Monday, March 19, 2007


Man and wife

The fine folks at Words Without Borders have now posted my review of Alberto Moravia's Conjugal Love. I wish I had liked it more, being a fan of the author, but his jaundiced take on boy-girl relations didn't work for me this time around. Here's how I began:
Throughout his long and astonishingly productive career, Alberto Moravia never stopped exploring the erotic highways and byways. Of course, he tended to look on the dark side. Readers of his many fictions will search in vain for a life-affirming roll in the hay. Instead Moravia zoomed in on the pitfalls, power struggles, and multiple deceptions of eros. Think of him as the Beethoven of bad sex, blessed with a glittering style and the emotional temperature of an icebox.

Conjugal Love is no exception to the rule. Moravia published this short novel in 1951, by which time he was already one of the giants of postwar Italian letters. Yet that year saw a bumper crop of work by the 44-year-old author--including The Conformist, his ripest production to date--which may explain why this one got lost in the shuffle. In any case, Conjugal Love shares certain elements with its more celebrated sibling. There’s the feckless protagonist, twiddling his haut-bourgeois thumbs as the nation slides into Fascism. And there is sex, which isn’t so much a proxy for politics (as it was in The Conformist) as the true enemy of art.
You can read the rest here.

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