Alberto Moravia

MoraviaAlberto Moravia (November 28, 1907 – September 26, 1990), born Alberto Pincherle, was an Italian novelist and journalist. His novels explored matters of modern sexuality, social alienation, and existentialism.

Moravia is best known for his debut novel Gli indifferenti (published in 1929), and for the anti-fascist novel Il Conformista (The Conformist), the basis for the film The Conformist (1970) directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. Other novels of his adapted for the cinema are Agostino, filmed with the same title by Mauro Bolognini in 1962; Il Disprezzo (A Ghost at Noon or Contempt), filmed by Jean-Luc Godard as Le Mépris (Contempt) (1963); La Noia (Boredom), filmed with that title by Damiano Damiani in 1963 and released in the US as The Empty Canvas in 1964; and La ciociara, filmed by Vittorio de Sica as Two Women (1960). Cedric Kahn’s L’Ennui (1998) is another version of La Noia. More at wikipedia.

The Conformist (Italia) (Paperback)

Secrecy and Silence are second nature to Marcello Clerici, the hero of The Conformist, a book which made Alberto Moravia one of the world’s most read postwar writers. Clerici is a man with everything under control – a wife who loves him, colleagues who respect him, the hidden power that comes with his secret work for the Italian political police during the Mussolini years. But then he is assigned to kill his former professor, now in exile, to demonstrate his loyalty to the Fascist state, and falls in love with a strange, compelling woman; his life is torn open – and with it the corrupt heart of Fascism. Moravia equates the rise of Italian Fascism with the psychological needs of his protagonist for whom conformity becomes an obsession in a life that has included parental neglect, an oddly self-conscious desire to engage in cruel acts, and a type of male beauty which, to Clerici’s great distress, other men find attractive.

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Contempt (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)

Contempt is a brilliant and unsettling work by one of the revolutionary masters of modern European literature. All the qualities for which Alberto Moravia is justly famous—his cool clarity of expression, his exacting attention to psychological complexity and social pretension, his still-striking openness about sex—are evident in this story of a failing marriage. Contempt (which was to inspire Jean-Luc Godard’s no-less-celebrated film) is an unflinching examination of desperation and self-deception in the emotional vacuum of modern consumer society.

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Agostino (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)

Thirteen-year-old Agostino is spending the summer at a Tuscan seaside resort with his beautiful widowed mother. When she takes up with a cocksure new companion, Agostino, feeling ignored and unloved, begins hanging around with a group of local young toughs. Though repelled by their squalor and brutality, and repeatedly humiliated for his weakness and ignorance when it comes to women and sex, the boy is increasingly, masochistically drawn to the gang and its rough games. He finds himself unable to make sense of his troubled feelings. Hoping to be full of manly calm, he is instead beset by guilty  curiosity and an urgent desire to sever, at any cost, the thread of troubled sensuality that binds him to his mother.

Alberto Moravia’s classic, startling portrait of innocence lost was written in 1942 but rejected by Fascist censors and not published until 1944, when it became a best seller and secured the author the first literary prize of his career. Revived here in a new translation by Michael F. Moore, Agostino is poised to captivate a twenty-first-century audience.


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The Woman of Rome: A Novel (Italia) (Paperback)

The glitter and cynicism of Rome under Mussolini provide the background of what is probably Alberto Moravia’s best and best-known novel — The Woman of Rome. It’s the story of Adriana, a simple girl with no fortune but her beauty who models naked for a painter, accepts gifts from men, and could never quite identify the moment when she traded her private dream of home and children for the life of a prostitute.
One of the very few novels of the twentieth century which can be ranked with the work of Dostoevsky, The Woman of Rome also tells the stories of the tortured university student Giacomo, a failed revolutionary who refuses to admit his love for Adriana; of the sinister figure of Astarita, the Secret Police officer obsessed with Adriana; and of the coarse and brutal criminal Sonzogno, who treats Adriana as his private property. Within this story of passion and betrayal, Moravia calmly strips away the pride and arrogance hiding the corrupt heart of Italian Fascism.

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The Time of Indifference: A Novel (Paperback)

IN 1929, THE FIFTH YEAR of the Fascist era and the twenty-first year of Alberto Moravia’s life, the Italian literary world was stunned by the appearance of his first novel, The Time of Indifference. It was a deceptively simple story – five characters, the events of a few days, the intrigues of families and lovers. The place is Rome. The central figure is Michele, a young man in confused but furious rebellion against the emptiness of bourgeois life. His father is dead; his mother, Mariagrazia, desperately clings to her bored lover, Leo; his sister has no hope of marriage or career and bleakly prepares to give herself to Leo as well. A frequent visitor is Leo’s former lover, Lisa, ostensibly Mariagrazia’s friend, a woman who feels she is in the final late bloom before age destroys beauty. She longs to make Michele her lover, but he is bored and disgusted by her pretenses, her vanity, her desperation. All five are cast loose on the sea of modern life – obsessed with what they want, what they feel they are owed, the wrongs that have been done them, their loneliness. What Moravia destroys forever in this pitiless novel is the illusion that a world of ever-growing material comfort can ever feed the human soul.

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Boredom (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)

The novels that the great Italian writer Alberto Moravia wrote in the years following the World War II represent an extraordinary survey of the range of human behavior in a fragmented modern society. Boredom, the story of a failed artist and pampered son of a rich family who becomes dangerously attached to a young model, examines the complex relations between money, sex, and imperiled masculinity. This powerful and disturbing study in the pathology of modern life is one of the masterworks of a writer whom as Anthony Burgess once remarked, was “always trying to get to the bottom of the human imbroglio.”

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Two Women (Paperback)

FIRST PUBLISHED in English in 1958, Two Women is a compassionate yet forthright narrative of simple people struggling to survive in war. The two women are Cesira, a widowed Roman shopkeeper, and her daughter Rosetta, a naive teenager of haunting beauty and devout faith. When the German occupation of Rome becomes imminent, Cesira packs a few provisions, sews her life savings into the seams of her dress, and flees with Rosetta to her native province of Ciociara, a poor, mountainous region south of Rome.

Cesira’s currency soon loses its value, and a vicious barter economy, fraught with shifty traffickers and thieves, emerges among the mountain peasants and refugees. Mother and daughter endure nine months of hunger, cold, and filth as they await the arrival of the Allied forces. Cesira scarcely cares who wins the war, so long as victory comes soon and brings with it a return to her quiet shopkeeper’s life.

Instead, the Liberation brings tragedy. While heading back to Rome the pair are attacked by a group of Allied Moroccan soldiers, who rape Rosetta and beat Cesira unconscious. This act of violence and its resulting loss of innocence so embitters Rosetta that she falls numbly into a life of prostitution. Throughout these hardships Moravia offers up an intimate portrayal of the anguish and destruction wrought by war, both on the battlefield and upon those far from the fray.


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Conjugal Love (Paperback)

To begin with I’d like to talk about my wife. To love means, in addition to many other things, to delight in gazing upon and observing the beloved.
–From Conjugal Love

When Silvio, a rich Italian dilettante, and his beautiful wife agree to move to the country and forgo sex so that he will have the energy to write a successful novel, something is bound to go wrong: Silvio’s literary ambitions are far too big for his second-rate talent, and his wife Leda is a passionate woman. This dangerously combustible situation is set off when Leda accuses Antonio, the local barber who comes every morning to shave Silvio, of trying to molest her. Silvio obstinately refuses to dismiss him, and the quarrel and its shattering consequences put the couple’s love to the test.


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Life of Moravia (Hardcover)

THE EXTRAORDINARY self-posession of Alberto Moravia can be traced to the many months he endured as a child and as a young man, confined to his bed, entirely alone, with nothing but books and his imagination to carry him through a long struggle against tuberculosis of the bone. He had no friends, no social life, no years at a university to connect him to the world. The result was a kind of unblinking gaze and acceptance of life which made him first one of the great novelists of the age, and finally one of the great memoirists.

The Time of Indifference, his first novel (published this season by Steerforth), begun when he was only eighteen and published three years later, in 1929, changed the Italian literary landscape forever. That early fame never died and later novels – The Woman of Rome, The Conformist – only enhanced his reputation.

Moravia put his life into his books but only now, with this unusual autobiography in the form of an interview with his friend, the writer Alain Elkann, is it possible to understand the literary use he made of the bourgeois world of his childhood in Rome, of his encounter with Fascism under Mussolini, of his months in hiding from the Germans in the mountains south of Rome, and of his marriages to two of the leading writers of his time – Elsa Morante and Dacia Maraini.


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William Klein: Rome (Hardcover)

In 1956, a 28-year old William Klein arrived in Rome, fresh from the debut of his now classic monograph Life Is Good & Good for You in New York, to assist Federico Fellini on his film Nights of Cabiria. Filming was delayed, and so Klein instead strolled about the city in the company of Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Alberto Moravia and other avant-garde Italian writers and artists who served as his guides. It was on these walks that Rome, a pioneering and brilliant visual diary of the city, was born. First published in 1959, Klein’s Rome features the quirky extended captions that distinguished his New York book, interspersed with observations about the city by Stendhal, Michelet, Mark Twain, Henry James and others. Today it is one of the most celebrated photography books of the twentieth century. To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Rome‘s publication, Aperture (in close collaboration with Contrasto) has produced a revised edition, which includes previously unseen fashion pictures made in Rome and an updated text by the photographer. Redesigned to encompass two volumes in a special PVC slipcase, this new edition offers audiences another chance to celebrate one of the great photobooks. As Fellini said, “Rome is a movie, and Klein did it.”
After graduating from university, William Klein (born in New York, 1928) settled in Paris and became a painter. He returned to New York in 1954, and made a photographic logbook which was published two years later, and which won him world-wide acclaim: Life Is Good & Good for You in New York (Prix Nadar, 1956). Later, he produced books dedicated to Tokyo, Moscow and Paris. Painter, photographer, moviemaker and graphic designer, Klein currently lives in Paris.

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