Sunday, November 20, 2005

Alberto Moravia (1907-1990) - pseudonym of Alberto Pincherle

Italian journalist, short-story writer, and novelist. Moravia explored in his books sex, social alienation and other contemporary issues - he was the major figure in the 20th-century Italian literature. Moravia was married to Else Morante
(1941-1963), who also was a writer, best known for her novel LA STORIA (History, 1974). Several of Moravia's books have been filmed, among them Two Women by Vittorio De Sica (1960), A Ghost at Noon by Jean-Luc Godard (1964), and The Conformist by Bernardo Bertolucci (1970).

Alberto Pincherle (Alberto Moravia) was born in Rome into a well-to-do middle-class family. His mother was Teresa (de Marcanich) Pincherle, and father, Carlo Pincherle, an architect and a painter. At the age of nine, Moravia was stricken with tubercular infection of the leg bones, which he considered the most important factor in his early development. He spent considerable periods from 1916 to 1925 in sanatoria. He walked with the aid of a walking stick throughout his later life.
During these years Moravia started to write, and published at his own expense his first major novel, GLI INDIFFERENTI (Time of Indifference) in 1929. It is regarded as the first European Existentialist novel. The story focuses on three days in the life of a Roman family, who keep up a bourgeois front while living at the edge of poverty. The condemnation of the Roman bourgeoisie under fascism became a sensation. Not to arouse the disapproval of the authorities, Moravia wrote in an allegorical style, but his increasing involvement in politics led to his books being banned.

Later Moravia in his other books used the typical characters of an impotent intellectual, his virile rival, a voluptuous seductress, and an aging mistress. Generally Moravia women are strong. He saw sex as the enemy of love. Variations on the women of Gli indifferenti are found in LA ROMANA (1947, The Woman of Rome), in which the protagonist, Adriana, is a prostitute, and LA CIOCIARA (1958, Two Women). Moravia's criticism of society is presented on an allegorical level - proletariat is raped by capitalism, Italy loses her innocence under Fascism.
In the 1930s Moravia worked as a foreign correspondent for La Stampa and La Gazetta del Popolo. He travelled extensively abroad. His works were censored by Mussolini's fascist government, and placed by the Vatican on the Index librorum prohibitarum (Index of Forbidden Books). Moravia sharply criticized the dehumanized, capitalist world. After the publication of LE AMBIZIONI SBAGLIATE (1935, The Wheel of Fortune), Moravia lost his job at the Gazetta del Popolo.

In 1937 Moravia's collection of short stories L'IMBROGLIO appeared, which included L'Architetto, La Tempesta, and La Provinciale. Several of his stories were first published in newspapers. RACCONTI ROMANI (1954, Roman Tales) and NUOVI RACCONTI ROMANI (1959, More Roman Tales) include some of Moravia's best sketches of working-class characters in everyday situations.

From 1941 to 1943 Moravia lived in Anacapri (Capri). In 1943 he tried to escape to Naples, but unable to cross the frontier, fled with his wife Elsa Morante into the mountains of Ciociaria. He had written in 1941 a comic parody of the Mussolini government, LA MASCHERATA (The Fancy Dress Party), attacked fascism in his articles in Il Popolo di Roma, and was in danger of being arrested. He went into hiding in the peasant community in Fondi, near Cassino, until the Allied Liberation.
In 1944 he started to write Two Women, but returned to the work ten years later, when he had gained more distance from his own experiences. However, the nine months among peasants strengthened his social conscience and new sympathy for the people, which was evident in the short novel AGOSTINO (1944). In IL CONFORMISTA (1951) Moravia portrays a person, Marcello, who has dedicated himself to total conformity.

In the 1950s Moravia abandoned the third-person narrative, and used the limited, non-objective first person narrative in tune with the modernist literature theories. IL DISPREZZO (1954, A Ghost at Noon) was the basis of Jean-Luc Godard's film Le M├ępris (1963).

In 1953, Moravia co-edited Nuovi Argomenti; he wrote film reviews from 1955 for L'Espresso. Between the years 1958 and 1970 he travelled throughout the world, and produced such travel books as The Red Book and the Great Wall (1986) and Which Tribe Do You Belong To? (1974). In 1982 he edited Nuovi Argomenti with Leonardo Sciascia and Enzo Siciliano. Among Moravias later works are LA NOIA (1960, The Empty Canvas), an examination of the relationship between reality and art, L'ATTENZIONE (1965, The Lie), about a novelist writing a work entitled L'attenzione, and IO E LUI (1971, The Two of Us), a story of a screenwriter who tries to understand his independently behaving penis, which constantly leads him into humiliating situations. LA VITA INTERIORE (1978, Time of Desecration) was composed in the form of an interview between the ostensible narrator and the interviewee, Desideria.
He wrote for several magazines, contributing to Corriere della Sera regularly from 1946. From his wide travels in different places of the world Moravia produced several articles and travel books, including UN MESE IN URSS (1958), LA RIVOLUZIONE CULTURALE IN CINA (1968), and VIAGGI. ARTICOLI 1930-1990 (1994). Moravia's autobiography appeared in 1990. His philosophical and political scepticism did not prevent him from entering politics. In 1984 he was elected Italian representative to the European Parliament. Moravia died in Rome on September 26, 1990. He lived most of his life in Rome; the city played an important role in his fiction.
Moravia and Rome are one.
This summary of Moravia's life and career is derived from: