Salambo Blog

Living in Rome

A writer’s house

The writer Alberto Moravia was a major figure in 20th century Rome. Not only was he one of Italy’s most popular writers, but he was also a presence in the daily life of Roman residents with his weekly column in L’Espresso magazine. His debut novel, Gli Indifferenti brought him instant recognition in 1929 when he was only 22. He carried on his literary career with huge successes such as The Conformist (1951) Racconti Romani or Roman Tales (1954) Boredom (1960) and Contempt (1963), most of which were made into films.

Portrait of Alberto Moravia in his house on Lungotevere della Vittoria

He was also an avid traveller, ceaselessly discovering new countries and writing about them. He travelled to India together with one of his best friends, the film director, poet and writer, Pier Paolo Pasolini, who was passionate about the Asian sub-continent. Moravia himself preferred Africa.  In the travel account Pasolini wrote following their trip to India, l’Odore dell’India (the smell of India), Moravia has a strong presence. Pasolini, who was 14 years his junior, was murdered in 1975.

The Roman appartment where Moravia lived from 1963 until his death in 1990 has now been turned into a little museum which can be visited by appointment. Everything there is as it was: his desk and typewriter, his books, paintings and the African masks he collected.

Moravia's desk and typewriter

The appartment is quite modest, simple, with no ornaments apart from the many books and paintings which fill up the space. I personally found the atmosphere quite cold, and didn’t feel like I was entering into somebody’s special world. Is it because the place has been empty for 20 years, or is it because it reflects his character and personnality? Or is it my own sensitivity? Maybe….I don’t find much warmth in his writing, and I am not a big fan of his novels, so it is not surprising that I don’t feel at home in his own appartment. Visiting it doesn’t reveal much about his character and personnality as a man; it is overall quite static, even if there is a certain harmony about the place.

In the last few years of his life in the 1980s, Moravia became an engaged MEP, obsessed with nuclear arms. He regularly spoke against nuclear weapons during European Parliament’s plenary sessions in Strasbourg. He died unexpectedly from heart failure in his house in 1990 at the age of 83.

For more information: casa de Moravia

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