21 June, 2021

On Her Virgin Lips...

Reading a wise novella by an old master in the light of #MeToo

On Her Virgin Lips...

The morality of an old man, like his will, is an expectation people have of him. The world, hawkish and certain, is contemptuous of old men who seduce the young. And so it goes in The Nice Old Man And The Pretty Girl, a slim novel that was first published in English by Virginia and Leonard Woolf in 1930, to general disinterest and has since surfaced in every generation to be received with the same disinterest.

The pretty girl in the story does not try to escape from under the weight of the nice old man, but he believes that he must let her go because he believes that is the natural order of life—old men sparing young women. Written by Italo Svevo, which was the pen name of the Italian writer, Aron Ettore Schmitz, the story of a wealthy widower and his affair with an impoverished girl, who, according to her mother, “will take any work for the whole day, provided she has the short time off she needs for her daily bath,” is told in less than a hundred pages.

The novella explains, with the full force of authority, the transition of old men...

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