I just finished this short novel by Moravia, my second of his books, the first being The Voyeur, by which I had been impressed. It is to be re-published in English in 2007 and described thus:
“A story of love, obsession, and betrayal from “the most important Italian creative writer [of the twentieth] century.”—The Times [London]
When Silvio, a rich Italian dilettante, and his beautiful wife agree to move to the country and forgo sex so that he will have the energy to write a successful novel, something is bound to go wrong: Silvio’s literary ambitions are far too big for his second-rate talent, and his wife Leda is a passionate woman. Antonio, the local barber who comes every morning to shave Silvio, sparks off this dangerously combustible situation when Leda accuses him of trying to molest her. Silvio obstinately refuses to dismiss him, and the quarrel and its shattering consequences put the couple’s love to the test.
Alberto Moravia earned his international reputation with frank, finely-observed stories of love and sex at all levels of society. In this new English translation of Conjugal Love, he explores an imperiled relationship with his customary unadorned style, psychological penetration, and narrative art.
Just as in The Voyeur the main theme of Conjugal Love is a wife unfaithful to her husband. In both cases the husband is the narrator. I identify the narrator with Moravia himself. In real life, Moravia’s wife was unfaithful to him with Klaus Kinski (Kinski Uncut: The Autobiography of Klaus Kinski). Instead of disliking or becoming angry at the unfaithfullness, the narrator gets a perverse pleasure from it reminiscent of candaulism.
Moravia is famous for another novel which bears the name Boredom. Now as you know boredom is a prerogative of the very rich. Poor people don’t have time to be bored, they have to work. In real life, Moravia was born into a wealthy family.