Two Friends

Two Friends

by Alberto Moravia
     
 

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In this set of novellas, a few facts are constant. Sergio is a young intellectual, poor and proud of his new membership in the Communist Party. Maurizio is handsome, rich, successful with women, and morally ambiguous. Sergio’s young, sensual lover becomes collateral damage in the struggle between these two men. All three of these unfinished stories, found

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Overview

In this set of novellas, a few facts are constant. Sergio is a young intellectual, poor and proud of his new membership in the Communist Party. Maurizio is handsome, rich, successful with women, and morally ambiguous. Sergio’s young, sensual lover becomes collateral damage in the struggle between these two men. All three of these unfinished stories, found packed in a suitcase after Alberto Moravia’s death, share this narrative premise. But from there, each story unfolds in a unique way. The first patiently explores the slow unfurling of Sergio’s resentment toward Maurizio. The second reveals the calculated bargain Maurizio offers in exchange for his conversion to Sergio’s beloved Communism. And the third switches dramatically to the first person, laying bare Sergio’s conflicted soul.
   Anyone interested in literature will relish the opportunity to watch Moravia at work, tinkering with his story and working at it from three unique perspectives.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this unfinished novella, discovered in a suitcase in 1996, Moravia (1907–1990) offers three strikingly different portraits of a friendship poisoned by political fanaticism, unfolding as three variant drafts of the same story set in Rome after the fall of Fascism. Sergio, a poor, bitter intellectual, is both drawn toward and repelled by his wealthy friend Maurizio. Consumed by rivalry and feelings of inferiority, Sergio is determined to persuade Maurizio to join the Communist Party. In turn, Maurizio seeks to undermine Sergio's moral smugness by coaxing him into strategies that are by turns brutal and humiliating, and using Sergio's besotted girlfriend as an unwitting pawn. Through Sergio and Maurizio's ideological competition, Moravia exposes the savagery and pettiness beneath their noble ideals. It is a world in which every personal encounter doubles as a political act, bleached of its emotional relevance and human meaning, its tone and existential disarray reminiscent of Kundera's Unbearable Lightness of Being. Because Moravia often burned early drafts of his finished works, this book offers a rare glimpse into his process, the evolution of schematic characters into realized beings, and the construction of a disturbing allegory about romance, passion, and politics gone terribly awry. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
“A fascinating glimpse of how Moravia’s writing evolved…In Two Friends, Moravia links a human drama to the struggle between Communism and Fascism for Italy’s heart and soul . . . . [and] there is something of Marcello Mastroianni in Moravia’s protagonists: they present an endless series of self-loathing, conflicted men who aspire to make art or take some form of decisive action, but who instead are thwarted and trapped by their own lack of nerve.” —Rachel Donadio, New York Times Book Review

“The memory of desire underscores Alberto Moravia’s Two Friends…each a different perspective on an indelibly vivid—and perhaps autobiographical—love triangle involving an aristocrat and an impoverished film critic in Rome at the close of World War II.” —Vogue.com

“Moravia offers three strikingly different portraits of a friendship poisoned by political fanaticis…its tone and existential disarray [are] reminiscent of Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being…a rare glimpse into [Moravia’s] process, the evolution of schematic characters into realized beings, and the construction of a disturbing allegory about romance, passion, and politics gone terribly awry.” —Publishers Weekly

“Unflinching in their emotional realism, these are fascinating works that reveal as much about the creative process as about friendship and Italian politics.” —Kirkus Reviews

“It’s telling that Jean-Luc Godard adapted some of Moravia’s novels into films, including Contempt, and readers who enjoyed those works will appreciate this publication.” —Library Journal

Readers are offered an extraordinary view of [Moravia’s] unique literary process as his characters come to life and he builds a disturbing story of politics, romance, and passion gone terribly wrong.” —Italian Tribune

Library Journal
This work from renowned Italian author Moravia is not a novel. In fact, it is not even a set of three novellas, as the back cover announces. The manuscript pages, probably written in 1951–52, were found in a suitcase after Moravia's death in 1990. The three unfinished stories, all about a single friendship, were then patched together to create a cohesive narrative. In the first part, "Version A," the two friends of the title, Sergio, a poor immigrant, and Maurizio, a bourgeois Roman, fight over a girl and then lose touch, though Sergio misses his friend dearly. In "Version B," Sergio and Maurizio fight a battle of wits. Desperate to convert his rich friend to communism, Sergio proposes a sinister trade: his girlfriend for Maurizio's party membership. In "Version C," the only first-person narrative, we hear Sergio's struggle to accept his poverty and return his girlfriend's relentless love. VERDICT Full and fascinating portraits emerge of two men—one obsessed with both overcoming and possessing his poverty and the other obsessed with maintaining appearances despite his desires. It's telling that Jean-Luc Godard adapted some of Moravia's novels into films, including Contempt, and readers who enjoyed those works will appreciate this publication.—Stephen Morrow, Columbus, OH
Kirkus Reviews

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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590513361
Publisher:
Other Press, LLC
Publication date:
08/16/2011
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
5.38(w) x 8.54(h) x 0.96(d)

Read an Excerpt

The woman, a widow, lived alone in her tiny apartment. Maurizio usually went to see her in the evenings. During the day he kept his old habits and often saw Sergio. The woman, who was jealous and did not completely trust Maurizio, often subtly reproached him about his friendship with Sergio. She was a conventional woman, and in her eyes, poverty was the worst possible defect a person could have. In her opinion, Maurizio, who was so much wealthier than Sergio, should associate only with his equals. Moreover, in her opinion Sergio was not a true friend and attached himself to Maurizio only because of his wealth. How could Maurizio not see this? And on, and on. The woman, who was German by birth, concealed her hostility toward Sergio; in fact, she always affected a sickeningly sweet manner in his presence. But she often said to Maurizio: “I’m sure that if I made eyes at your dear friend, he would not think twice about betraying you.” Though Maurizio was convinced that this was not true, and was sure of Sergio’s loyalty, he did not vigorously protest because, deep down, these insinuations were convenient to him.

Meet the Author

Alberto Moravia, born in Rome in 1907, was one of the greatest Italian writers of the twentieth century. Moravia started his career as a journalist for several major Italian newspapers and magazines. His acclaimed novels include The Woman of Rome, The Conformist, Contempt, Two Women, and Conjugal Love (Other Press), and several have been turned into films by Bernardo Bertolucci and Jean-Luc Godard. In 1952 Moravia received the Strega Prize, Italy’s most prestigious literary award, for the best work of prose fiction by an Italian author. Later in life, he entered politics and represented Italy in the European Parliament from 1984 until his death in 1990.
 
Marina Harss studied comparative literature and translation at Harvard and New York University. Her translations include Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Stories from the City of God (Other Press), stories in The Forbidden Stories of Marta Veneranda by Sonia Rivera-Valdes, and Alberto Moravia’s Conjugal Love (Other Press). Her translations have also appeared in The Latin American Review, Bomb, and Brooklyn Rail.

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