What’s It About: After a loveless and sadistic childhood, Marcello Clerici becomes a spy for the Italian Fascist government. Moral reflections ensue.
Why: I often wonder why I don’t hear Moravia’s name more often among literary snoots (for lack of a better word…and to perhaps distinguish myself from them) . I read A Ghost At Noon a few years ago for a French film class. This fantastic novel was adapted into an equally fantastic (and VERY different from the book) film directed by Godard, called “Contempt.”
Thoughts: It’s a great read, with all sorts of intriguing psychological fun times. For Moravia, the sexual, the political, and the personal are all weaved together. Thus, as Marcello strives towards normalcy, he simultaneously unearths all sorts of tempting ambiguities, not only in his own moral principles and political doctrine, but also in his “heterosexuality” and “pure,” “normal” marriage… the air quotes can go on and on but I’m sure y’all wouldn’t appreciate that so much.
Moravia takes great pains to develop Marcello’s inner psyche, and a few of his descriptions feel a bit repetitive. The weakest part of the book for me is the middle, which kind of lulls in action (after an explosive beginning) and feels unnecessarily long. But once Marcello embarks on his mission, we really get an intriguing character with a complex morality that we can revel in.