A daringly frank novel

I’ve updated my page on adultery, and especially adultery in literature and happened upon this picture of a 1956 Signet edition of Alberto Moravia’s novel Conjugal Love, which I’ve sort of reviewed here. Signet is an imprint of the American paperback publisher New American Library.

Some comments on the wording on the jacket by antydiluvian:

Note the puffery from 1956: “A daringly frank novel.” This meant that if there was an adulteress in it, she didn’t die at the end. Or if she did it was from something not directly related to sex. What the woman did with her lover(s) was left to the imagination, of course — no “frankness” there. Any book that was translated from the French, Swedish, or (as in this case) Italian might be called “daringly frank” simply because anything written in those languages was automatically regarded as racy. And “complete and unabridged” meant that any scenes of actual European “frankness” in the novel were left intact for its American readers — which wasn’t always the case in those days.

I don’t know if any of you have checked IMDb keyword tool, but for Moravia you get this, which explains why Moravia’s work is classified as naturalistic, and also why I have come to like his work over the years.

Bill Marx writes in Alberto Moravia’s kinky, subversive realism is back in print:

“In the 1940s and ’50s, Italian novelist Alberto Moravia achieved international acclaim as a kinky realist whose Marxist-inspired moralism detailed the paralysis of the middle-class ego in the face of cultural and political collapse. Before and just after World War II, Moravia analyzed the blight of fascism; during the Cold War era he explored the spiritual costs of capitalism. What distinguishes Moravia from most other writers of politically inspired fiction, however, is that he was a popular novelist, his wide appeal rooted in his frank depictions of love and sexuality. Like Ignazio Silone, Moravia bore historical witness to the century’s horrors, but his fiction’s sleek dovetailing of Marx and Freud exposed the West’s inertia through the tortured curbs and caprices of the libido. The marketability of sex made the subversiveness of his critique palatable: Moravia’s books sold more than one million copies in the United States during the buttoned-up 1940s and ’50s.” —source

Incidentally Moravia’s work came to my attention in the early 2000s via Cédric Kahn’s excellent film L’ Ennui (1998). If you read more of Moravia — he is often considered the most popular Italian novelist outside Italy and his novels have been filmed lots of times in cinematic modernism — , you get the impression that there is nothing as exciting as an unfaithful wife, I tend to agree. It reminds me of a quote I read in one of the early issues of Mondo 2000 magazine. It went: “when you come to realize that safe sex is boring sex.”

4 thoughts on “A daringly frank novel

  1. jahsonic


    Andrej, I did not realize it was you. I’ll put you up in my blogroll. For those of you who do not know who Andrej is: Andrej provided some very astute answers to questions I asked on this blog. See here


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