Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Conformist by Alberto Moravia

A man desperately wants to be normal

Marcello Clerici is an affluent effeminate Roman boy whose bullying schoolmates gang up to dress him in a skirt. He is rescued, then accosted by a pedophile chauffeur. What happens after that, in Marcello’s view, colors his entire life. He is extremely self conscious about not being ”normal”, about having an insane father, a dissolute spoiled mother, and confronting the strange compulsions of violence inside of him. This shame motivates him to become a rising young official in the Fascist party, and to court a seemingly wholesome completely ordinary middle class girl. When his superiors ask him to assist on a sinister mission, Marcello schedules his honeymoon to a visit to Paris in order to betray an old professor. However, several years later, once the war ends and the Fascists have lost, the good times for Marcello and his precious family have ended.

Somewhat to my surprise, I liked this book a lot, each night looking forward to reading it, I think because many scenes were delightfully surprising. Many of the scenes were so weird and compelling I was pulled into them completely. I loved those scenes where the social pretence ripped away and we see the freaky characters beneath. There were some great ones here, the one in the confessional, the mother in bed with the dogs, the visit to the insane asylum, and even the final very moving scene.

There was an effective use of interiority. Marcello is a very likeable well mannered Fascist. Is the suppressed homosexuality some kind of comment on the leather bound super masculinity of Fascism? I also thought the story is easy to plot when the man gets to tell the wife what’s happening next. The sudden love felt for Lina didn’t quite feel motivated, but worked none the less.

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