Short summary - Gli indifferenti - Alberto Moravia

Italy literature summaries - 2023

Short summary - Gli indifferenti
Alberto Moravia

Italy, twenties of the XX century.

Three days in the life of five people: an elderly lady, Mariagrazia, the mistress of a declining villa, her children, Michele and Carla, Leo, Mariagrazia's old lover, Lisa, her friend. Conversations, dates, thoughts...

Of all five, one Leo is satisfied with life and says that if he happened to be born again, he would like to be "exactly the same and bear the same name - Leo Merumechi." Leo is alien to repentance, longing, remorse, dissatisfaction with himself. His only desire is to enjoy life. Carla's youth arouses in him unbridled lust, which he, without hesitation, is ready to satisfy almost in front of his former mistress in her own house. Here, however, he has no luck: trying to spur Carla's sensuality and give her courage, he so diligently pumps her with champagne that at the decisive moment the poor thing simply starts to feel sick. And he immediately rushes to Lisa, another former mistress, and when she rejects his harassment, he tries to seize her by force. This self-satisfied vulgar man, pouring out flat witticisms and teachings, almost despises Mariagracia, even to Carla, whom he seduces so persistently, feels neither love nor tenderness. To top it all off, Leo Merumechi is dishonest - he runs Mariagrazia's affairs and robs her family without a twinge of conscience.

Mariagrazia is languishing with jealousy, she feels that Leo has not had the same feelings for her for a long time, but does not see the true reason for the cooling - his passion for Carla. In her life there is nothing but a relationship with her lover - no interests, no responsibilities. She now and then arranges the stupidest scenes of jealousy, not embarrassed by children who have long been aware that Leo is something more than a friend of the house. The most amazing thing about this woman is her absolute blindness. She seems to refuse to perceive reality, does not see that the children have become strangers, turns a blind eye to Leo's rudeness and cruelty, still manages to consider herself a seductive beauty, and Leo is "the kindest person in the world." Her jealousy is directed at Lisa, and no assurances from her friend can convince her of anything. And yet, in the wretched spiritual world of Mariagrazia, in a tasteless combination of stupidity with sentimentality, there is a place for spontaneity and impulsiveness, and her “flabby trusting heart” is capable of some semblance of love and suffering.

Carla is weighed down by the meaninglessness of existence and would like to "change her life at any cost", even at the cost of a relationship with her mother's lover, who, in essence, is indifferent to her and even sometimes disgusting. Unlike her mother, she has no illusions about Leo, but life in her parents' house, where "habit and boredom always lie in wait," depresses her. She suffers from the fact that every day she sees the same thing and nothing changes in life. Her mother and brother are also indifferent to her - the only time when her mother tries to seek solace from her, Carla feels only embarrassment. True, she has some spiritual doubts about a possible connection with Leo, but not because she takes away her mother’s favorite toy, but because of her own indecision and lack of will. But after all, she does not know another way to "start a new life", just as she does not know what this life should be like. Alluring visions appear in Carla's head, because Leo can give her so much: a car, jewelry, travel, and yet this is not the reason for her decision to give herself to him. In reality, she simply succumbs to his pressure. But a vague need for love lives in her soul, and when, during the first date with Leo, a misunderstanding arises in his house related to the note of the same Leo, Carla involuntarily presents him with a story about a fictitious lover who alone loves and understands her. And the date itself gives rise to dual feelings in the girl: natural sensuality takes its toll, but Carla does not receive either tenderness or consolation from her lover. After a night of confusion and self-pity, morning comes, fears disappear, soberly assessing what happened, Carla, with some disappointment, understands what her new life will actually be like. But the road is paved, Carla does not want to "dig into her own and other people's feelings" and accepts Leo's forced offer to marry him, without telling her mother about anything.

Only Michele is clearly aware that the life that everyone around him lives is a lie, a "shameful comedy." He thinks all the time that this world belongs to people like his mother and Lisa, with their ridiculous claims, and even self-confident scoundrels like Leo. This young man, on whom time has left an indelible mark, is unhappy and lonely even more than others, because he is aware of his own inferiority. His feelings and thoughts change seven times a day - either it seems to him that he is striving for a different, honest and pure life, or he craves worldly goods and plays in his imagination the moment when he sells his sister Leo (not knowing that Carla has already become his mistress). Prone to introspection, Michele knows that he is vicious and that his main vice is indifference, lack of sincere feelings. He is disgusted by those around him, but even he envies them, because they live a real life, experience real feelings. It is love, hate, anger, pity; of course, he knows such feelings, but he is not capable of experiencing them. He realizes that he should have hated Leo, loved Lisa (who suddenly came up with the sappily sentimental idea of loving a pure young man), "disgust and compassion for his mother and tenderness for Carla", but remains indifferent despite his best efforts. "flare up". Any act of Michele is dictated not by impulse, by direct feeling, but by a speculative idea of how another, more sincere, full-fledged person would have acted in his place. That is why his actions are so ridiculous that he becomes ridiculous. Feigning indignation, he throws an ashtray at Leo, but he does it so sluggishly that he hits his mother's shoulder, after which another farcical scene is played out. He is not at all in love with the overripe Lisa, but for some reason he is going on a date with her. On this date, Lisa tells him the news that should have broken through the armor of his indifference - about Leo's relationship with Carla. Again, no anger, no disgust. Even this blow does not bring him out of his spiritual stupor. And then Michele, mostly just to convince Lisa, who does not believe the badly played scene of the anger of the offended brother, buys a gun, goes to Leo (on the way, imagining a rather romantic picture of the trial and at the same time hoping that Leo will not be at home ) and shoots him, forgetting, however, to load the gun. Enraged, Leo almost pushes him out of the way in the most humiliating way, but then Carla appears from the bedroom. Brother and sister must be talking like close people for the first time in their lives, and Leo, for whom their intention to sell the villa to start a new life means disaster, has to propose to Carla. Michele asks her sister to reject Leo, because this marriage would mean the embodiment of his shameful dreams of selling her sister, but he realizes that he lost here too: Carla believes that this is the best she can count on. There is only one path left for Michele, followed by Mariagrazia, Lisa, Leo, Carla and most of the people who surround him - the path of lies, unbelief and indifference.