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.
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.
Excerpted from Two Friends by Alberto Moravia. Copyright © 2011 by Alberto Moravia. Excerpted by permission of Other Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
About Marina Harss
Marina Harss translations include For Solo Violin (Per Vionlino Solo), a war memoir by Aldo Zargani, and stories in The Forbidden Stories of Marta Veneranda, by Sonia Rivera-Vald. Her translations have also appeared in Bomb, Brooklyn Rail, and Autadafe. She is a researcher at The New Yorker, and lives in New York City.
“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