Friday, February 12, 2016

Review: "Agostino" by Alberto Moravia

Agostino by Alberto Moravia is a quietly devastating short novel about innocence lost and the beginnings of what I take to be a meek life filled with disappointment and self-loathing. I don’t know about the political implications of this novel, although it says on the back cover that it was banned by Fascist Italy on it publication, so I will not discuss that so much as the story itself, which is deeply symbolic and relatable even across timelines and cultures. It is a story of one young boy’s indoctrination into a life of solitude. We sense, at least I did, that there is something more to this short 102 page novella, that it is only the beginning of an even sadder story of missed connections and a habitual failure to understand and deal with the intricacies of growing up. We first see thirteen year old Agostino on a boat with his mom and a much younger man who she has picked on their Tuscan vacation. We don’t know much about them, except that Agostino’s father is dead and that he and his mother are well off. Agostino is chided about his naiveté by his mother and her new friend, so he goes off and finds sanctuary in a group of poor local boys, who engage in sadistic bouts of hazing with the young Agostino, which eventually leads to somber ending and Agostino’s entrance into a sad life. There really isn’t a lot of action, minus one scuffle between Agostino and a boy named Berto, but a lot of book’s best scenes are of ones of dark emotional revelation, especially during the end scene, where Agostino’s nocturnal journey ends in an expected betrayal and his acceptance of his once and future place in life. Like all really good short novels, this one embeds itself deep in the reader’s mind despite the short amount of time you spend on it. 
Rating: 4/5

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