I’m not sure how the devil I got into Alberto Moravia. I think the trend started in the Ocean Beach Public Library, where I borrowed a Perma-Bound copy of The Conformist, probably the Italian’s most popular piece of writing.
Or maybe it was before that, hidden in the Regenstein stacks, where I didn’t borrow but pilfered two Moravia novels: Time of Indifference and The Woman of Rome. I read the former in fervent rapture, but the latter was loaned to my father indefinitely and, to this day, remains only a title with some pique to it.
From the depths of the Regenstein stacks I also snatched the first edition of Bought and Sold, a collection of short stories that I mostly read while sitting on porcelain.
I remember reading the first few shorts and wondering if the remaining thirty would also be written by female protagonists in the first-person.
With each new story I read, my suspicions were confirmed, the lot of them making it clear from the shove-off that a woman was going to be writing about herself.
The way Moravia writes about his women from a woman’s perspective interested me as much then as it did yesterday, when I reread the first six shorts in Bought and Sold while waiting in the Ft Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport.
I came across this quote in the sixth, “Paradise”, which was also published in Playboy Magazine:
The Young nun, at this point, thinking perhaps that she was fulfilling the wish of the elderly one, took hold of the edge of my cloak and made as if to draw it over my stomach and my chest, which were, indeed, half naked. But I stopped her and cried out excitedly: ‘It’s not I who should cover myself, it’s you who should uncover yourself. Show your chest, your stomach, your behind. Throw away those black veils. Show yourself naked. Are flowers covered, trees, horses, mountains? You talk of God and then you hide yourself from his sight. Now I’m going to uncover you, yes, I’m going to tear off all those ugly black veils.’
Travellers checked-in their bags and passed through security. I sat on a bench inside a beam of sunlight, warm and safe from the airport chill, and mulled this passage.
It made sense to me, the kind of sense that I can follow. Not that I endorse nudity or promiscuity, but why are the people of Organized Religion, these so-called vessels of holiness, unreasonably enshrouded?
Why are they so different from flowers, trees, horses, and mountains?
What do these religious uniforms stand for? Why do they remind me of the military with their artillery and epaulets?