Thursday, August 7, 2014

Agostino by Alberto Moravia

A boy and his widowed mother spend a summer at the Tuscan seaside in Alberto Moravia's novella Agostino. It's a contemporary classic with a slow burn, awarded Italy's Corriere Lombardo literary prize in 1945. I read the new English translation by Michael Moore, published by New York Review Books.

Moravia's spare style is rhythmic and easy to read.
"[Agostino] rowed with deep pleasure on the smooth, diaphanous, early-morning sea, and his mother, sitting in front of him, would speak to him softly, as joyful and serene as the sea and sky, as if he were a man rather than a thirteen-year-old boy."
Ignorant of all things sexual and confused by his nascent infatuation with his mother, Agostino gets an abrupt education from a rough group of local boys. Once innocence is lost, it's gone for good. Moravia creates a dreamy chiaroscuro by playing Agostino's sense of a hidden adult world against the bright glare of sunny days at the beach. A beautifully stark novel.

Readalikes: Bonjour Tristesse (Francoise Sagan); A Little Wanting Song (Cath Cowley); and Love Falls (Esther Freud).

No comments: