This book was originally written and published in Italian in 1960 and this English translation has been done by Angus Davidson.
This is another selection from the New York Review of Books Classics category. My first experience with Moravia was another NYRB Classic release of his entitled Agostino which I thoroughly enjoyed. One notices immediately from these books that Moravia is an author who is interested in exploring the depths of the human, male psyche. He is not afraid to explore taboo subjects and depict flawed characters who are trying to grapple with the trappings of their own minds.
Dino has grown up in the lap of luxury due to the fact that his mother is rather wealthy. She lives in an opulent home on the Via Appia in Italy and employs several servants, a gardener and a cook. Dino, however, decides that he wants to be a painter and he rejects his mother’s wealth and lives on his own in a shabby apartment in Rome. Since he is a thirty-five year old man, it should come as no surprise that he wants freedom from any type of parental control. But his rejection of wealth does not come from an altruistic motivation to spread social and economic equality. His basic problem, as he tells us, is that he is bored. Dino has been bored for as long as he can remember, going all the way back to early childhood. Even when he takes up something for which he has an initial passion, like painting, he inevitably becomes bored with it.
Dino’s long and tiresome explanation of his boredom was, indeed, boring. He is not a sympathetic character at all and at times his boredom comes across more as depression than as boredom. He has no interest in things around him, he alienates himself from his family, especially his mother, and he suddenly wants nothing to do with tasks that he used to have a passion for. This sounds more to me like depression than boredom.
When Dino meets a very young woman named Cecelia he begins an intense sexual relationship with her. She shows up at his flat every day at the same time, takes her clothes off, and they instantly make love. But after a while, Dino finds all of this terribly mundane and he becomes bored with her. In order to make her seem more interesting he even experiments with treating her cruelly, but he quickly comes to his senses and decides that the best thing to do is to end the relationship. This is the point in the story where things become interesting for Dino.
Just as he is about to break the affair off with Cecelia she starts to become detached from him and begins missing their daily meetings. Dino is convinced that she is having an affair with someone else behind his back. All of a sudden Dino’s boredom has turned to an obsession- an obsession to find out more about this woman, an obsession to find out what she does when she is not with him and an obsession to find out what her family is like. At this point Dino can’t think of anything but Cecelia and he actually longs for boredom and to be rid of what he calls his love for Cecelia. He proposes marriage to her because, in his twisted sense of logic, he feels that she will settle down and have children and then he will finally be bored of her and can finally cure himself of this love. To use marriage in order to fall out of love and become bored with one’s spouse is Dino’s twisted, ridiculous and morally backwards plan.
The book does not have a conclusive ending, as one might expect with an existential novel such as this one. But Dino does vow to get over Cecelia, one way or another. But in the end, it was I who became bored with his never ending desire to attain boredom in his relationship with Cecelia.
Has anyone else read any other Moravia titles? I have enjoyed both Boredom and Agostino. Let me know if you have any other recommendations in the comments!
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7 responses to “Review: Boredom by Alberto Moravia”
I’m not sure if this one’s for me, but I really liked Agostino when I read it earlier in the year. Grant (at 1streading) has reviewed Contempt, so you might want to take a look at his review if you’re looking for another recommendation.
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Thanks so much, Jackie. I was looking at the description of Contempt and I was wondering if anyone would mention that one!
Everyone I read a review of one his books remind me I have two unread on my shelves older books thou not nyrb ones
I think you put your finger on it: how does one distinguish existentialist world-weariness from clinical depression? Boredom has driven many world-class plots (e.g., in Madame Bovary) and one singular detective (Sherlock Holmes), but taken as a goal, it is just sad.
Dino does try to commit suicide at the end, or at least to choose a possible death by driving too fast and into a tree. An existential choice possibly and a response to knowing Cecilia is with Luciano who is married and that she has gone on holiday rather than be with her father for his last moments. Like you Christa I was a bit bored with the first part
I know he half-heartedly attempts suicide, but I didn’t want to give too much of the plot away to my readers. His whining becomes tedious at one point and just when I thought he would free himself from her he gets sucked back in.
Yes I agree Melissa