Una vita is the first novel of Italo Svevo, the author of the seminal modernist novel, Zeno's Conscience. Originally titled "Un inetto," this name was refused by the editor. It was changed to "Una vita" which is also the name of a famous Maupassant novel. The first draft was submitted in 1888. It was refused by the publishing house Treves, and wasn't published until 1892 by Vram, at the expense of Svevo himself. The title, "Un inetto" was chosen perhaps to better illustrate the psychology of the main character and, in a certain sense, the pessimism typical of the author, being changed into the more neutral "Una vita" at the request of his editor.
Alfonso Nitti, a young intellectual with literary aspirations, leaves his home in the country where his mother lives to go to Trieste and work a white collar job. One day, he is invited to the house of the banker Maller who knows Macario, a young man with whom Alfonso is friends and with Annetta, Maller's daughter. Annetta, like Alfonso, is interested in literature and the two begin a relationship. On the verge of marrying her, however, he flees, deciding to change his life, returning to the country where his mother, very ill at the time, dies. Alfonso goes back to Trieste and decides to live a life of contemplation, away from passions. Then, after discovering that Annetta is engaged to Macario, Alfonso feels wounded and attempts to return to the preceding arrangements, but not only does he fail in doing this, he even worsens the situation. When, following the umpteenth mishap with the Maller family, he must duel Annetta's brother, he decides to kill himself thus ending his maladjusted existence.
Svevo, Italo. Una Vita. Classici Moderni Oscar Mondadori, 1985, Milan