pretty crazy. and not a little side order of misogyny. late in the novel the narrator has dream about saving his step-daughter, who his lust for pretty much forms the core of the book, from the nazis. there’s also the wife who runs the brothel and whom the narrator falls in love with becuz she was working class and thus genuine …all described in narrator’s metafictional diary, which is prepwork for the real novel — and thus full of asides on which is real-er.
over. the. top.
but there is no doubt a genius displayed in it. and its grappling with modernity seems fresh. it is dizzying to think how prominent moravia was just fifty years ago, and compare this with now how he’s unthought of, almost dismissed (except perhaps as a dim memory via godard and cinema). the paris review interview with him from 1954 is, while trying to strike a tone of defiance, utterly reverential.
Here’s a beautiful, caustic bit from the novel on the state of journalism, which (technology advances aside) could’ve been written yesterday:
Still clasping his wife’s hand in his own, Consolo resumed: “You ask me to tell you what is the formula for the modern newspaper article. I will answer you with an analogy. You know the moving staircases in the big shops, with people going up and down continually and yet standing still on the stairs? Well, you’ve created what I call the moving-staircase newspaper article… What is the object of moving staircases–or, in fact, of any sort of machine? To save time and fatigue. Your articles, indeed, save the readers time and fatigue. They jump, so to speak, onto the first line and then, in a moment, without making the slightest effort, almost without noticing it, they find themselves, as if by magic, at the last line. They haven’t moved; it is the article that has moved. Actually, they haven’t even read the article; it is the article that has caused itself to be read, or rather, that has read itself. A moving staircase, in fact” (257-8).
and this prognosticating from that 1954 interview:
Incidentally, what do you think of the future of the novel?
Well, the novel as we knew it in the nineteenth century was killed off by Proust and Joyce. They were the last of the nineteenth-century writers—great writers. It looks now as if we were going toward the roman à idée or toward the documentary novel—either the novel of ideas, or else the novel of life as it goes on, with no built-up characters, no psychology. It’s also apparent that a good novel can be of any kind, but the two forms that are prevalent now are the essay-novel and the documentary novel or personal experience, quelque chose qui arrive. Life has taken two ways in our time: the crowd and the intellectuals. The day of the crowd is all accident; the day of the intellectual is all philosophy. There is no bourgeoisie now, only the crowd and the intellectuals.