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Agostino by Alberto Moravia

Agostino (1943)

by Alberto Moravia

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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» See also 3 mentions

English (5)  Catalan (2)  Finnish (1)  All languages (8)
Showing 5 of 5
Young Agostino is enjoying a summer vacation with his mother, a beautiful widow whose elegance attracts admiration he likes basking in. But that all changes when a young man begins a flirtation with Agostino's mother. Ashamed and hurt, Agostino takes up acquaintance with a bunch of boys around his age, but who have lived a very different life from his wealthy, privileged one. Their savagery and obscenity both repulses and compels him to spend more time in their world.

I don't recall anymore why I wanted to read this book; I have a dim memory of reading an article about essential books in translation to read. So when I actually got around to reading it, I didn't really have any particular expectations. The book is really more of a novella, clocking in at just a hundred pages. Somehow it still felt long in a way though; perhaps because nothing much really happens in the book. Nominally, it is a "coming of age" type story for Agostino, except that becoming a man for him simply means sexual relations, not anything else about responsibility or awareness of the world. Arguably, there is something contained within the book about class distinctions, but it is slight (and not flattering for anyone depicted). Mostly, the narrative is just full of Agostino's angst about how he's suddenly aware that his mother has a life outside of being a mother, aka that she also has sexual desire. Poor Agostino (in sarcasm).

Moravio's prose reads smoothly and evocatively, and a note from the translator puts his writing into context, explaining how Moravio was trying something new for 1940s Italy -- a break away from the classical and lyrical style based on poetry with a more realistic, colloquial bent. Still, I didn't enjoy this book all the much and I'm not sure I would recommend it, even though it was an award winner back in its day. The sexist attitude toward women in general and the mother (literally how she is referred to all the time -- the mother, with no name) in particular were off-putting. Men don't get a much better portrait, with the wild and violent boys depicted: "He found it utterly unjust that on such a sea, beneath such a sky, a boat like theirs should be so full of spite, cruelty, and malicious corruption. A boat overflowing with boys acting like monkeys, gesticulating and obscene, helmed by the blissful and bloated Saro, created between the sea and sky a sad unbelievable vision." It's not a pretty view of humanity, and it's certainly not a feel-good kind of book by any stretch. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Jun 27, 2017 |
Young Agostino's relationship to his mother comes apart as he discovers that she has interests other than him. He takes up with a young gang of toughs seemingly as a rebellion, an assertion of himself as a separate individual. But they treat him with cruelty and mock his mother. I felt that the reader was kept at a distance, unable to truly sympathize with either the mother or the son, just to view the sad predicament. ( )
  gbelik | Oct 22, 2015 |
This novella, translated from the original Italian, is a primal, deeply psychological tale of one young man's loss of innocence. While staying at the beach with his beloved mother, Agostino ' s eyes are opened to the world of sensuality and violence, of deep male drives. As a woman, I felt like I had been gifted a glimpse of the painful male passage from childhood to adulthood, and it seemed so authentic that I almost felt I was trespassing. ( )
  hemlokgang | Mar 23, 2015 |
Now we're talking. Moravia's got style!
This is a short novel. The story is simple, not even necessarily original (a Freudian coming-of-age tale). But... it was fun to read. I was immediately drawn into Agostino's world. I wanted to keep reading it.
This is style. ( )
  donato | Apr 29, 2011 |
This novel could be, according to the terse language, a precursor of the Nouveau Roman. Moravia portrays the soulscape of a thirteen years old boy.
  hbergander | Apr 4, 2011 |
Showing 5 of 5
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» Add other authors (45 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Moravia, AlbertoAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Benítez, EstherTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Berensbach, DorotheaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Blecher, WilfriedCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Canavaggia, MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dego, GiulianoIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, Michael F.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Polkunen, MirjamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tornitore, ToninoIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Nei primi giorni d'estate, Agostino e sua madre uscivano tutte le mattine sul mare in patino.
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"A thirteen-year-old boy spending the summer at a Tuscan seaside resort feels displaced in his beautiful widowed mother's affections by her cocksure new companion and strays into the company of some local young toughs and their unsettling leader, a fleshy older boatman with six fingers on each hand. Initially repelled by their squalor and brutality, repeatedly humiliated for his well-bred frailty and above all for his ingenuousness in matters of women and sex, the boy nonetheless finds himself masochistically drawn back to the gang's rough games. And yet what he has learned is too much for him to assimilate; instead of the manly calm he had hoped for he is beset by guilty curiosity and an urgent desire to sever, at any cost, the thread of troubled sensuality that binds him to his mother still. Alberto Moravia's classic and yet still startling portrait of innocence lost was written in 1941 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 sparkling new translation by Michael F. Moore, Agostino is poised to enthrall and astonish a twenty-first-century audience"--… (more)

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