La Ciociara (Two Women) by Moravia

The dramatic events that occurred in the spring of 1944 provide the background to the personal and social drama of a mother and daughter in Alberto Moravia’s novel, “La ciociara (Two Women)”.

The story is about Cesira, a young woman from the Frosinone area who, having moved to Rome with her husband, becomes widowed. With the city in the hands of the occupying Nazi troops, she decides to return to her home town, Sant’Eufemia, with her teenage daughter Rosetta, to wait for the end of the war. During the journey they are forced to stop for a year in the town of Fondi, with the Allies now at the gates.

With liberation, the drama is unleashed: the existence of the two women becomes increasingly precarious; they are evacuated and forced to keep moving. During one of these transfers they are raped in an abandoned church by the goumiers, Maghreb members of the French irregular troops, who took part in war operations in the Montecassino area.

The touching human story of rape – many Ciociaria women and girls were victims – is added to the collective madness of war, lack of food and human comfort, which also undermines the close relationship between mother and daughter, who become strangers locked in a reciprocal lack of communication. The cathartic moment, which returns the balance in the now-changed family relationship is the news of the death of Michele, a young partisan who loved Cesira and was very fond of Rosetta.

The shooting of Michele, who did not renounce his ideals, allows the two women to recover their humanity, aware of having lost their innocence but also aware that from extreme pain we can and must be reborn with the “mercy we must have for others and ourselves”.

The book inspired the famous film directed by Vittorio de Sica, with Sophia Loren in the role of Cesira, which earned her the Oscar, the first awarded to a non-English-speaking actress.


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