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In accordance with our meta agreement to have topic challenges and a later meta agreement to have topic challenges lasting for two months and overlapping by one month, it is (long past) time to announce the November–December 2023 topic challenge.

Based on the number of votes (+5/-1), the last topic challenge fully in 2023 will be:

Alberto Moravia


What's a topic challenge?

See the meta posts linked above, and also this main meta post. In short, during November and December 2023 you are invited to try to read at least one work by Alberto Moravia and ask questions about it.

Participation is not obligatory in any sense, and questions on other works are more than welcome during November and December too; they just won't count as part of this topic challenge.

How can I take part?

By getting hold of some works of Alberto Moravia and asking (or answering!) good questions about them. Questions about these works should be tagged with and and other tags as appropriate. We'll keep a list of all such questions in an answer to this meta post.

Below is the presentation (largely written by Charo although the original suggestion was from user37920):

Alberto Moravia, pseudonym of Alberto Pincherle (born 28 Nov 1907, died 26 Sep 1990, both in Rome, Italy). His works are available online.

This Italian journalist, short-story writer, and novelist is known for his fictional portrayal of social alienation and loveless sexuality. He was a major figure in 20th-century Italian literature. He has won numerous literary awards, including Strega and Viareggio Prizes, some of the most prestigious Italian literary awards. His work has received several nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Translated from the 2014 Bompiani's edition of the short novel Agostino:

In the course of sixty years of uninterrupted activity, Moravia has built up an immense and coherent production in its developments - novels and short stories, theatre, travel reportages, writings on literature, art and cinema, writings on politics, current affairs and costume, autobiographies and interviews – which represents one of the most significant testimonies of the past century. Numerous films have been made from his novels and short stories, including La ciociara by Vittorio De Sica, Le Mépris (Il disprezzo) by Jean-Luc Godard and Il conformista by Bernardo Bertolucci. Also from Agostino Mauro Bolognini made a film in 1962.

His major works are:

  • The Time of Indifference (Gli indifferenti, 1929)
  • Agostino (1943)
  • The Woman of Rome (La romana, 1947)
  • The Conformist (Il conformista, 1947)
  • Contempt (Il disprezzo, 1954)
  • Roman tales (Racconti romani, 1954)
  • Two Women (La ciociara, 1957)
  • Boredom (La noia, 1960)
  • Journey to Rome (Il viaggio a Roma, 1988)

Translated from the abstract of the 2014 Bompiani's edition of the short novel Agostino:

The short novel Agostino was the masterpiece that allowed Moravia to win critical and public recognition. Agostino is the story of a sexual initiation. On the one hand, a thirteen-year-old boy who is still a child; on the other his mother, a widow, but still thriving and eager to live.

During a beach holiday, the relationship between the son and the mother deteriorates, becomes corrupted by restlessness. For the boy it will be necessary to arrive at an authentic crisis, a laceration that will allow him to start again and then to recompose the world, to get a reason for life.

With Agostino, a return to actual fiction after evasions and surrealist and satirical outbursts, Moravia won his first literary prize.

In The Woman of Rome (La romana), the protagonist, Adriana, is a beautiful and very naive young peasant girl who, to get out of the condition of poverty, begins a modeling career for some low-grade painters. Adriana thus finds herself immersed in a mediocre and hypocritical world, which ends up leading her to prostitution and increasingly complicated situations. We find then a picture of the intersecting lives of many characters, including a fascist official and a young law student with anti-fascist ideas, the prototype of the intellectual in Moravia's works. This young man is incarcerated for political ideas, but, after an interrogation by the Fascist forces, betrays his colleagues. This leads him to suicide.

It's a novel with a suspended tone between realistic portrayal and existential investigation, which questions the hypocrisy and inauthenticity of bourgeois values.

The following text is translated from the abstract of the 2017 Bompiani's edition of Racconti romani (Roman tales):

Alberto Moravia's Roman tales are linked to a tradition begun by Belli with his monumental work and then continued by Roman poets and narrators such as Pascarella, Trilussa and others. Here we also find an anonymous character from the Roman common people or small bourgeoisie, who speaks in the first person, recounting their own cases and those of their people. The language is no longer the narrow dialect of Belli or the tempered one of Trilussa, but an Italian sprinkled here and there with Romanesco words and expressions. The city and the people of Rome have naturally changed a lot over the past century: here is described the modern and somewhat eccentric Rome of the first decade after World War II; a Rome that is both free and alienated; diverse, vibrant, and yet marred, full of encounters, unexpected events, and adventures, but also of resignations and anxieties. An incredibly rich book, a significant act from the human comedy of our not-so-distant past.

Romanesco is the regional language around Rome.

At Internet Archive, you can find some of the Moravia's books in original Italian and translated to English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, German and Polish, for instance:

  • A selection of Roman tales translated to English by Angus Davidson.
  • A translation to Vietnamese of Racconti romani by Thanh Gương.
  • The short novel Agostino translated to English by Michael F. Moore.
  • L'ennui, a translation to French of La noia by Claude Poncet.
  • Contempt, a translation to English of Il disprezzo by Angus Davidson.
  • Le mépris, a translation to French of Il disprezzo by Claude Poncet.
  • Two women, a translation to English of La ciociara by Angus Davidson.
  • La campesina, a translation to Spanish of La ciociara by Domingo Pruna.
  • La romana translated to Spanish by Francisco Ayala.
  • A translation to Chinese of La romana.
  • Journey to Rome, a translation to English of Il viaggio a Roma by Tim Parks.

What's next?

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