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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Unity of time, place, and action: in Alberto Moravia's Bitter Honeymoon

Another writer I've heard of for many years but have never read, so far as I know, Alberto Moravia, and if his story in a European Stories collection I've been returning to from time to time, Bitter Honeymoon, is a fair sample of his work I will read more of him - an excellent story of the sort we rarely see today, in that observes the classic unities of time, place, and action (one day in the life of a couple, on their honeymoon, obviously, on what I think is the Amalfi Coast) - the story involves only three characters, the couple and a friend of the wife's whom they run across - and yet it involves a world of thought and feeling, and examines two of the great themes of literature (and life for that matter), sex and politics: they couple is hiking to a remote lighthouse, the man has been to the site recently and found it very beautiful but now it's in the dry season and the opening description makes it sound very foreboding and unpleasant, and the wife shares these thoughts: so we see the tension and separation between the two, and also the man's failure to get his new wife to share in his past experiences: we see him immediately as more worldly and experienced, but possibly misjudging  - and himself, and this plays out further as we learn that they did not have sex on the wedding night, that she is a virgin and afraid of sex, and he begins to wonder if the marriage was a mistake, if they really do love one another - somehow the subject of politics comes up and we learn that she is a committed communist and he is indifferent - so we see again a chasm between them; the situation builds to the 2nd night of the honeymoon, when he tries very awkwardly to have sex with her and then does something quite odd and violent - I won't spoil it for you - and at last they unite - but as with all great stories, at least since Joyce, the ending remains somewhat open and if not ambiguous at least unresolved: the tensions in their relationship are real, it seems unlikely that the marriage will be a happy one, and we also wonder about the political overtones: not that the two are "symbolic" of great political movements but there is a way in which their relationship plays out the dynamics or social and political tension in time of unrest.

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