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Moravia, Alberto (Pseudonym of Alberto Pincherle) 1907–

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Moravia is an Italian novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, and film critic. In his fiction Moravia depicts a world of bourgeois decadence, peopled with characters whose response to life is alienation and indifference. His work is noted for its unsentimental depiction of sexual relationships, stressing the unfeeling, amoral qualities of man in the modern world. Considered to be the leader of the neorealist school of writing in Italy, Moravia produces prose that is spare and colloquial. (See also CLC, Vols. 2, 7, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 25-28, rev. ed.)

Douglas Radcliff-Umstead

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 996

[The theater of the Italian futurists and Pirandello, in which] man is at the best a machine or at the least an impassive block of wood,… influenced the youthful Alberto Moravia in writing his first novel The Indifferent Ones…. The plot was consciously structured into two days, like two acts of a drama. The cast of characters was restricted to five figures. Indeed, as in a stage work, the author maintained a strict economy of words and gestures for the characters. There is an obvious theatricality about the novel. The characters move from a living-room to a dining-room as if the stage sets were shifted. Some of the characters hide behind a curtain to spy on others. Just as a crucial moment is about to be reached, a door opens and a maid enters to hinder an extreme solution. Although the scene is Rome, the city is but a backdrop for the theatrical action of the novel….

Of the main characters Cavalier Leo Merumeci is the most dynamic and resolute, crass but concrete. He holds a position with the Ministry of Justice and Mercy; the irony is transparent here as Leo is neither merciful nor just toward others but predatory. He is a petty capitalist, not a grandscale entrepreneur but a manipulator of property and a cautious stock exchange speculator. With his business affairs Leo is enthusiastically involved in the false relationships of the world. (p. 45)

Unlike the other characters Leo has no tormenting secret desire, and thus his activities are limited to an animal level. He never investigates his life as does his hesitant adversary Michele. The nonintellectual dynamism of a self-satisfied character like Leo can transform a man into a puppet. He turns on emotions like a machine…. (pp. 45-6)

[Mariagrazia is also puppet-like,] a walking grotesque mask…. The thickly powdered face, with all the vain efforts to conceal age, is both silly and indecisive. The widow never understands what is going on about her. Her behavior is childish. She struts about with a wounded sense of dignity which is ridiculous in a person of her licentious character…. Her movements are like those of a jerkily operated marionette…. It is as if Mariagrazia has no mind.

But the widow does have her value standards, those of a snob who has always led a life of ease and fears poverty…. Her children are at the most for her an extension of the widow's ego. Mariagrazia is a materialist in the low economic sense of the word. (p. 47)

Lisa's interest in Michele is born of a genuine desire to love and be loved. But it is a story-book or motion-picture type of love that she is seeking. Consequently her actions are artificial and excessively sentimental, like blowing a kiss to the young man as he leaves. (p. 48)

Lisa has fashioned a papier-mâché lover, a creature born of false illusions….

Carla looks like a badly made doll. Her room in the villa is full of ragged, left-over dolls as the widow has not had the funds to refurnish the house. Carla's development seems stunted like her room with its furniture for a little girl…. Unlike her mother, Carla is...

(The entire section contains 3436 words.)

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