I wanted to read something different from Italy, something I wasn’t familiar with, which gave me the perfect opportunity to get myself familiar with Alberto Moravia’s work. I simply chose 1934 because I found it at a book fair for a good price, and I was not set on reading any specific book by him for this particular reading challenge, so it was a good find!
An Italian man named Lucio travels to Anacapri. On his way to Capri he sees a German woman, Beate, and he feels a real connection. Beate is traveling together with her husband, but she and Lucio shares something special. He gives her Nietzsche’s and Kleist’s books, and he has underlined some sentences with a blue pen. She underlines the sentences with a red pen, and gives the books back to him. He reads much into everything she does, and he feels like they have an unspoken pact of committing double suicide.
The year given in the title, 1934, gives away a lot on it’s own, and so does the two main character’s nationalities, German and Italian. Nazism and Fascism are on a rise in Europe, and Italian-German relations are strong. Hitler has been the leader of Germany for a short while, and Europe is changing. Add in a Russian character, and you pretty much have the political setting pieced together.
Even though Lucio has an existential crises he manages to find something larger than life, but she soon leaves. Beate’s twin sister, Trude, appears, and she has an almost magical will to live, and she loves life. Beate and Trude are simply two sides of the same coin.
I love it that Lucio is somewhat of a novelist, and I can imagine him going partly insane from time to time within his own head at least. Looking up to fantastic and highly adored authors while trying to produce a text of your own is never an easy task. Living in some sort of a constant fear of war breaking out, and wondering if there’s a point to life in general would mess up anyone’s head.
It is definitely a multilayered story, and I feel like if I would read it a second and a third time, I would find new nuances and peel off even more layers. I find the literary references interesting. This is a hard book for me to rate; I can’t say it was a fantastic book to read, but neither was it a bad one, far from it. It is a fast and easy read, but then again it’s best to be in a philosophical mood while reading it.