society remained conformist, he started again to work in the theater, with the hope to have the possibility of a directer interview and a more efficient and constructive declaration for the public.
The testimony of this crisis are his numerous trips abroad and La noia (1960) where Moravia take again "his favourite theme, reconnecting to the fates of check and impotence of the beginnings indifference, with abundance of thesis to prove on the ancient theme of its moral atony, that finds in the social and ideological climate of the sixties a new mean and a more and more evidence in the sense of separation from a not true reality". The beginning of the new decade marks a turn in the production and in the cultural appointment of Moravia too. The novel, as an expressive traditional form, is put in crisis by the neovanguards. The Group 63, in a conference in Palermo, enters in polemic with Moravia [...] Moravia, very sensible to these pressures, sees again his work and he starts the composition of a new novel Lattenzione, that is shaped as a novel in the novel (Pandini).
With Siciliano and Dacia Maraini (meanwhile he had left Elsa Morante) he created a theatrical company called of the "Porcospino". But Moravias theatrical work, also testifying the vivacity and the vitality of a writer with a very strong vein, doesn't add anything to his validity of narrative artist; it testifies only the small trust of our author in the novel, while it lets him turn more and more to the essay-story. The sign of his dissatisfaction is in the novel Io e lui (1971).
Among the other works we can find: La vita interiore (1978); 1934 (1982); Luomo che guarda (1985); Ritorno a Roma (1989) and then, posthumous, La donna leopardo; the volumes of stories: La cosa (1983), La villa del Venerdì e altri racconti (1990).
He died for a sudden indisposition in Rome the 26th September 1990.
Gli indifferenti (1929) constitute a novel of break with every aspects of the Italian culture of the time, not only because in the context of a surrealist and decadentist culture in crisis it gave a first example of realism, but also because it introduced in the narrative art an unusual world. "The reality that the author translated in Gli indifferenti and the linguistic ways, of which he was worth of, accused a very unusual moral frankness and a technical boldness and, in a great part, unpublished in our contemporary literature. What strucked in his first novel was the convergence of an immoral and black content with a dry and hasty expression, also unadorned and unpoetical. The treatment that he reserved to his actors was marked by an intellectual separation, that allowed him to alienate from them and to put them on in an appearance of so cold and unfriendly objectivity to seem almost like a clinical diagnosis" (Battaglia).
As we have said, the author hadnt the intention to put under a directed accusation fascism, but the same realistic ways of narration were already a sign of protest and break. In fact the novel implicated a violent accusation of the moral structure of the middle class family, and of the society that had mystified the values of official lower middle-class ethics of Fascism.
Agostino "it isnt only, as it seemed us, the story of the discovery of sex, and it isnt only the story of a sexual painfully frustrated initiation: but it is, in a such dress of narration, the story [
] of a boy who tries, laboriously, bitterly, to reach the life and the feelings as a man" (Sanguinetti).
For this reason Agostino constitutes an evolution in Moravias thematic and brings in the foreground the problem, particularly felt by the author, of the passage from the adolescence to the virility.
While Michele in Gli indifferenti and Girolamo in Inverno di malato, look for their model in a friend near them to the eyes of Agostino, "closed in the fictitious innocence-ignorance of the education and of the vital bourgeois situation, the reality is not reachable and perceivable through the world of the gang, that is to say through the type of the alienation that isnt different, rather directly antithetical. The world of the gang, in short, reflecting the reality in another one and just in a contrary alienation, is the only and essential mirror where Agostino can see reflected, also confusedly, and he can understand more with the blood that with the brain, a reality that he has vaguely realized and ever recognized, and that is, first of all, the effective condition of his being, the truth of his alienate existence. In a schematic formula: the rich cant know himself and intend himself in his deeper essence, that is the rich being who conditions him integrally, through the image that the poor man reflects, not certain an ablosute image, but certain more true and real of the image that he has created, for himself, in his conscience, in short an image not alienated from the wealth" (Sanguineti).
In the novel La disubbidienza(1948) Luca, the main character, arrives to the conclusion that an innocent country in the bourgeois world doesnt exist and that only the death could allow to reach this dimension of the innocence. But at the end he surrenders to the vital impulse and he accepts the sexual relationship that is a return to the maternal breast, to the sources of life; and the novel will end:
Yes, he concluded, the life must really be this; not the sky, the earth, the sea, the men and their arrangements, but a dark cavern dripping of maternal and loving meat where he entered confident, sure that he would have been protected here as he had been protected by his mother until she had brought him on her breast.
In the novel La romana in a moment in which the fascist policeman Astarita is on his knees with his head in Adrianas lap, she observes with a sentence that looks like the final of La disubbidienza:
In those moments he didn't seem my lover but a child who looks for the dark and the heat of the maternal lap. And I thought that a lot of men would like to have neverbeen born; and that in his gesture, perhaps unconsciously the dark desire was expressed, to be again reassumed inside the tenebrous viscus from which he had been chased to the light with pain. As we have said its a cosmic and materialistic pessimism, that recalls us near Lucrezio, the great Latin poet who Moravia has assimilated very well.
But beyond of the pessimism, that is tied to the character of Mino in the novel, the intellectual man who doesn't believe to an historical alternative to the bourgeois world, we dont have to forget the human pity that winds the character of the roman, of the prostitute, so prompt and devoted to bear her cross, so resigned and of whom Moravia has make an heroin victim of the ideals of the middle class. Mino arrives to the suicide because he isnt able to free himself from the complex of the middle class, also denying its values; therefore Adrianas resignation is the only way that makes possible the hope of a best life. The life, after all, improves only living it until its absurd existential contradictions. This is the essential and existential problem of the book.
With La ciociara Moravia has wanted to pay his tribute to the literature of the Resistance and of the antifascism; but he has also taken back the great existential and ideological-political problems that already animated the tragedies of other characters. Moravia points out us this: With La ciociara my phase of opening and faith is ideally closed without flaws towards Communism. The identification between communist and intellectual was consumed inside of me. In other words the character of Michele of Gli indifferenti is concluded there, in La ciociara. Not by chance I called, the masculine protagonist of the novel Michele.
In La ciociara there is the crossing of Micheles indifference whe becomes responsable and aware of the antifascist struggle and his elevation to example of hero in the sacrifice and in the altruism. This process of purification and crossing seems as an existential problem more than a political problem. Perhaps more than the Marxist ideology, the dramatic situation of the upset world and the good sense of populate push Michele to the active and direct action against the fascists and the Nazi. Also here, as always, the intellectual man is the best product that has come out from the middle class and that has been able to put in clean crisis that same social class.
Undoubtedly in La ciociara, that remains an autobiographic novel, a kind of documentary of the experiences that the author has done in his shelter to Fundi, Moravia wanted to underline precisely the tragedy of the war, these new forms of alienation of the men corrupted first by the need and the hunger, and then by the profit and the violence. Life is this sad experience, and there arent any innocent countries that can escape the dramatic and alienor reality of the war and the violence. This is the dramatic tone of La ciociara, one of the most authentic and realistic novels written on this last war, suffered by Moravia in his meats and in his spirit.
In 1960 Moravia faces in the character of Dino, protagonist of La noia the theme of the incommunicability, that is the most desolate aspect of the alienation. And if in 1929 he had chosen the characters and the historical-social environment of the bourgeois fascist society, now he moves his investigation on the Italian neocapitalistic middle class of the second post-war period. The industrialized and alienated society of the postwar period will be the protagonist, the middle class founded upon money. " Analyzing Dino as a typical character of the contemporary bourgeois society, Moravia comes to suggest and to represent what there is of typical in this society, it is the phenomenon for which, while the bourgeois classical society could be boasting a bossily absolute fullness of relationships with the reality and of great vital wealth at least for the bourgeois class, and rather an increasing fullness of relationships, how much more we could approach to the vertex of that same social class, reserving alienation to the only inferior layers or, as Moravia said, to the poor people, today the alienation investes, in the fatal process of corruption of such society, also the tallest layers, and it reaches, in Moravias terms, also rich people " (Sanguineti).
That of La noia is therefore a drama of social order, because its based on the analysis of the relationships between man and the neocapitalistic system of the second postwar period.
The novel could appear almost pornographic, but the first impression is denied by the human and existential tragedy that matures through the sexual relationship, felt as the only desperate mean of communication in an alienated society by the money and the comfort. This is clearly said by Dino: We were mother and son and the bond that united us wasnt love but money. Here money isnt psychologically dignified by the religion of the things of Verga, the only reality that can give the eternity to Mastro Don Gesualdo; its, instead, a powerful mean that conditions the loneliness and the human incommunicability of the middle class world. And so "if the effectiveness of money comes less, if its essence of mean to possess reality is defeat, its the mean not only of the alienation, but of the same knowledge, in the bourgeois world; what isnt explained by the money, isnt explained at all. This clarifies better what we have affirmed above: the reality is more agreeable and desirable if it isnt economically appraisable, because it is subtracted to the possess and it makes vain that love and that desire" (Sanguineti).
And Dino himself confesses: Just because Cecilia didn't let possess herself through the money, I felt, now, irresistibly inclined, to give her it; this because I didn't succeed to possess her through the sexual act, I felt inclined to repeat more and more time the same act. Really, the money as the sexual act gave me the illusion to possess for an istant; and I couldnt do without, by now, of that instant, although I knew that it was always regularly followed by a feeling of deep disappointment.
The following criticism hasnt sensitively modified the judgment given by Russo, according to which Moravia would be a writer without a real performance and a history.
The misunderstanding from which this evaluation was born derives from a fact of which Moravia appears very aware: there is an historical time, when the writer starts to write his work, but there is also an historical-social time that he represents and where he frames the adventures of his characters. This relationship between the time of the writer and the time of the historical-social environment of his novels, has undoubtedly contributed to creat Moravias misunderstand as writer without development. However, despite the ripetition of some themes, we have to consider that these themes are always shown in a narrative and psychological situation always varied and in a constant stylistic evolution. Then, the fact that from Gli indifferenti he has appeared as a mature writer has contributed to the myth of a ripe Moravia. But its also true that La noia, that after thirty years proposes again almost all the same themes, points out a notable evolution, even if the historical-social background still introduces the same alienor climate of the social incommunicability of the fascist period. Therefore we have to consider at least four moments in the development of his work: the moment of Gli indifferenti and of the stories that turn around his existential and autobiographic motives as Inverno di malato e altri racconti; that characterized by Agostino and by La disubbidienza; that pointed out by Il disprezzo and La Noia and that includes the Roman period, from La Romana to La ciociara and to Racconti romani; and at the end the moment where the novel is put in crisis by the writer and the vocation for the theater and the essays-stories is discovered.
Already from his first novel, Moravia adopts the technique that would have been said deductive, and that consists in the fact that he always departs from an abstracted idea from which he later develops characters and interlacement.
For this reason the characters haven't internal carrying out and during the novel we havent surprises, so we have said that the protagonists life grows for accumulation and not for evolution; so they haven't a story as their authors hasnt. But, as we have said, this characteristic of the characters derives from a wanted technical procedure, because the author always departs from a thesis to prove, and his characters are only means.
After all Moravia, makes a careful analysis of his characters and hes interested in the aspects of life and of the society that he represents, but he never arrives to deepen the causes of the phenomena. He represents faces, acts, conducts, remaining on the plan of the evidence without making a work of moral excavation. "This lack of sentimental complicity between the writer and the humanity represented, this appointment without adhesion, his share without liking and sometimes disgusted, if not straight neutral, his graceless and hazardous style (but always flowing), are qualities that always remain fundamental elements in his narrative art: so we can say that already in his first novel Moravia has put on the carpet of the content formal interests of his poetic, that will be developed and will mature in the next works in different tones". (Giacalone)
The analysis of the human type of the incompetent and the interpretation of the crisis of the modern conscience connect Moravias work of to the Italian fiction that goes from Svevo to Tozzi and to Borgese, even if "he has always declared to dont want to be a political writer, deliberately busy in polemic or scholastic key, but a writer who discovers the words with the things and facts; a writer without an excessive political preparation, but who is able to discover the great alienator crises of the modern world, whose social psychological analysis runs deeply over the demolition of the false values of the industrial middle class" (Giacalone)
Marx, Freud, Dostoevskij and the European tragedians were very important for his formation, even if of Marx and Freud he shared the critical and analytical aspect but not the elements containing a proposal. A deep moralistic need, a search of human authenticity, of an innocent and pure country, an anxiety to establish an authentic communication with the others are in the roots of Moravias search. But the narration of the facts he examined shows how life is in its hard and cruel alienanting reality and in its desperate incommunicability. The crisis of the modern society is disclosed by the relationship between sex and money, that reduces the human relationships to sexual relationship because of the avarice. The prostitute a character-type, an example of alienated humanity, incapable to establish social relationships, over the sexual relationships; an example of person overpowered by the mystifying values of the bourgeois society; the discovery and the revelation of a modern loneliness that it is expression of an impossibility to communicate with the others. All the men, have after all the prostitutes destiny; they remain slave of the false values offered by life. Lost every trace of metaphysical values, reduced those material values to sex and money, every authentic relationship among men is impossible.
In the "endless sexual intrigues of Moravias characters, the possession of the woman and the wealth is raised to protect a great number of people of a bourgeois society that is by now in great crisis of values. And Moravia is an interpreter of the crisis of the modern middle class, alienated by the wealth, by the money, by the production, by the technology, by the luxury, whose only mean of communication seems to be the sexual relationship. But also this relationship isnt authentic, if its true that the person who really loves succeeds in possessing the loved person - as it happens for La Romana - because modern men polluted the relationships of love too, mystifying them with the relationships of their wealth or their obsessive manias" (Giacalone).
In a so alienated situation" the recognition without reserves of the sexual factor is then a way for the ransom, the possibility that is opened to Moravias hero to rejoin himself to the reality [...]. We are entered in a crisis of which Moravia isnt be able to give out a solution in any way: the oscillating illusion of conquest of the world that could express itself in the physical possession through the sex, the experience that his teen-agers first, the young people later and the adult man have tried to bring in action through the sexual relationship at the end, has disclosed to reach a psychological equilibrium and the clear thing in the stadium of the deadly illness, of the boredom, is when the man, despite the experience conquered through the sexuality, will has to admit that this same relationship doesnt placate the difference, but it embitters it more " (Pandini).
After Gli indifferenti Moravia makes the only possible motive for the action of the sexual reality. Justly Fernandez observes: "The contrary of the indifference will be never, for Moravias heroes, a right and coherent moral conscience; only the recognition without the reserve of the sexual factor will allow them to redeem from the indifference and to adhere again to the reality with strengh[...]. But the recognition without reserve of the sexual factor couldnt be immediate; it supposed a preliminary investigation of the possibilities of the human heart [
] the truth is that a harmonious relationship with the world and the others is impossible for Moravias heros, everyone is closed in the poisonous circle of the loneliness, the collapse of the moral values has dragged with itself the downfall of the feelings" (Giacalone).
And from here, the internal reason for his narrative vocation probably derives, that denounces the endless cases that the reality shows us, through those characters, from the failure and the drama, who finally land to the shore of the art that reveals them all men from the failure and the tragedy of the experience. And here it is also the reason because the theme of the sex is never narrated with sexual gratification, but with the sense of desperation and bitter loneliness.
In himself the contrast between rich and poor, between pure and corrupt doesn't assume an ideological or political-social physiognomy, but, it is set in all existential relationship for which rich and poors suffer both, either pures and corrupts, all taken by a delirium without hope.
The fundamental element of Moravias thematic is the pessimism, a cosmic and materialistic pessimism that becomes almost elegiac in La Romana, since the whole conception of the character is stamped to the nostalgia, to the desire of an innocent country, of an ideal, that of the family to which she aspires to with all her strengths. "Moravia has decanted in this novel the pessimistic conception that was accumulated in his narration for almost twenty years, without never becoming so explicit, so elementary as in this work, even if another time we are in front of tained or tormented by that evil of live characters and that have been found also in other works, weighted by certain intellettualistic demonstrative foolish ambitions" (Pandini)
However with La ciociara Moravia has furnished another element to overcome the internal conflict that determines the indifference. "almost all the characters of Moravia know that the end of an old way of life and the greet metamorphosis to drawing a different existential state, coincide with a violence: Carla, Agostino, Luca, Michele, Giacomo, Cesira and Rosa accept it as a tribute to pay to the authenticity of life. The natural trial of this crisis is in the impossibility to define the identity of the ego alienated to the loss of an own conscience. The theme of the alienation - in all his schematizations of indifference, disobedience, conformism, contempt, attention, will become more openly boredom in the character of Dino " (Pandini).