Alberto Moravia Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

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...

(The entire section is 678 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Alberto Pincherle Moravia, son of Carlo and Teresa de Marsanich Moravia, was born in Rome, Italy, on November 28, 1907. His Jewish father was an architect, and his Catholic mother was a Dalmatian countess. Hence, he grew up in an affluent and cultured family that kept a box at the opera and retained a chauffeur. Moravia’s home life was not happy, though, and his descriptions of bourgeois family conflicts in his fiction mirror his own childhood.

One early escape was storytelling. In 1937, he recalled that as a child,I would go off into the fields, or stretch myself out on a couch in a room of the summer villa, and talk to myself. I cannot remember the plots of these solitary narratives; I think they were adventures, dangerous episodes, violent and improbable incidents; I do remember very well, however, that I took up the thread of the story every day at the precise point where I had left it the day before.

At sixteen, tuberculosis of the bone forced him to leave school, and he spent the next several years in bed. A later short story, “Inverno di malato,” written in 1930, draws upon his experiences in a sanatorium, and the protagonist, Girolamo, suffers, like his creator, from tuberculosis of the bone. During this long convalescence, Moravia read extensively, and, according to his essay of 1945 “Ricordo degli Indifferenti” (“Recalling Time of Indifference”), he was also already demonstrating his writing fluency. In October, 1925, he began The Indifferent Ones; by the time he finished the work, he had, in addition, written poems, short stories, and two other novels. “Cortigiana stanca,” his first publication, appeared in French in the avant-garde magazine ’900 in 1927. At the time, his sex-obsessed stories and the novel The Indifferent Ones were considered pornographic, so much so that some critics insist “Moravia” is a pseudonym Alberto Pincherle assumed after the clamorous—and scandalized—reception of the novel, which made his reputation as a leading Italian writer. Although having no basis in fact, this interpretation gives a good indication of the novel’s impact. In fact, much...

(The entire section is 885 words.)