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Contempt (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – July 31, 2004

4.7 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Moravia is red hot! In the past year, roughly half a dozen of his books have been reprinted by numerous publishers. In addition to being highly acclaimed novels, both these titles were the basis of popular European films.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Review

Rich in substance and resonant with meaning…a rare achievement.
The New York Times

Moravia remains one of the twentieth century’s smoothest and most entertaining poets of paralysis, of the genial ennui generated by the triumph of materialism over humane values…his novels offer a bracing counterpoint to today’s soft-hearted and -headed fiction.
Boston Review
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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics; New Ed edition (July 31, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590171225
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590171226
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #395,105 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Finally, someone had the common decency to reprint Moravia intranslation! And they also picked the best titles. Il Disprezzo (TheContempt) is the best, most honest, unflinching look at the disintegration of a relationship that I have ever read. Last released in the States in the 1950's, with the inauspicious title A Ghost at Noon, this is the same excellent translation by Angus Davidson, who translated almost all of the authors works up until his death in 1990. If you've ever experienced the conclusion of a long-term relationship and for some masochistic reason want to remember what it was like, this is the book for you. I guess that's not a ringing endorsement. But trust me, Moravia's penchant for psychological details is so devastatingly on-point, you'll find yourself nodding nauseatingly at the pathetic delusions and convoluted rationalizations taking place between the couple. It should be noted that this isn't the book's only focus. Quite uncharacteristically, Moravia tackles popular culture and the highbrow-lowbrow dichotomy in a darkly humorous fashion. I haven't seen Godard's film adaptation but I understand that it is an incredible achievement in itself.
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Format: Paperback
After a second reading of Contempt, I feel compelled to call the short, tautly written novel a masterpiece. Told from the perspective of a neurotic egotist, the narrator accounts how he "sacrificed" his literary writing career to debase himself in the tawdry task of writing screenplays so that he can afford to lavish his wife with a bigger more opulent living quarters. The narrator convinces himself that not only does his wife not appreciate his "sacrifice," but that she no longer loves him. It's horrifying to read this narcissist's account of his marital disintegration because you begin to realize that he is projecting his own lack of love toward his wife (a pefectly fine, loving woman) and you realize that he is so emotionally arrested that he is incapable of loving anyone. Further, a close reading reveals that the narrator never sacrificed his writing career for his wife's opulent tastes, but rather is debasng his writing talents for his own greedy materialistic acquistion.

Many see Moravia's novel as the quintessential example of "modernism," the movement that emphasizes the human limitation for self-understanding and the understanding of others. Also, the novel explores Freudian themes of projection, paranoia, and the powers of the unconscious.

The novel is fast-paced save for a few chapters where the writer and director indulge in long-winded discussions about the mythical exposition of their film but overall the novel is a real page-turner full of suspense and psychological realism.

If you enjoy this suspensful novel told from the point of view of an unreliable narrator, I recommend Asylum by Patrick McGrath, Despair by Vladimir Nabokov, and The Horned Man by James Lasdun.
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By A Customer on August 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
I've often found in my life that I accidentally find just the book I need to read when I need to read it. I've often purchased books because I felt inexplicably drawn to them in the moment. The picture on this book nagged at something in the back of my mind. At a time of depression in my personal life, I feel better having read Moravia's Contempt, proving that "misery does love company." I found characters more obsessed with their depression than am I. And I became more obsessed with them, than with my own depression, at least for a little while. If you play songs that make you cry when are already feeling terrible, you'll love this book.
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By A Customer on September 29, 1999
Format: Paperback
I came here well equipped to offer my comments on the new editions of two of Moravia's works. I find that the "reviewer" before me has stolen my thunder. I cannot say it any better, but still I cam here to say something so I will. First, I agree with the previous "reviewer" on all counts. I congratulate the publisher for it's honest approach. It's clean, it befits Moravia's honesty. What do I mean? The titles of this book and it's companion piece: Contempt and Boredom. Simple and honest. Previously entitled A Ghost at High Noon and The Empty Canvas the titles never seemed to fit Moravia. These two new editions are ornamented (no not ornamented--wrong word--the illustrations are more) with Pierre Le Tan illustrations perfectly suiting the works. Displayed in the context of a honest classic book design. No gimmicks--just clean, honest work in whole. I've now in the interest of shelf space, done the unthinkable, I've removed the two previous editions of these books from my premises. If you possess them, replace them. These books are a bargain. If you're new to Moravia, do enter with these two books. It is difficult to capture, but Moravia is not as doom and gloom as we all must make him sound. He's honest and it can hurt, but it's worth it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
NYRB has done it to me again. Discovery of yet another writer, Alberto Moravia that I will no doubt need to read more from.

What a strange and engrossing tale. So normal in appearance. A man starts out thinking he has a noble profession as a critic but poverty has limitations. How hard to admit selling out one for the other. Why not elevate the goal to a higher nobility. Surely I am doing this for my wife Emelia! A screenplay is only for pay so it must be done for Emelia.

Ricccardo Molteni is a narcissist, delusional, selfish, probably a bit insane, obsessive and manic. He is intelligent and thoughtful and brutish, always a chauvinist and given to fits of depression and unnatural euphoria. He is dangerous even to the reader.

As told in the first person it's a neat trick to keep us reading and believing in Molteni. His character gets under your skin. Brilliantly the writer lets this most unreliable narrator carry us through his life. Is he going to write that screenplay to bring Homer's Odyssey to the big screen? Why doesn't his wife love him? Is he dominating her or just being helpful with that menu? What is wrong with her? It must be her fault. If only she'd reveal the root of it so that he can carry on. Denial of his own culpability is everywhere and yet subtly woven into the contradictions between his seemingly sensitive and warm thoughts and his more acute actions out of need to defend his self esteem.

And what about that screenplay? Is Ulysses avoiding his wife Penelope? Is that why it takes 10 long years to return home. Is the Director Reingold somehow mocking him by creating a Ulysses that's weak and fearful of his wife? Is there a similarity in his own life? Maybe but it's wickedly derivative.
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