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Alberto Moravia: La ciociara (Two Women)

If you are wondering what the Italian title means, it means a woman who comes from Ciociaria, the region South of Rome. The word comes from the leather sandals that the ciociari traditionally wore. As with Il conformista (The Conformist), many people’s view is coloured by the film of this book and their image of Cesira is of Sophia Loren, the star of the film. Just as with Gina Lollobrigida in Woman of Rome, Loren is, of course, ideally suited to the role of the country girl Cesira, who will suffer much in the war.

The two women of the title are Cesira (the ciociara of the Italian title) and her daughter, Rosetta. Cesira is a country girl but came to Rome with her husband, who is now dead. She now runs a small grocery store. She is a decent person but makes money on the black market, selling goods she receives from her relatives. Her main aim is to protect her innocent and pious daughter. However, as the war advances, she is unable to get the goods and she is afraid that Rome will be bombed. The two women decide to return to her parents’ home in Fondi. When they get there, they find that her family has already left and the two have to hide out in the mountains. There they meet Michele, an anti-fascist, who tries to rouse the villagers. Once the Allies break through, the two decide to return to Rome but they are attacked by a group of Moroccan soldiers and Rosetta is raped. This event so scars Rosetta that she becomes a prostitute, while Cesira becomes suicidal. Moravia leaves us with a convincing picture of the horrors of war.

Publishing history

First published 1957 by Bompiani
First English translation 1958 by Farrar, Straus
Translated by Angus Davidson