Magazine article World Literature Today

Agostino

Magazine article World Literature Today

Agostino

Article excerpt

Alberto Moravia. Agostino. Michael F. Moore, tr. New York. New York Review Books. 2014. isbn 978- 1590177235

Alberto Moravia (1907-1990) is a writer who deserves to be more widely read than he is these days. The author of countless books depicting the Italian experience during and after World War II, Moravia was a giant of modern Italian literature. The latest of his neglected classics to be retranslated into English is Agostino. It is the third novel of his to be retranslated and published by New York Review Books following Boredom and Contempt. First published in 1944 but written in 1942, Agostino failed to pass muster with the Fascist censors.

The plot of Agostino is straightforward: a thirteen-year-old boy is on summer holiday with his widowed mother. Each day the boy takes his mother out in a rowboat. When the boy's mother begins to engage in a relationship with a young man she meets on the beach, Agostino feels neglected and abandoned. In order to fill the void leftby his mother, and perhaps to get back at her in some way, he takes up with a ragged group of boys and their suspect elder companion, Saro, a lifeguard at the beach. The reader should not mistake the simplicity of the plot for an underdeveloped or pedestrian narrative. Agostino is replete with all the themes so central to Moravia's work: conjugal love, possible incest, transgression, and lost innocence, to name a few. In just over one hundred pages, Moravia is able to explore the painful coming-of-age of a boy who discovers that his mother is a woman first and a parent second. …

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