Work Title: Conjugal Love
Work Author(s): Alberto Moravia, Marina Harss, translator
152 pages, Softcover $14.00
Reviewer: Jennifer Shahade
In this novel, the Italian author (who died in 1990) writes extraordinary prose about Silvio, an ordinary man who wants to create a masterpiece. Before Silvio confronts his lack of talent, he blames his poor literary output on lack of tranquility and consuming passion for his wife, Leda. Originally published in 1951 in both Italian and English, the new, flowing translation by Maria Harss brings the book back into print.
Moravia wrote short stories, essays, newspaper articles and film reviews, but he is most remembered for his novels, which typically deal with themes of sex, love, and alienation. Ghost at Noon (1954) and The Conformist (1951) inspired major European films by legendary directors Jean Luc Godard and Bernardo Bertolucci. Conjugal Love, like most of his famous works, is told in the first person.
The narrator and protagonist, Silvio, is a subtly unreliable, wealthy dilettante. To finish his novel, Silvio plans a countryside sojourn. He convinces himself that making love to his wife interferes with his writing, so they make a pact not to have sex.
Silvio descends from delusions of grandeur to a discovery that he has little literary talent. Moravia is neither sentimental nor cruel in developing Silvio's rise and fall. Just after moving to the countryside, Silvio's ego balloons, and in a sarcastically overwritten passage, Moravia writes, as Silvio: "Upon waking, I found myself ready and...