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Agostino (New York Review Books Classics)by Alberto Moravia
Synopses & Reviews
Thirteen-year-old Agostino is spending the summer at a Tuscan seaside resort with his beautiful widowed mother. When she takes up with a cocksure new companion, Agostino, feeling ignored and unloved, begins hanging around with a group of local young toughs. Though repelled by their squalor and brutality, and repeatedly humiliated for his weakness and ignorance when it comes to women and sex, the boy is increasingly, masochistically drawn to the gang and its rough games. He finds himself unable to make sense of his troubled feelings. Hoping to be full of manly calm, he is instead beset by guilty curiosity and an urgent desire to sever, at any cost, the thread of troubled sensuality that binds him to his mother.
Alberto Moravia’s classic, startling portrait of innocence lost was written in 1942 but rejected by Fascist censors and not published until 1944, when it became a best seller and secured the author the first literary prize of his career. Revived here in a new translation by Michael F. Moore, Agostino is poised to captivate a twenty-first-century audience.
"Moravia's novel is neither among the great Italian modernist's most famous works (The Conformist and Contempt became classic films, by Bernardo Bertolucci and Jean-Luc Godard, respectively), nor, at 100 pages, his longest. But this dreamy, haunting study of a young boy's painful initiation into sexual consciousness is so psychologically rich and vividly imagined — in Moore's plangent translation — that it resembles a painting as much as a novella. Young Agostino is on holiday on the coast with the mother he worships. But when she takes a lover, a dejected Agostino seeks acceptance in a group of wild children whose life consists of cruel games and petty crimes. The only adult in their midst is the 12-fingered boatman (and presumptive pederast) Sandro, whose advances toward Agostino call into question the innocence of the young boy's desires for his mother's attention. Determined to free himself from the new obsessions that trouble his summer days, Agostino sets his sights on an ill-conceived salvation — that is, the approximation of manhood offered by a local brothel — to reconcile the warring passions that have interrupted his idyll. Like the best of NYRB Classics' European repertoire, this book both rewards admirers of its illustrious author while providing an entry point for curious readers. Either way, the twinned landscapes of frustrated Oedipal longing and the Fascist-era coastline evoke a tainted beauty both sensuous and violent. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Alberto Moravia (1907–1990), the child of a wealthy family, was raised at home because of illness. He published his first novel, The Time of Indifference, at the age of twenty-three. Banned from publishing under Mussolini, he emerged after World War II as one of the most admired and influential of twentieth-century Italian writers. In addition to Agostino, New York Review Classics publishes Moravia’s novels Boredom and Contempt.
Michael F. Moore is the chair of the PEN/Heim translation fund. His translations from the Italian include, most recently, Live Bait by Fabio Genovesi, The Drowned and The Saved by Primo Levi, and Quiet Chaos by Sandro Veronesi. He is currently working on a new translation of the nineteenth-century classic The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni.
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