Esther Yi

  • culture July 17, 2014

    Agostino by Alberto Moravia

    The reader revisiting or making a first-time trip through Moravia’s works will find a useful primer in Agostino, which was published in 1944 (after being banned by Fascist censors) and is now available in a new translation from the original Italian. The novel’s slimness concentrates rather than curbs the power of Moravia’s chill and controlled prose, his stark and confident imagination, his unblinking existential preoccupations.

    When the 13-year-old protagonist of Alberto Moravia’s Agostino learns about sex for the first time, the aha-moment does not last long. He listens to a peer matter-of-factly explain the anatomical workings of intercourse, and what used to be a hunch, tucked away in a corner of Agostino’s awareness, bursts into view and demands to be reckoned with. The new knowledge is like “a bright shiny object whose splendor makes it hard to look at directly and whose shape can thus barely be detected”—a simile of typical Moravian ingenuity. Light, that well-worn symbol of enlightenment, might reveal what’s

  • syllabi October 31, 2012

    Catastrophe and Disaster

    As Hurricane Sandy prowled her way up the East Coast earlier this week, fear of her arrival bore an unmistakable whiff of anticipation. Restocking pantries and hauling out the generator took the form of dramatic ritual, and there was a sense that we were all bound together in the communion of impending catastrophe. On a global level, the prospect of annihilation has a curious way of inspiring us to pare down our priorities and possessions to only the most important. It makes us wonder, what would matter most if the human race were threatened with extinction? Below are four works that take very