Originally published in 1945, this novel about the loss of innocence shines in a new translation.
Thirteen-year-old Agostino finds himself in a precarious position, poised between childhood and adolescence. He’s a loving son to his gorgeous, widowed mother and at first is content to spend time with her on a Mediterranean beach. Eventually, however, the mother begins a flirtatious relationship with Renzo, a young man who works on the local boats. Agostino feels his mother’s attraction to Renzo and is powerless to do anything about it. Inhabiting the same space are some local neighborhood boys, used to a more rough-and-tumble—and frankly vulgar—existence. Their ribald repartee at first embarrasses and later intrigues the highly innocent Agostino, who never quite fits in with this subculture. Moravia is psychologically astute in portraying the agony of Agostino, who for the first time begins to notice his mother as a woman and, at times, a very seductive one. To escape from the tormented ambivalence he feels, he starts to hang out with the local boys, who tease and mock him. Out of Agostino’s struggle comes the realization that “he had bartered away his former innocence, not for the virile, serene condition he had aspired to but rather for a confused hybrid state in which, without any form of recompense, the old repulsions were compounded by the new.” At the end of the novella, nothing is resolved for the moment since Agostino, after all, remains a 13-year-old—and would anyone seriously want to return to that age?
Perceptive and razor-sharp insights into the agony of adolescence.