Alberto Moravia Essay - Moravia, Alberto (Short Story Criticism)

Moravia, Alberto (Short Story Criticism)


Moravia, Alberto 1907-1990

(Born Alberto Pincherle) Italian short story writer, novelist, essayist, critic, dramatist, translator, scriptwriter, travel writer, editor, and journalist. See also Alberto Moravia Literary Criticism (Introduction), and Volumes 2, 18.

Moravia is considered one of the foremost Italian literary figures of the twentieth century. His depiction of existential themes, based upon mass indifference and the selfish concerns of the bourgeois world, predate the writings of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. Deeply informed by the theories of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, Moravia's work commonly focuses upon such subjects as politics, sexuality, psychology, phenomenological philosophy, and art. In his exploration of humanity's conceptions of reality, Moravia presents a world of decadence and corruption in which individuals are guided primarily by their senses and sex serves as a comfort for spiritual barrenness as well as a substitute for love.

Biographical Information

Moravia was born in Rome and educated at home. His father was a moderately wealthy Jewish Venetian architect and painter. His mother was a Dalmatian Catholic. At eight, Moravia was stricken with tuberculosis of the bone, which left him bedridden and isolated during his adolescent years. He spent much of this time avidly reading and writing and achieved major success with his first novel, Gli indifferenti (1929; The Time of Indifference, 1953), written while Moravia was in his teens and published when he was twenty-two. He travelled extensively throughout Europe, North America, and Asia, and soon became a correspondent for La stampa and later La gaietta del popolo, newspapers in which Moravia wrote several travel articles. While his first published short story, "La cortigiana stanca" ("Tired Courtesan," 1954), appeared in the review Novecento in 1927, it was not until 1935 that Moravia published his first collection, La bella vita. His dissatisfaction with fascist Italy and growing appreciation of Marxism led to his dismissal from La gazzetta del popolo and made publication of his second collection of short fiction (L'imbroglio, 1937) difficult.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, during Benito Mussolini's regime, Moravia's perceived antifascist ideas were subjected to close scrutiny, and he came close to being labeled an enemy of the state. Consequently, his fiction of the period is laden with satire and allegory. With Nazi occupation of Italy in 1943, Moravia and his wife, writer Elsa Morante, were forced to flee Rome and live for several months among peasants in rural Italy. This first exposure to the lower class profoundly affected Moravia's later work, which often features characters suffering from poverty and unemployment. Moravia enjoyed great professional success in the 1950s; I racconti (1952; The Wayward Wife, and Other Stories, 1960) was awarded the Strega Prize in 1952. He also cofounded the cultural journal Nuovi argomenti with Alberto Carocci. His turbulent marriage to Elsa, however, ended with their separation in 1963. For many years he lived with playwright and novelist Dacia Maraini, whom he often referred to as his second wife. Moravia received his high school diploma after passing equivalency tests at age 60, and in his seventies entered politics as a member of the European Parliament, backed by the Italian Communist Party. In 1986, shortly after his first wife's death, Moravia married writer Carmen Llera. He continued writing until his death in Rome in 1990.

Major Works of Short Fiction

Moravia's early fiction frequently attacks the Italian upper-middle class. In his acclaimed story "Inverno di malato" ("A Sick Boy's Winter"), published in La bella vita, the young protagonist has some difficulty with class differences and his own sexuality. In the fiction Moravia wrote during the Mussolini years, including the short stories collected in I sogini del pigro (1940) and L'epidemia (1944), the author portrayed characters who abused others as a means of self-satisfaction, but he cloaked in allegory and satire material that could be construed by censors as containing allusions to fascist politics. After his expulsion from Rome, Moravia's fiction became more socially conscious, displaying Marxist elements and expressing sympathy for the lives of common people. In the novella Agostino (1944; Agostino, 1947), which was awarded the Corriere Lombardo, an adolescent loses his innocence when he becomes increasingly aware of both his sexuality and the plight of the lower classes. The short stories Moravia wrote during the postwar decade, like his novels from this period, are influenced by his preoccupation with populist concerns. He also abandoned the use of a third-person narrator in favor of first-person narration in order to depict the world subjectively. In the short fiction collections Racconti romani (1954; Roman Tales, 1957) and Nuovi racconti romani (1959; More Roman Tales, 1964)—which contain many of his best works—Moravia uses colloquial language to depict commonplace occurrences in the lives of working-class characters. By the 1960s, Moravia had strayed from Marxism and began employing basic Freudian and phenomenological principles to resolve his characters' conflicts. Later short story collections, Un'altra vita (1973; Lady Godiva, and Other Stories, 1975) and La cosa e altri racconti (1983; Erotic Tales, 1986), center upon sexuality and the alienation of the human psyche.

Critical Reception

Moravia felt the pressure of censors throughout his literary career. He was accused of immorality, lewdness, and obsessiveness. Some of his works have been banned, and in 1952 all of his works were placed on the Papal Index. He was attacked for his frank treatment of sex in his later works as well, including Erotic Tales, written when Moravia was in his seventies. Because of his repetitive themes and journalistic style of writing, many critics have concluded that Moravia is most effective when writing within the short story framework. Moravia's tendency to rework a limited number of themes has led some critics to fault him as a writer of narrow range who has done little to advance the techniques of the novel or the short story. Most, however, appraise Moravia as an artist who realizes the full potential of his subjects and uses classic storytelling devices to examine the preoccupations of modern civilization.

Principal Works

Short Fiction

La bella vita 1935

L'imbroglio: Cinque romanzi brevi 1937

I sogni del pigro: Racconti, miti e allegorie 1940

L'amante infelice 1943

Agostino (novella) 1944

L'epidemia: Racconti 1944

Due cortigiane e Serata di don Giovanni 1945

La disubbidienza [Disobedience] (novella) 1948

L'amore coniugale, e altri racconti [Conjugal Love] (novel and short stories) 1949

I racconti [Bitter Honeymoon, and Other Stories; also published as The Wayward Wife, and Other Stories] 1952

Racconti romani [Roman Tales] 1954

Nuovi racconti romani [More Roman Tales] 1959

L'automa [The Fetish: A Volume of Stories; also published as The Fetish, and Other Stories] 1963

Una cosa è una cosa [Command and I Will Obey You] 1967

Il paradiso [Paradise and Other Stories; also published as Bought and Sold] 1970

Un'altra vita [Lady Godiva, and Other Stories; also published as Mother Love] 1973

Boh [The Voice of the Sea, and Other Stories] 1976

La cosa e altri racconti [Erotic Tales] 1983


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The Times Literary Supplement (review date 1947)

SOURCE: "A Novelist of Detachment," in The Times Literary Supplement, July 5, 1947, p. 333.

[In the following assessment of Agostino, the author commends Moravia for his use of detachment and delicate handling of an adolescent in crisis.]

Agostino was one of the works of Signor Moravia's enforced and uncomfortable seclusion [after the author fell into disgrace with the Fascist authorities]. Published in 1944, it gained the prize for the best Italian novel of the year in 1945. It is a brilliant and delicate—though some of its details are supremely indelicate—study of a crisis of adolescence undergone by a boy of thirteen, the only son of a beautiful...

(The entire section is 408 words.)

Margaret Fimderburg (review date 1949)

SOURCE: A review of Agostino, in The Modern Language Journal, October, 1949, pp. 483-84.

[In the following evaluation of Agostino, Funderburg lauds the effectiveness of Moravia's use of short sentences and minimal dialogue in his psychological study of an adolescent boy.]

Agostino is a psychological study of a boy who for the first thirteen years of his life is unaware of woman as such and of his transition from naiveté to awareness of sensual life. Agostino is initiated abruptly and crudely into the knowledge of sexual life by a group of boys from the dregs of society.

The transition through which Agostino passes is well planned...

(The entire section is 602 words.)

John Cogley (review date 1950)

SOURCE: A review of Two Adolescents, in Commonweal, July 28, 1950, pp. 395-96.

[In the following excerpted review of Two Adolescents, Cogley praises Moravia for his subtle moralism and bitter commentary on modern society.]

Even the most doggedly prurient won't be disappointed with [Moravia's] two adolescents. Both of them, Agostino and Luca, have their problems—and, as anyone who has ever been one knows, the deepest concerns of adolescents are rarely bound up with solid geometry or endruns, pious literature to the contrary notwithstanding.

But there is more to Moravia's work than meets the leering eye. There is power and delicacy in...

(The entire section is 661 words.)

Charles J. Rolo (review date 1950)

SOURCE: A review of Two Adolescents, in Atlantic Monthly, August, 1950, pp. 84-5.

[In the following excerpted review of Two Adolescents, Rolo praises Moravia's "brilliantly realized portrayal" of the sexual awakening of the thirteen-year-old title character of Agostino and finds Disobedience a disagreeable but perceptive story of a different crisis of adolescence.]

[From] Italy comes Alberto Moravia's Two Adolescents a pair of novelettes, Agostino and Disobedience, which deal with the emotional turmoil of adolescence. . . .

Moravia is well endowed with two qualities which do not often come together in...

(The entire section is 338 words.)

Ernest Jones (essay date 1950)

SOURCE: "Fiction in the Dog Days," in The Nation, Vol. CLXXI, No. 6, August 5, 1950, pp. 133-34.

[In the following excerpt, Jones lauds the effectiveness of Moravia's detachment from his subject while constructing complex themes in Two Adolescents.]

Two Adolescents is by far the best new fiction to come my way this summer. It is also the least pretentious. Quietly and with the seeming effortlessness of the artist who knows exactly what he wants to do, Moravia re-creates traumas common enough to adolescence but realized in terms of the individuals on whom they descend. Agostino is about deracination and initiation. A thirteen-year-old boy learns that the...

(The entire section is 552 words.)

Northrop Frye (essay date 1951)

SOURCE: "Novels on Several Occasions," in The Hudson Review, Vol. III, No. 4, Winter, 1951, pp. 611-19.

[In the following excerpt, Frye commends Moravia's adroit use of symbols in Two Adolescents and applauds the writer as one who "still clings in technique to the old traditions of novel writing. "]

Each of Moravia's stories of Italian schoolboys [in Two Adolescents] deserves the higher compliment of being called a story that you can put down. One pursues a clumsy and faked narrative as one gets through a crowd on a sidewalk, in haste to be rid of it—a point often overlooked by those who sit up all night over mystery stories. Moravia fits normal life:...

(The entire section is 541 words.)

David Davidson (review date 1951)

SOURCE: "A Husband, a Wife, and a Book," in The Saturday Review of Literature, Vol. XXXIV, No. 13, March 31, 1951, p. 19.

[Below, Davidson lauds Moravia's "Proust-like ability" to evoke profound significances from seemingly trivial happenings in the relationship between a man and his wife in Conjugal Love.]

In his third book to be published in America the Italian novelist Alberto Moravia makes use of a tricky literary device which calls to mind the famed Quaker Oats trademark: a mother holding up temptingly before her child a box of Quaker Oats upon which is imprinted a mother holding up temptingly before her child a box of Quaker Oats upon which. . . . And so forth...

(The entire section is 536 words.)

Charles J. Rolo (review date 1951)

SOURCE: A review of Conjugal Love, in Atlantic Monthly, April, 1951, pp. 77-8.

[In the following assessment of Conjugal Love, Rolo praises Moravia's masterly study of the relations between a husband and wife.]

The vagaries of love of the orthodox kind are brought under the microscope in a short novel by Alberto Moravia, Conjugal Love. . . . Moravia's two previous works have won him a sizable following and a good deal of critical praise. His special forte, to my mind, is his adult handling of sexuality in all its aspects, a talent which is relatively rare among Anglo-Saxon writers, however copiously or candidly they may write about sex. There is a...

(The entire section is 341 words.)

Daniel Aaron (essay date 1951)

SOURCE: "Directives for Salvation," in The Hudson Review, Vol. IV, No. 2, Summer, 1951, pp. 314-20.

[In the following excerpt, Aaron notes that, while not an extraordinary book, Conjugal Love demonstrates "how the artist can achieve a poetic reality without being topical. "]

Alberto Moravia is deaf to the demands of earthly and heavenly authority, at least in Conjugal Love, and deferential only to instinct. He also writes of people out of time, whose difficulties are personal.

Conjugal Love is a severely classical sketch of a man's discovery of himself after a deep humiliation, a humiliation neither political nor religious. Silvio...

(The entire section is 388 words.)

Stephen Spender (review date 1952)

SOURCE: A review of Two Adolescents, in The Listener, December 25, 1952, p. 1087.

[In the following excerpt, Spender faults Two Adolescents as being calculated and contrived, but finds Moravia's use of the unexpected extremely captivating.]

Moravia's two studies of adolescence [in Two Adolescents] have a strangely German quality, reminiscent of Thomas Mann. They are written with a consciousness of art crossed with a consciousness of psychology which are perhaps too evident to the reader. Into this formidable mixture there is infused a tumescent sensuality which is extremely disturbing. It is difficult not to discover in the orgiastic descriptions...

(The entire section is 618 words.)

Thomas G. Bergin (essay date 1953)

SOURCE: "The Moravian Muse," in The Virginia Quarterly Review, Vol. XXIX, No. 2, Spring, 1953, pp. 215-25.

[In the following excerpt, Bergin lauds Moravia's underlying romantic attitude, as presented in Two Adolescents, as a revolt against middle-class society.]

The stories of young Girolamo in "Winter of an Invalid" and the boy, Agostino, in the novella of that name, bring out the same frustrations and the same obsessions [presented in The Indifferent Ones]. Girolamo, merely to conform to the standards of a vulgar traveling salesman who shares his hospital room, attempts the seduction of his little playmate, and Agostino, out of dimly realized jealousy...

(The entire section is 670 words.)

The New Yorker (essay date 1955)

SOURCE: "One Good Tune," in The New Yorker, May 7, 1955, ñ 39.

[In the following summation of an interview conducted in the New Yorker, Moravia discusses his writing and feel for his characters.]

The distinguished Italian writer Alberto Moravia is in this country as a guest of the State Department, and we were fortunate enough to have lunch with him a few days ago, shortly before he took off to explore the Wild West. A swarthy, stocky man of forty-seven, Signor Moravia speaks a somewhat rickety brand of English and speaks it every bit as fast as if it were his native tongue. The words come in lengthy bursts, followed by hard-breathing silences; then more...

(The entire section is 793 words.)

James Kelly (review date 1956)

SOURCE: "Truth or Consequences?," in The Saturday Review, Vol. XXXIX, No. 32, August 11, 1956, p. 17.

[In the following excerpt, Kelly notes that while all of the stories in Bitter Honeymoon share anatomical explicitness, immaculate literary style, and gloomy endings, they also contain brilliant observations from Moravia of human behavior under emotional stress.]

In considering Alberto Moravia's new collection, Bitter Honeymoon and Other Stories, let us assume we do not know the author has been hailed as one of the consummate craftsmen of our day. Or that groping critics have coupled the name Moravia with D. H. Lawrence and Stendhal in the field of...

(The entire section is 583 words.)

James Greene (review date 1956)

SOURCE: "Precarious Balance of Opposed Demands," in Commonweal Vol. LXIV, No. 21, August 24, 1956, p. 520.

[In the following review of Bitter Honeymoon and Other Stories, Greene applauds Moravia's ability to present characters as real people.]

The name of Alberto Moravia is not a new one to American readers. His novels have been published in this country as a matter of routine, and he is to us a writer whose biting, analytical realism matches a modern mood. That mood has prevailed nowhere more strongly than in Moravia's native Italy where the ruptures and griefs of our age have struck with stunning impact. Yet Moravia never joined the post-war preachers. In...

(The entire section is 778 words.)

Thomas G. Bergin (review date 1957)

SOURCE: A review of Roman Tales, in The Saturday Review, September 21, 1957, p. 18.

[Here, Bergin praises Moravia's skill as a short story writer.]

Alberto Moravia, if not beyond question the leading writer of contemporary Italy (in his own country, at least, his supremacy is still a matter of debate), is certainly the most widely-known abroad. He has a large public in America and the faithful will know what to expect in his newest volume. Yet Roman Tales do in a sense give us a Moravia hitherto unknown in English dress. For one thing they will serve to exemplify his skill as a short-story writer. Moravia has been turning out novelle for years; but...

(The entire section is 413 words.)

Frank Baldanza (essay date 1957-58)

SOURCE: "The Classicism of Alberto Moravia," in Modern Fiction Studies, Vol. III, No. 4, Winter 1957-58, pp. 309-20.

(The entire section is 1370 words.)

Olga Ragusa (essay date 1960)

SOURCE: "Alberto Moravia: Voyeurism and Storytelling," in The Southern Review, Vol. IV, No. 1, Winter 1960, pp. 127-41.

[In the following excerpt, Ragusa examines the voyeuristic scenes in Two Adolescents, Bitter Honeymoon, and The Fetish.]

Moravia's fiction abounds in voyeuristic scenes. The most successful are, I believe, those that involve adolescent boys: for instance, Agostino in the story that bears his name (Two Adolescents), and Tancredi in "The Fall" (Bitter Honeymoon and Other Stories). Not only is curiosity about sex natural in adolescents, but the special aura of constraint and complicity that surrounds it in Moravia, and thereby...

(The entire section is 2084 words.)

William Dunlea (review date 1960)

SOURCE: "Moralist Without an Ideal," in Commonweal, Vol. LXXI, No. 25, March 18, 1960, pp. 679-80.

[In the following mixed review, Dunlea finds the tales contained in The Wayward Wife and Other Stories absorbing, but not as impressive as Moravia's earlier works of short fiction.]

It is not perhaps by accident that Alberto Moravia has become Italy's most internationally acclaimed contemporary novelist and that he should at the same time be a maverick in Italian letters. For one thing, Italian writing had so long stood shy of the main literary currents to the north, whereas Moravia has channeled these into his work with a will; for another, he has allowed himself...

(The entire section is 679 words.)

Bonner Mitchell (essay date 1960)

SOURCE: "Moravia's Proletarian Roman Intellectuals," in The Modern Language Journal, Vol. XLIV, No. 7, November, 1960, pp. 303-6.

[In the following excerpt, Mitchell praises Moravia's use of uneducated, middle-class narrators as a new mode of expression.]

While Alberto Moravia's post-war preference for proleterian Roman settings and characters is well known, it does not seem to have been recognized that La Romana and the two volumes of Racconti romani represent not just a new predilection in subject matter but also a rather daring narrative experiment. This experiment lies in the creation of a novel sort of fictitious narrator. The literary...

(The entire section is 2021 words.)

Sergio Pacifici (essay date 1964)

SOURCE: "Alberto Moravia's L'automa: A Study in Estrangement," in Symposium, Vol. XVIII, No. 4, Winter, 1964, pp. 357-64.

[In the following essay, Pacifici examines Moravia's effort to dramatize the estranging effect of automation upon individuar s lives in L'automa.]

In the fall of 1962 Alberto Moravia's latest work was brought out by Bompiani of Milano. The new volume, aptly titled L'automa, consists of forty-one short stories, all of which were commissioned by the northern daily Il corriere della sera for publication in its third, "literary" page—a fact that must be borne in mind if we are to appreciate the strength and weaknesses of the...

(The entire section is 3585 words.)

William Arrowsmith (review date 1964)

SOURCE: A review of More Roman Tales, in The New York Review of Books, July 30, 1964, pp. 13-14.

[In the following excerpt, Arrowsmith praises Moravia's craftsmanship as a storyteller in More Roman Tales.]

[Alberto Moravia's] reputation is doubtless inflated, and the importance of his novels (as opposed to his novellas and short stories) is surely exaggerated. But this is his critics' doing, not his. As a man Moravia may very well be vain, but he is the least pretentious writer in Italy: his whole career has been a long protest against inflation of any kind, whether Fascist rhetoric or fake postures. (Admittedly, there is always Moravia the sentimental...

(The entire section is 680 words.)

Donald Heiney (essay date 1964)

SOURCE: "Moravia's America," in Western Humanities Review, Vol. XVIII, No. 4, Autumn, 1964, pp. 315-59.

[In the following excerpt, Heiney examines Moravia's portrayal of the "Americanization" of Italy in Roman Tales, New Roman Tales, and Conjugal Love.]

[In many of Alberto Moravia's] stories and tales written after 1945, American culture plays an important part, and it is the part of the prepotente. It stands for strength, vigor, and success, and in this sense it is contrasted to Italian culture which represents the opposite: weakness, decadence, and failure. But this neat contrast is valid only in a limited sense. By 1943 . . . there were signs of a new...

(The entire section is 2187 words.)

Kay Dick (review date 1964)

SOURCE: A review of The Fetish, in The Spectator, December 4, 1964, pp. 788-89.

[In the excerpt below, Dick finds the stories in The Fetish fascinating in themselves but disappointing as a collection .]

Forty-one stories packed into 285 pages from Alberto Moravia sounds like a bargain; unfortunately, like most bargains, it is a trifle disappointing. Most of [the] stories [in The Fetish] have the kind of glitter, the polish, the touch of authority we expect from such a master-craftsman; read separately, in magazines, over a considerable period of time, the memory of them might be a brighter, more joyous experience than reading all of them through at...

(The entire section is 321 words.)

Olga Ragusa (review date 1965)

SOURCE: A review of More Roman Tales, in Studies in Short Fiction, Spring, 1965, pp. 294-96.

[In the following excerpted review, Ragusa lauds the Romance tradition evident in Moravia's storytelling .]

Moravia's Roman tales (Racconti romani, 1954; Nuovi racconti romani, 1959), together with the novel Two Women (La ciociara, 1957) and to some extent the earlier The Woman of Rome (La romana, 19"47), mark his turning from his favorite middle class setting to the Roman working classes and in some cases the Roman Lumpenproletariat. In a recent interview (Quaderni milanesi, II, Spring 1961), Moravia revealed that what he calls...

(The entire section is 1063 words.)

William Barrett (review date 1965)

SOURCE: "Love Among the Ruins," in The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. CCXV, No. 6, June, 1965, pp. 144-45.

[Below, Barrett praises Moravia as a master of the short story, but finds the narrow world portrayed in The Fetish "almost stifling. "]

Despite a famous excursion into the lower social strata in a novel of a woman of the streets, Alberto Moravia's favored material has always been the life of the Roman middle and lower-middle classes, with their impotence of will, dedicated selfishness, and petty eroticism. The Fetish, a collection of stories, shows that he is master of this world as well as of the short-story form, but leaves a nagging impression that his...

(The entire section is 301 words.)

Alice Mayhew (review date 1965)

SOURCE: A review of The Fetish, in Commonweal, October 22, 1965, pp. 100-02.

[In the following negative review, Mayhew faults Moravia for abandoning passion in favor of philosophical ponderings .]

Most of the forty-one contrived and mechanical short stories in this Moravia collection [The Fetish] are nothing more than anecdotes six or seven pages long—inconclusive, ineffectual, unvaried. The hard-nosed, rough and tortured characters of Moravia's early books and stories are gone; so is any pretension to narrative. These stories resemble his last novel, The Empty Canvas (La Noia, or Boredom), which was a plotless and laconic treatise on...

(The entire section is 789 words.)

Charles Fantazzi (review date 1966)

SOURCE: A review of The Fetish and Other Stories, in Studies in Short Fiction, Winter, 1966, pp. 269-70.

[In the following excerpt, Fantazzi faults Moravia for reverting to the themes of his longer fiction in The Fetish and Other Stories and finds some of the stories insipid and formulaic . ]

True to his oft-repeated code of creative writing, Signor Moravia keeps turning out the same book with relentless monotony. Unfortunately the theme that he has chosen for his life's work cannot stand up very well to this constant repetition. Ten years before Sartre's La nausée, Moravia at the age of eighteen had already isolated the peculiar malady of modern...

(The entire section is 950 words.)

Giose Rimanelli (essay date 1967)

SOURCE: "Moravia and the Philosophy of Personal Existence," in Italian Quarterly, Vol. II, No. 41, Summer, 1967, pp. 39-68.

[In the following excerpt, Rimanelli examines the social, Freudian, and existential elements in Agostino and La disubbidienza.]

Alberto Moravia belongs to the group of Italian Neorealiste whose art was formed out of the Fascist period. Many of the themes and much of the style of these Neorealists have been the outcome of the impetus of American Realists who were translated by Vittorini, Cecchi, Pavese and others in the 1930's. The themes of the alienation from society, the autonomy of the individual, and "the misfit" are reflected upon in...

(The entire section is 3567 words.)

William H. Archer (review date 1969)

SOURCE: A review of Command, and I Will Obey You, in Bestsellers, July 15, 1969, p. 161.

[In the following excerpt, Archer regards the stones collected in Command, and I Will Obey You as experimentations that might be developed into lengthier works .]

[The short stories collected in Command, and I Will Obey You] by the master of living Italian novelists, suggest themselves as experimentations, as "kernels" which might be developed into lengthier plots, though doubtless they are meant to be an end in themselves. In "The Chase," one of the best, a husband compares his wife's personality with his boyhood memory of a bird hunted by his father. The...

(The entire section is 635 words.)

Thomas G. Bergin (review date 1969)

SOURCE: A review of Command, and I Will Obey You, in The Saturday Review, August 23, 1969, p. 41.

[In the review below, Bergin finds the stories collected in Command, and I Will Obey You pleasant, amusing, and educational, but not likely to affect Moravia's stature as a writer .]

The first thing that will strike the reader contemplating Command, and I Will Obey You by Italy's most fertile storyteller is that all of the items in the collection are of the same length—none shorter than six pages, none longer than eight. This suggests that they were originally written for the "third page" (always dedicated to matters of literature and art) of an...

(The entire section is 676 words.)

Charles Fantazzi (review date 1971)

SOURCE: A review of Command, and I Will Obey You, in Studies in Short Fiction, Fall, 1971, pp. 646-48.

[Here, Fantazzi faults Moravia's contradiction between style and subject matter in Command, and I Will Obey You.]

The Moravia of this slick, finished collection of tales [Command, and I Will Obey You] bears many traits of resemblance to the Trigorin of Chekhov's The Seagull. In contrast to the restless young writer, Trepliov, the older and established Trigorin is merely the facile manipulator of a métier, for whom life has become an indifferent source of subject matter for his art. The resulting transcription inevitably becomes dull and...

(The entire section is 1281 words.)

Anatole Broyard (review date 1973)

SOURCE: "Unfaithful to 34 Women," in The New York Times, March 6, 1973, sec. L, p. 39.

[In the following assessment of Bought and Sold, Broyard faults the stories as "hackneyed, mechanical and unconvincing. "]

A masochistic woman provokes her husband to violence and wonders whether, one day, she will die of joy. A neurotic mother insists that her Marxist son wants to murder his father and sleep with her. The wife of a rich man sells herself to strangers because her original "purchaser" no longer desires her. A woman about to commit suicide, for reasons not given, is interrupted by a telephone call inviting her to a party. Her dog barks at her leaving and she...

(The entire section is 755 words.)

Jane E. Cottrell (essay date 1974)

SOURCE: "The Short Stories," in Alberto Moravia, Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1974, pp. 115-24.

[In the following essay from her book-length critical study of Moravia, Cottrell discusses the realistic, surrealistic, and satiric nature of Moravia's short stories.]

The early short stories, written between 1927 and 1952, are for many critics and readers some of [Alberto] Moravia's finest works. They fall into two general categories: the neo-realistic stories which include the collections La bella vita (1935), L'imbroglio (1937), L'amante infelice (1943), the stories published with L'amore coniugale (1949), and a few separate pieces. The...

(The entire section is 3064 words.)

Florindo Cerreta (essay date 1976)

SOURCE: "Moravia's Luca Mansi and His Dreams of Transcendence," in Italica, Vol. LIII, No. 1, Spring, 1976, pp. 8-28.

[In the following essay, Cerreta applies Jungian psychoanalysis to the interpretation of Luca's two dreams in La Disubbidienza.]

After E. Sanguineti's exhaustive and illuminating commentary on Moravia's La Disubbidienza [in Alberto Moravia] it would seem that additional remarks based on a psychoanalytical approach would not contribute to any significant expansion of our understanding of this novel. This would be particularly true if we were to restrict ourselves to Freudian psychology which is the foundation on which Sanguineti's work...

(The entire section is 6665 words.)

Adam Mars-Jones (review date 1985)

SOURCE: A review of Erotic Tales, in The Times Literary Supplement, December 20, 1985, p. 1464.

[In the following review, Mars-Jones faults the collected stories in Erotic Tales as "morbid and facile."]

The Italian title of Alberto Moravia's [Erotic Tales] has no pretensions to eroticism: it translates as The Thing And Other Stories. The translator, or whoever it was that came up with the more selling title, can't altogether be blamed. There is in many of these stories a heavy sexual preoccupation, though Moravia can be cleared of any charge of seeking to provoke undue enjoyment.

"The Thing," once the title story and still...

(The entire section is 1061 words.)

Annapaola Cancogni (review date 1986)

SOURCE: "The Upper Middle Classes are Restless," in The New York Times Book Review, January 5, 1986, p. 6.

[In the following review, Cancogni faults the stories in Erotic Tales as lacking "that playful self-consciousness, that narrative delight and that titillating suggestiveness" that would justify the collection's title. ]

A lesbian's obsession with what she euphemistically calls "the thing" enslaves her to a pony. A nurse's morbid fascination with what she somewhat blasphemously terms "the Unknown God" leads her to the unwitting murder of one of her patients. A widower's desperate search for his lost wife eventually brings him to the realization that what he...

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Keith Cushman (review date 1987)

SOURCE: A review of Erotic Tales, in Studies in Short Fiction, Summer, 1987, pp. 315-16.

[In the following review, Cushman finds the first six longer stories in Erotic Tales explicit rather than erotic, and the remaining fourteen shorter stories skimpy and unconvincing.]

Erotic Tales seems to demonstrate that even grand old men of Italian literature sometimes get horny. For almost sixty years Alberto Moravia has been Italy's chronicler of modern urban life, his novels and stories filled with characters driven by lust, greed, and ambition. Of the twenty stories in this mistitled collection, only the first six are specifically sexual. But these...

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James D. LeBlanc (essay date 1993)

SOURCE: "'La Faccia da cameriere': An Existential Glance at Two of Moravia's Waiters," in Homage to Moravia, edited by Rocco Capozzi and Mario B. Mignone, Forum Italicum, 1993, pp. 97-111.

[In the following essay, LeBlanc explores the existential significance of two waiters in Moravia's "Pensatore" and "Le Sue giornate."]

Jean-Paul Sartre has left us some memorable characters. There is the ontologically stricken Roquentin of La Nausée, the existentially redeemed Mathieu of Les Chemins de la liberté, and the disturbingly condemned trio of Garcin, Inès and Estelle who appear in Huis clos. But in addition to these fictional heroes and/or...

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Howard Moss (essay date 1993)

SOURCE: "Moravia and the Middle Class: the Case of 'Seduta spiritica,'" in Homage to Moravia, edited by Rocco Capozzi and Mario B. Mignone, Forum Italicum, 1993, pp. 141-50.

[In the following essay, Moss examines the non-class-specific alienation present in "Seduta spiritica."]

Moravia began to write about the middle class in 1927 with the short story "Cortigiana stanca," his first attempt at fiction to be published. It tells of the end of a depressing relationship between a woman and her younger lover who can no longer afford to keep her in the style she is used to and whose energy is absorbed in trying to "dominare il malessere che l'opprimeva." Hard upon its heels...

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Thomas Erling Peterson (essay date 1996)

[In the following excerpt from his book-length critical study of Moravia, Peterson examines the author's youthful protagonists, particularly Agostino and Luca of Two Adolescents.]

SOURCE: "Tales of Adolescence," in Alberto Moravia, Twayne Publishers, 1996, pp. 35-54.

Discussing the large number of youthful protagonists in great literature, Moravia [in Vita] states, "The reason is simple and clear: the young person marries the maximum of passionate vitality with the maximum of ideals. Then there was a kind of revolution beginning with the 19th century, for which the narrator attributed a particular importance to what I would call the initiation of adolescence,...

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Further Reading


Ferdinando, Alfonsi, and Sandra Alfonsi. An Annotated Bibliography of Moravia Criticism in Italy and in the English-Speaking World (1929-1975). New York: Garland, 1976, 261 p.


Baldanza, Frank. "Mature Moravia." Contemporary Literature IX, No. 4 (Fall 1968): 507-21.

Praises Moravia's artistic restraint, honesty, and range of appeal.

Cottrell, Jane E. Alberto Moravia. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1974, 166 p.

Offers a comprehensive introduction to Moravia's fiction.

Dego, Giuliano. Moravia. Edinburgh and London: Oliver...

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