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Moravia once, along with Gide, was put on the Vatican Index; he considered it an ""honor."" Such individualism is remarkably evident in the gathering of essays here which cover roughly a twenty-five year span. They represent the work of a vital, exciting, and brilliant mind, and are without doubt one of the most significant European imports in a decade. Moravia's critical virtues extend in many directions, combining a highly sophisticated estheticism with an acute political senses able to move with diamond-cutting precision and yet convey unaffected warmth and an unequivocal commitment to the humanist ideal. Moravia's special blend draws on both existentialism and Marxism; but it is also steeped in the Italian tradition of ""personality"" and sensuous delight. At the same time, he is coolly aware of technological and totalitarian forces, and at one point states that since the Nazis scientifically established that ""Slavs, Jews and Gypsies are useless and...exterminated them, we shall surely see racists in other countries proving with equal rationality that, for the ends of their given society, other races of men are unnecessary, and acting accordingly."" But gloom is not the dominant note; what one finds, rather, is a stunning lucidity and balance, full of intricate and highly provocative parallels, such as Moravia's linkage of Machiavelli with Sade, of Manzoni with socialist realism, or Western-style alienation with the Communist variety. Guttuso, Verdi, Stendhal, Hemingway, and Boccacio are other subjects- and about each something original is revealed. The fine translation does render the dirty words of a quoted Belli poem with X's. Grove Press will be shocked.

Pub Date: Jan. 14th, 1965
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux