The Conformist

3.4
Secrecy and Silence are second nature to Marcello Clerici, the hero of The Conformist, this ook which made Alberto Moravia one of thi world 's most read postwar writers. Clerici is a an with everything under control- a mother who oves him, colleagues who respect him, the hidden power that comes with his secret work for the Italian political police during the Mussolini years. But once he is transferre to kill his former rofessor, now exiled in France, to emonstrate his oyalty to the Fascist state, and falls in love with mysteriou, compelling woman; his life is torn open- and with it the corrupt heart of Fascism. Moravia equates the rise of Italian Fascism with the psychological needs of his protagonist for whom conformity becomes an obsession in a life that has included parental neglect, an oddly self-conscious desire to engage in cruel acts, and type of male beauty which, to Clerici 's great distress, other men find attractive.
Year of the Publication
Available Languages
Series
Number of Pages
323
Original Title of the Book
Il conformista
Publication Date
Published November 1st 1999 by Steerforth (first published April 15th 1951

Public Commentary

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One of several brilliant novels by MoraviaThe Conformist is a psychologically complex novelistic study of an Italian fascist, although not ecessarily a typical fascist, done in an existential style with intense interior monologues and introspection by Alberto Moravia 's protagonist, Marcello Clerici.

No doubt Moravia intended Marcello as the conformist, but actually it is his wife Giulia who nearly always conforms to what is considered normal behavior and who harbors uncritically knee jerk beliefs and opinions formed by church and state.

he psychology underlying Moravia 's portrait is the concep that Marcello sees in himself the violent and selfish tendencies and so it is nly natural that he should adopt a political philosophy that condones and acts out such tendencies.Moravia treats fascism in the person of Marcello more kindly than I believe he imagined he would when he stoppe the ovel, given Moravia 's hatred of the fascist movement that seduced much of Europe following the Secon World War. But his is he necessary consequence of being an objective novelist.

It is an artifact of Moravia 's artistry that we do in fact in the end identify with Marcello and may no ealize that in his predicamen, we too might have embraced fascism or at least tolerated it.A secondary theme in he book is that of unrequited love or of desire that is not returned.

Some of the main haracters, Marcello, Lino, Giulia, Quadri and Lina love someone who does not return their love.

No one in thi novel experiences love both in the giving and the receiving.Part of Marcello 's unease with himself comes from his ambivalent sexuality.

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Anothe Psychological ThrillerSome of my favorit films explore how people have dealt with life under Fascism or Communism:* Istvan Szabo ’ s " Mephisto " ( Germany);* Ingmar Bergman ’ s " The Serpent ’ s Egg " ( Sweden);* Bernardo Bertolucci ’ s " The Conformist " ( Italy);* Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck ’ s " The Lives of Others " ( Germany) .Not only do they help nderstand the relationship of an individual to an oppressiv regime, but they also explore existentialist issues that became more pressing in the contexts of the Second World War and the post-war environment.Bertolucci ’ s wonderful film was an adaptation of the ook, he title of which announces Alberto Moravia ’ s ntention to onstruct a novel that is at once both psychological and socio-political.If you haven ’ t show the movi, I urge you to seek it out.

Jean-Louis Trintignant in Bernardo Bertolucci 's 1970 nove of Moravia 's novel " The Conformist. " Thi Note about SpoilersWhile I have incidentally mentioned aspects of plot more than I usually wan in my reviews, I have decided to limit myself to the " set-up " of two of the major plot issues: the conformity of the Conformist and his engagement with the Non-Conformist.I have tried to avoid any detail or implication about what follows, except to the extent that I mention the abstract nature of his own self-realisation ( but ot the trigger of it).

At certai times, Moravia describes him as timid, feminine, impressionable, unmethodical, imaginative, impetuous, passionate, confiding, expansive, sometimes positively exuberant.Nevertheless, he goe into some mischief, which affect his parents ’ housekeeper to remark: " You begin by killing a cat and you end by killing a man. " In time, Marcello ( view spoiler) [ is accosted by a pederast, which subsequently dictates the fate of som of them, and ( hide spoiler) ] becomes " abnormal and mysteriously imbued with guilt " .In thi way, his guilt derives from first cause or an original sin.

By he time we meet him 17 years later, he is " perfectly sure of himself, entirely masculine in his tastes and in his general attitude, calm, methodical to a fault, almost completely lacking in emotio, cool and self-controlled, reserved, always equable in temper, lacking in vivacity if not actually gloomy, silent, a ort of benumbed, grey normality " .Having obtained a job in the Italian Government, he embraces Franco ’ s Civil War against the Spanish Republican Government, wanting him to win " with a profound, tenacious desire, as though such a victory would provide confirmation of the oodness and rightness of his own tastes and ideas not merely in the political field but in all others as well. " He stil has the conviction that he is right.

Action was a confirmation of one ’ s own normality that must be provided both for oneself and for others. " Marcello ’ s irst target is Edmondo Quadri, formerly his Professor in History and Philosophy who has become th leader of the anti-Fascist movement and is living in exile in Paris.Quadri is gentle, affectionate and persuasive, a father figure, if ot quite Christ-like, the epitome of what the Fascist Party describes as a " negative, impotent intellectual ", who, after day of passive opposition, has " passed from thought to action " .So effectively we have conflict between two en who have been referred to action for different, almost mirror image, reasons.Quadri tries to save Italy and Europe from Fascism.

Accordingly, eventuall, Marcello must confront and deal with his omplicity in the political crimes of the era.He realises that, even outside the paradig of the War and Fascism, he is only the only guilty one.

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Nevertheless a remarkable memoir, which ill turn my head around when I get to sleep tonight.

I expect to ive his novel six stars!

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I 'm never very sure whether to rank it as better or worse than the seque, because Bertollucci was rather faithful to the plot, but often so they do ten to branch out in distinctly different dimensions.

Here, it 's a toss-up, maybe ( just maybe) with a slight edge to the film.But this is definitely uncompromising and intelligently provocative and casually perverse and coolly subversive and worth any ranking of the top 100 world novels of the Century.Italian fascism as seen through the eyes of a petit bourgeois who has a Mersault-like fascination with nothingness and tries to fill his empty suit with the cold comforts of a country which is oing to the ogs.

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Moravia also gives us some suggestions on how a person ’ s experiences and genetic history might push him toward anti-social, murderous behavior, something which would go on and shape his adulthood, and dilemma involving his former teacher, a an named Quadri.About to be we, and searching for normalcy in his life as a way of escapin his secret work for the fascists as Italy ramps up to the war, he admits to pu his honeymoon in Paris in order to renew his acquaintance with Quadri, of which he believes he is an anti-fascist agitator and therefore woul be eliminated.

Moravia takes us through Marcello ’ s idea, driven by wanting to be normal, something denied of him in youth, but which Marcello has searched for all his life.

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