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Contempt by Alberto Moravia

Contempt (1954)

by Alberto Moravia

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
650721,960 (3.62)27
  1. 20
    The Tunnel by Ernesto Sábato (giovannigf)
    giovannigf: Looking for pseudo-existentialist first-person narratives from paranoid misogynists consumed by jealousy? This is your lucky day! I'd recommend Sabato's novel over Moravia's because it's mercifully brief, but you should save yourself the grief and read Tolstoy's masterful "The Kreutzer Sonata" instead.… (more)
  2. 10
    Boredom by Alberto Moravia (longway)
  3. 00
    Conjugal Love by Alberto Moravia (longway)
  4. 00
    A Posthumous Confession by Marcellus Emants (giovannigf)
    giovannigf: Both novels are first-hand accounts by tortured narrators consumed by self-hatred and jealousy, and both share existentialist themes.

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» See also 27 mentions

English (6)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (7)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Hm. Not sure if l liked it or not. A bit longwinded at times. Good ending though ( )
  kakadoo202 | Mar 7, 2018 |
I never really got into this while I was reading it, but it's stuck in my head. Lots of these kind of a little bit existentialist books do that, I suppose. Good enough that I want to see the movie and read 'Boredom,' which might be a little less, well, boring. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |

Ayn Rand's writing is probably the only thing that I have read and found more annoying than Contempt. Moravia's idea had such great potential. An existential, psychological drama, doesn't it sound promising? In fact, Moravia did succeed in portraying the obsessive, supremely self-centered and over-analytic narrator, Riccardo Molteni, pretty well. He lets the reader discover the unreliability of the narrator and see through his wrong judgements slowly during the course of the novel. But being inside the head of this obsessive narrator gets irritating very soon...like fingernails scraping a chalkboard. He is so full of negativity. I have nothing against a negative character being the lead, but he/she should be somewhat interesting. On the contrary, Molteni's narration is excruciatingly painful to read and insufferably repetitive.

"Emilia doesn't love me."
"I am too good to be writing film-scripts."
"Emilia, why do you despise me?"
"Emilia, do you love me?"

Keep repeating these thoughts in a mixed fashion, throw in the words repugnance, despise, have an explanation with as often as possible and you have the first 150 pages written.
Now bring in a director who incessantly analyzes Ulysses from Odyssey, repeat the phrases from the previous part whenever the director shuts up and that's another 70-80 pages.

The narrator sometimes gets stuck at one thought and writes an entire page saying the same thing several times. At times he thinks way too slowly. He devotes one full page to Emilia discussing the dinner menu with the maid, and another page analyzing that scene. Not just that the thoughts are repeated, they are expressed in the same manner, using the same words over and over again. May be it is the translator's fault, but I do not want to read the same phrase four times in a single paragraph.

This still could have been tolerable if the prose weren't so lifeless and dry. All I felt while reading Contempt was FRUSTRATION! It is not touching, it is no fun to read, it is not informative or thought-provoking, why read it?

Riccardo Molteni, STOP THINKING or JUST DIE! ( )
1 vote HearTheWindSing | Mar 31, 2013 |
It was reading this unending tirade that made me realize there was a style to 20th century existentialist literature that I assume stemmed from Dostoevsky’s “Notes from Underground”: first-person rants from unlikeable characters. As much as I like Dostoevsky’s story, many of the novels it inspired make the reader feel like they’re cornered at a party by an obnoxious bore. I could almost feel the spit flying from the mouth of Alberto Moravia’s protagonist as he droned on about his irrational jealousy and the demise of his marriage. I somehow made it halfway through the book based on memories of Moravia’s infinitely superior The Conformist, though I really should have known better after having read his aptly-titled Boredom last year. ( )
  giovannigf | Aug 26, 2012 |
Moravia masterfully writes a novel about the contempt, real or imagined, between Molteni (the narrator) and his wife. Molteni's obsession reminded me of an insecure teenage girl. He was constantly second guessing himself, wondering if his wife still loved him or not. Every chapter he had a new revelation in which he figured out the source of his wife's contempt and every chapter he would be left guessing again whether she loved him or not and trying all manner of moves to win her love again. It's a short and very intense study into the one word, contempt. ( )
  yhaduong | Nov 6, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Moravia, Albertoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davidson, AngusTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Klinkert-Pötters Vos, J.H.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mercadal, EnriqueTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nurmela, TaunoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Poncet, ClaudeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rismondo, PieroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Székely, ÉvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vallverdú, FrancescTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vuosalmi, KaiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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During the first two years of our married life my relations with my wife were, I can now assert, perfect.
By which I mean to say that, in those two years, a complete, profound harmony of the senses was accompanied by a kind of numbness - or should I say silence? - of the mind which, in such circumstances, causes an entire suspension of judgment and looks only to love for any estimate of the beloved person.
The less one notices happiness, the greater it is. It may seem strange, but in those two years I sometimes thought I was actually bored. Certainly, at the time, I did not realize that I was happy. It seemed to me that I was doing what everyone did - loving my wife and being loved by her; and this love of ours seemed to me an ordinary, normal fact, or rather, to be in no way precious - just like the air one breathes, and there's plenty of it and it become precious only when it begins to run short.
I began therefore to live like one who carries within him the infirmity of an impending disease but cannot make up his mind to go to the doctor; in other words, I tried not to reflect too much either upon Emilia's demeanor towards me, or upon my work.
Why did Emilia no longer love me, and how had she arrived at this state of indifference? With a feeling of anguish in my heart, I foresaw that this first general conclusion, already so painful, would demand an infinite number of further, minor proofs before I became completely convinced - proofs which, just because they were of lesser importance, would be more concrete and, if possible, still more painful. I was, in fact, now convinced that Emilia could no longer love me; but I did not know either why or how this had come about; and in order to be entirely persuaded of it I must have an explanation with her, I must seek out and examine, I must plunge the thin, ruthless blade of investigation into the would which, hitherto, I had exerted myself to ignore.
She would have replied that it was not true, and - quite probably - she would have reminded me, with crude technical precision, or certain transports of sensuality on her own side, in which everything was included - skill, pursuit of pleasure, violent excitement, erotic fury - everything except tenderness and the indescribable abandonment of true surrender; and I should not have known what to say to this; and, into the bargain, I should have offended her with that insulting comparison, and thus have put myself in the wrong.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0940322277, Paperback)

Contempt is a brilliant and unsettling work by one of the revolutionary masters of modern European literature. All the qualities for which Alberto Moravia is justly famous--his cool clarity of expression, his ex acting attention to psychological complexity and social pretension, his still-striki ng openness about sex--are evident in this story of a failing marriage. Contempt (wh ich was to inspire Jean-Luc Godard's no-less-celebrated film) is an unflinching exam ination of desperation and self-deception in the emotional vacuum of modern consumer society.

Molteni, the narrator, aspires to be a man of letters, but has taken a job as a screenwriter in order to support his beautiful wife, Emilia. Frustrated by his work, he becomes convinced that she no longer loves him--that in fact she despises him--and a s he relentlessly interrogates her about the true nature of her feelings, he makes h is deepest fear (or secret desire) come true.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:05 -0400)

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NYRB Classics

2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 1590171225, 1590174844

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