Vol. 17 No. 1 1950 - page 90

fine: simple, detached, there is a horrifying humor in Emilio's yearn–
ings and sufferings. In his own life, Svevo seems to have thought of
himself as a ridiculous figure who had "written a novel," or at least he
that his literary ambitions were absurd. This fear, which is a so–
cial one,-the fear of presuming, displeasing, failing, looking foolish–
may have kept him from realizing his greatest gifts, but it seems also
to have been at the bottom of the perfection and originality of the work
he was able to produce. He is a master of motive and fluctuating feeling
because he was perhaps rather ashamed of his own vacillations and
doubt ; neither indignant nor wishing to arouse pity, the irony is tender–
the sort we reserve for ourselves. In this way,
As a Man Grows Older
is the very opposite of Flaubert's
L'Education sentimentale,
a comparison
suggested by the themes and characters in both books. Svevo's novel has
none of the scope and detail of Flaubert's masterpiece and Frederic
Moreau seems, by comparison with Emilio, a hero of action and ex–
perience. (Edouard Roditi, in an interesting and scholarly introduction,
finds Svevo's real contemporaries in the Austrians, Musil and Schnitzler.)
For the most part,
As a Man Grows Older
is not a realistic novel at
all, but an original sort of fairy tale, small, enclosed, even stifling, rather
fantastic in its plot, but thoroughly persuasive in its meaning.
Vittorini's novel
In Sicily,
also tells us that worship of the abstract
is dehumanizing. In Svevo's book you are drawn to reality and to life
because the author has, in the character of Emilio, touched you with
the hand of death.
In Sicily
urges more positively. A young man, "haunt–
ed by abstract furies," hopeless about the world, but lacking the will
or love to do anything more than despair, returns to his childhood home
in Sicily. He meets his mother again, an honest, direct, courageous wo–
man, thinks of his father, a literary sort of man, who likes to dramatize
himself and to posture aimlessly in moments of crisis, goes with his
mother to visit the sick people in the little peasant village, etc.
According to Spender, Vittorini's "protest against Fascism is to lay
his magnifying instrument against the chest of the victim of these times
and show that the heart is beating. Yes, you gentlemen at Rome, you
inventors of the atom bomb, you makers of peace treaties, the victim
for whom you are preparing these graves is still alive. Listen to his
heart.... For that is the subject of this book: humanity. The journey
from a doubt in humanity towards realization of humanity."
Naturally, after that, I am ashamed to say
In Sicily
meant little to
me. What the narrator rediscovers is birth, struggle, fidelity to the sim–
ple truths of existence, symbolized in an exuberant statue of a woman.
I t may
assumed, though little is known about
that the young
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