Two Friends, p.27Alberto Moravia
A REDISCOVERED SUITCASE
The pages were found in a suitcase which was discovered, in poor condition, in the spring of 1996. According to Moravia’s heirs and the directors of the Fondo, it was in the basement of Moravia’s home on the Lungotevere della Vittoria. Another suitcase—which can be seen in photographs taken by Serafino Amato in the special edition of the Quaderni del Fondo Moravia (journal of the Fondo Moravia) dedicated to the exhibit Moravia and Rome (November 2003, pp. 2–3, 201–203), had been discovered, in better condition, a few months earlier, in September 1995. The two suitcases contained various pages written by the author, including materials relating to several novels, such as La ciociara (Two Women), La noia (Boredom), and L’attenzione (Attention), as well as stories which were later included in Racconti romani (Roman Tales), Nuovi racconti romani (New Roman Tales), and L’automa (The Fetish). Thus all of these papers date from the fifties and early sixties, and certainly before 1963, the year Moravia moved out of his home on the Via dell’Oca and into his new home on the Lungotevere. It is possible that the writer, or someone else, filled the suitcases during the move in a somewhat disorderly fashion, packing recent and relevant texts and documents, not to be confused with material Moravia was actively working on at the time. It is also possible that these papers remained in the suitcases, untouched, from 1963 until they were discovered thirty years later.
This may explain their survival. As has been noted by several sources, the writer was known to destroy his preparatory materials once a book had been published. We recall the account of Sebastian Schadhauser (a German sculptor and friend of Moravia’s), transcribed from a video at the Fondo Moravia. Schadhauser accompanied Moravia on several trips during the seventies and eighties, and assisted him during his convalescence from a hernia:
During that period I often lit the fireplace in order to burn manuscripts. When [Moravia] finished writing something, he was in the habit of burning the manuscripts. He didn’t keep manuscripts, he burned them. Also the corrected proofs. When he received proofs from a newspaper, he would correct them, and then when they came back from the editor, he would burn them. There is a fireplace in the corner of his house on the Lungotevere della Vittoria. It’s set at a diagonal, like this. He would light a fire there and burn papers. During that period, I did it because he couldn’t get up. But he burned all of his manuscripts. I don’t think there are many manuscripts in circulation. He had this habit. For him, the finished work was the published work. The rest, he burned.
Up to the present, no other drafts or notes related to Moravia’s novels from before the seventies have been found; there are only a few clean proofs, kept by his editor, which reflect the final version of the work (there is one typescript of La romana (The Woman of Rome) and one of La noia). The situation with the more recent novels is somewhat different; the Fondo Moravia has several drafts that survived in the writer’s home. Of course, it is possible that in the future other lost typescripts or manuscripts will be found, especially if they were given by the author to friends, relatives, or editors, as in the case of a typescript of Il disprezzo (Contempt), that was discovered in 2002. This was an almost final draft of the novel, and it is now in the collection of the Fondo Moravia. But until now the only texts that have survived from the writer’s office are those discovered in the suitcase at the house on Lungotevere della Vittoria, which escaped the flames thanks to the vicissitudes of the move.
In order to understand the dimensions of Moravia’s directive and to evaluate the typescript pages that have survived, we must pause to reflect on the very small number of pages that have been discovered.
It is of course impossible to quantify the total number of typescript pages produced by the author over the course of preparing a novel, but based on the meager resources—letters and interviews—to be found in the “Notes on the Texts” in Bompiani’s Classici edition of Opere complete di Alberto Moravia (Complete Works), volumes 1–4, we could estimate the number to be around one thousand pages, over two thousand in the case of the longer novels. For example, the typescript pages relating to the composition of La ciociara, La noia, and L’attenzione found in the two suitcases represent only a small fraction of the total preparatory materials relating to those works (about a fifth). This would mean that the 258 pages relating to the three versions of this unpublished novel would have been only one small part of the complete preparatory work. If they represent early versions of the novel, that would mean that there was still much work to be done before the completion of the final version.
The pages found in the two suitcases were immediately handed over to the Fondo Alberto Moravia, which was new at the time. The Fondo, in turn, passed them on to the Gabinetto Vieusseux in Florence (directed by Enzo Siciliano) in September of 1995 and April 1996. There, they were numbered, indexed, and partially restored. In April 1999 they were returned to the Fondo Moravia, where they still reside, and where we were able to refer to them during the preparation of the multivolume “Classici Bompiani” edition.
Even if further study of these pages relating to the story of Sergio and Maurizio might have suggested the possibility of an alternative order, we decided to keep the original numeration provided by the archive because it documents the order in which the pages were originally found (in the suitcase). If in fact this order was determined by Moravia himself, we can derive useful information from it, as we will see, in the task of identifying the texts.
THE “DUE AMICI” TYPESCRIPTS
Among the pages found in the first, more battered, suitcase were those related to an unfinished project. In the absence of a title, they are identified in the Fondo Moravia under the heading “Sergio Maurizio.” For this edition, we decided to use the title I due amici (Two friends). These pages date from the period 1951–1952 and are the oldest example we now have of Moravia’s compositional methods. The aforementioned typescript for La romana (The Woman of Rome), in the collection of the late Valentino Bompiani, is different: it is in a completed draft, ready to be be sent out to readers.
Before reconstructing the biographical and narrative context, we must describe these texts carefully, pointing out the details which are most useful for dating them and determining their internal order.
The first group of pages, which we have called Version A, consists of sixty-two typescript pages, unnumbered and unmarked by the author, plus nine more abandoned, rewritten, or substituted by him. According to the current numeration in the archive, this corresponds to pages 162–225 and 231–37 in Dossier 6 (Incartamento 6). Many pages, now restored, had deteriorated over time and include lacunae, especially near the margins.
Regarding the text, there are frequent typewritten corrections but none by hand, with the exception of page 214. The narrative sequence, which can easily be reconstructed despite a few lacunae which we will discuss later, is the following: pages 231, 162–215, 221–22, and 216–20. However, it is difficult to establish a date for the composition of these pages, because there are no material clues nor clues within the text itself—except for a generic reference to post-conflict events. The only clues can be derived from the order in which the pages were assembled and conserved within the suitcase; for example, page 161, a discarded or misplaced page (found) near a typescript identifiable as “II Monumento” (see Opere, volume 3, and in particular page 1118), a story that was published in the newspaper Il Mondo on March 24, 1951. Of course, this proximity does not allow us to date the typescript, in that it may well be accidental and may have occurred at a later date, but it may possibly indicate a terminus post quem, if we were to imagine a progressive accumulation of pages on the writer’s desk. In general, Version A seems to date from the period after March 1951. Another element, which we will consider later, is the obvious connection between this text and themes and characters in Versions B and C.
The missing sections comprise, for the most part, the beginning and the end of the text. The pages—or page—containing the true incipit
[…] The opportunity arose e
There is another missing passage between typescript pages 231 and 162. The passage probably comprises a single missing page, which in all likelihood contained the conversation between Emilia and Sergio, the outcome of which is described on page 162.
The story proceeds from there onward without interruptions for fifty-four typescript pages (162–215), which constitute the main body of the text that has survived. After page 215, one or more pages are missing. The two brief remaining sections (pages 221–22 and 216–20) have a clear, if not completely identifiable, connection to the earlier scenes and themes. In the first (pages 221–22), the two characters are still in the park of the Museo Borghese. This connects the scene to preceding events; we can hypothesize that there is perhaps only a single typescript page missing between pages 215 and 221. The final section (pages 216–20), in which Sergio accompanies the young girl to her new lodgings, clearly takes place later. What is more difficult to understand, because of the missing pages, is the scene in which the two characters shop for a bathing suit—perhaps they were planning to go swimming in the Tevere, given the August heat.
There are a few clear breaks in the text—indicated with empty spaces or typewritten symbols, demarcating sections, however provisional these may be (on pages 164, 188, and 214). Based on these breaks, we can hypothesize regarding the basic structure of the narrative:
I. (pp. 231, 162–64): Maurizio breaks off relations with Emilia and Sergio.
II. (pp. 165–70): Sergio in the years leading up to the war
III. (pp. 170–88): the war years and the fall of Fascism
IV. (pp. 189–214): the visit to Maurizio’s house; the air raid
V. (pp. 215, 221–22, 216–20): the meeting with Nella
From a narrative standpoint, one can surmise that the first two sections are a kind of prologue, in which Maurizio and Sergio are presented to the reader and the story of their friendship before the war is recounted. The actual story begins in 1943, when Sergio is faced with the choice between taking a political stand and leaving Rome, between Federico’s proposal and Maurizio’s. It continues with the visit to Maurizio’s house and the scene in which Sergio and Maurizio meet Nella.
At the bottom of page 185 we see the only compositional note present on these typescripts: “He goes to Maurizio’s villa, decadence, dog and cat, Maurizio’s family.” This note clearly indicates what is to come in the following pages.
The second typescript consists of eighty-seven unnumbered pages. The archive subsequently numbered the pages, according to the order in which they were found: pages 55–66, 68, 70–74, 76–121, and 123–43, all from Dossier 6 (Incartamento 6). Among the tranches of Moravia’s project, the second is the most complete. Most of the corrections are inserted by typewriter, very few by hand (only on pages 62 and 105).
A few visual markings in the text clearly indicate narrative breaks. They consist of either typewritten symbols or empty spaces on pages 62, 84, 90, 108, 118, 131, and 140. The following structure is revealed:
I. (pp. 55–62): Sergio and Lalla
II. (pp. 62–84): Sergio and Lalla visit Maurizio’s house.
III. (pp. 84–90): dialogue between Sergio and Lalla
IV. (pp. 90–108): Sergio and Maurizio’s pact regarding Lalla
V. (pp. 109–18): the party at Moroni’s
VI. (pp. 118–31): the drive to Olevano
VII. (pp. 131–40): events at Olevano
VIII. (140–43): Sergio and Maurizio’s return to Rome
Regarding the dates of composition of this version, we have the following clues:
1) Two of the pages were reused by Moravia and contain, on the back, traces of earlier texts, which can be dated (pages 96 and 115). Typescript page 96 contains a brief narrative note on the back, which, due to its format, appears to be part of a movie script (“An investor visits a textile factory; the owner of the factory is hoping for an investment. During the visit, the group”). As we will see, we can hypothesize that this note refers to the screenplay for a film by the French director Claude Autant-Lara, but we cannot exclude the possibility that it comes from an updated adaptation of Giovanni Verga’s story “La lupa,” which Moravia completed in 1953 for the director Alberto Lattuada. According to one critic, this consisted of “a complete revision of the narrative material, containing a new character, invented by Moravia: the owner of the Manifattura Tabacchi” (Agnoletti, 1953).
2) Two lines appear on the reverse of page 115 (“more and more, and everything was useless because the more I spent, the more she said I was stingy and that I hated to spend money, and on and on”). These lines belong to a draft of the “Roman tale” “Sciupone” (“Spendthrift”), which was published in the Corriere della sera on April 18, 1953 (see Opere, volume 3, page 519). Since Moravia usually completed his stories not long before they were published in the newspaper, this page gives us a terminus post quem: the writing on the reverse of the page cannot date from before April 1952. This is perhaps the most certain and significant clue we have regarding the dating of this text.
3) Two letters intermixed with the pages of Version B probably reflect the accumulation of papers on Moravia’s desk (pages 75 and 112). Page 75 contains an invitation to an exhibition, written on letterhead from the Centro Nazionale di Studi Umanistici di Roma and dated May 15, 1952. Page 112 is a typewritten letter dated May 16, 1952, and addressed to “Riccio,” probably Attilio Riccio. In the letter Moravia discusses the contract for a screenplay (perhaps the one that appears on page 96).
4) Two pages (67 and 69) belong to Version C but are mixed in with the pages from Version B. This too is an important clue, because the intentional placement of these two pages among the pages of the second draft confirms the chronological precedence of Version B (written in the third person) with respect to Version C (written in the first person). In Version C, Moravia returns to characters and situations from Version B (such as the arrival at Maurizio’s villa on page 68 and the description of Maurizio on page 70), but he leaves pages 67 and 69 unfinished, mixed in with the pages of Version B, and decides to write them again. The new pages are placed in Version C (273 and 272*). (To avoid confusion, the pages from Dossier 4 are indicated with an asterisk; the pages without this symbol are all from Dossier 6.)
It appears that the typescript of Version B may date from the period April–May of 1952 and was subsequently used as a draft for Version C.
The third draft, which we have called C, consists of eighty-two pages, plus twenty-two additional pages abandoned or rewritten at this stage of composition. These are clusters of unordered pages whose narrative continuity can be easily reconstructed: pages 226–29, 230, 238–41, and 242–96 from Dossier 6 and pages 260*–74*, 238*, 237*. 236*, 235*. and 234* from Dossier 4. There are only a few corrections, written in pen on (pages 229, 255, 293, and 273*). Pages 144, 148–60, and 217*–33* were all discarded by the
There are very few clues to the dates of composition. The draft includes pages from another typescript (pages 145–47), that of the Roman tale “Il pensatore” (“The Thinker”), which was published in the Corriere della sera on May 4, 1962. But it is impossible to pinpoint the moment at which the pages were mixed together. However, since Version C was written after Version B and before Moravia began work on Il disprezzo (Contempt), as we will discuss, the composition of this version can be dated sometime between May and July 1952.
A few breaks in the text, which we have preserved, indicate breaks in the narration, some of which were probably temporary. The breaks are indicated with blank space or typed symbols and occur on typescript pages 229, 240, 249, 259, and 268*. Page 259 suggests a continuation, after the final line, “I would have liked to s
I. (pp. 226–29): the “first important event”: Sergio’s inscription into the Communist Party
II. (pp. 230, 238–40): the “second important event”: the encounter with Nella
III. (pp. 241–49): life with Nella
IV. (pp. 249–59): the encounter with Maurizio
V. (pp. 260–96 and 260*–68*): the party at Maurizio’s house
VI. (pp. 268*–74*, 238*. 237*. 236*. 235*, and 234*): Sergio’s conversation with Maurizio
Again, this is only a provisional breakdown. If we consider the structure of Moravia’s novels from this period, we can imagine that the author intended to include a prologue, distinguishable as such from the start, in which the narrator would illustrate the “two important events” in his life during the period after the end of the war; in other words, Sergio’s inscription into the Communist Party and his encounter with Nella. This would be followed by the first real narrative event; in other words, the “first chapter,” in which Sergio describes Maurizio’s invitation and the party.
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