Alberto Pincherle Moravia was born the son of an architect in Rome, Italy, on November 28, 1907. Moravia’s father, of Jewish descent, came to Rome from Venice and his mother, née De Marsanich, was Catholic, a countess of Dalmatian origin. At the age of nine, Moravia contracted tuberculosis of the leg bone. He remained ill, except for periods of brief improvement, for the next nine years. As a result he did not receive a formal education and never graduated from high school. His long confinement also exacerbated the normal tensions of family life for the Pincherles, causing Moravia to develop negative views of the role of family relationships. He felt little rapport with either his mother, who was primarily concerned with acceptance in the bourgeois society of Rome, or his father, an atheist who lived a solitary existence and seldom spoke to his children. He was unhappy and bored living at home and rejected the family values that he later described as being dominated by prudence, self-interest, ignorance, and hedonism.
However, Moravia took full advantage of the two opportunities available to him. As a child, he developed impressive skill in languages. His mother planned a future career in diplomatic service for him and so engaged a succession of foreign governesses. He learned to speak French fluently before learning Italian, later adding English and German. Moravia also had access to his father’s library, from which he read a rich selection of drama, especially works by Carlo Goldoni, Molière, Jean Racine, and William Shakespeare. Later he systematically read a succession of great authors, discovering two lifelong favorites in Fyodor...
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