From the pen of one of Italy’s most distinguished writers, these three novellas from the early 1950s are related but unfinished and were found in a suitcase several years after Moravia’s death in 1990.
All three concern the unlikely friendship between Sergio, a committed Communist and intellectual, and Maurizio, bourgeois to his well-manicured fingertips. The narratives unfold from the uneasy prewar years in Rome to the equally precarious postwar years after the fall of Fascism. Although a great admirer of Mussolini, Maurizio is essentially apathetic and apolitical, quite the opposite of his intense friend Sergio. In Version A, Sergio writes denunciatory articles for a newspaper and has long political discussions with his girlfriend, Nella, and with Maurizio, whose relationships with women are casual and short-lived. In Version B, the most psychologically brilliant of the three, Moravia explores how far Sergio is willing to go to lure Maurizio into a commitment to the Communist cause. Maurizio admits that if Sergio will persuade his girlfriend to sleep with him, the next day he will sign up with the Party. When Sergio finally embraces this scheme, he discovers that Maurizio is playing mind games and has no intention of becoming a Communist—he just wanted to see how far Sergio would go in betraying the person he loved most. In Version C, Moravia pulls a Faulknerian maneuver and recounts the story from Sergio’s point of view. This rendering of the narrative reveals more of Sergio’s commitment to a cause that Nella doesn’t buy into—and also gives more insight into the sexual tension among the three.
Unflinching in their emotional realism, these are fascinating works that reveal as much about the creative process as about friendship and Italian politics.