Monday, 3 December 2012

Boredom by Alberto Moravia (4.5/5)

The back says: Boredom, the story of a failed artist and pampered son of a rich family who becomes dangerously attached to a young model, examines the complex relations between money, sex, and imperilled masculinity. Dino is approaching middle age, and he is consumed with boredom – not just a lack of interest in life, but a feeling of profound disconnection with the world at large. A painter, he has given up his art to live from day to day. Then he meets Cecilia, a beautiful, unabashedly sexual, strangely impassive teenage model who becomes his mistress. But as she eludes his increasingly frantic efforts to take control of her, body and mind, even to buy her if necessary, his own life spins dangerously out of control.

I say: I have found another potential new favourite and, of course, dead writer. Yay me! I had been staring at Moravia’s Contempt for a few weeks when I came across this one and thought I’d try it first (and now I’m sort of kicking myself for not buying them both at the same time), and how utterly happy and I about that?

Well, very.

In Boredom we meet Dino who is bored of life. But note: it’s not boredom in the usual sense of the word.


“For many people boredom is the opposite of amusement; and amusement means distraction, forgetfulness. For me, boredom is not the opposite of amusement; I might even go so far as to say that in certain aspects it actually resembles amusement inasmuch as it gives rise to distraction and forgetfulness, even if of a very special type. Boredom to me consists in a kind of insufficient, or inadequacy, or lack of reality. Reality, when I am bored, has always had the same disconcerting effect upon me as (to use a metaphor) a too short blanket has upon a sleeping man on a winter night: he pulls it down over his feet and his chest gets cold, then he pulls it up on his chest and his feet get cold, and so he never succeeds in falling properly to sleep. [...]

The feeling of boredom originates for me in a sense of the absurdity of a reality which is insufficient, or anyhow unable, to convince me of its own effective existence." 
 – p 5

And on it goes.

Since I love philosophy, and especially the absurd and existentialism, this was an extremely exciting read for me. Dino goes on and on about his problem with being bored and how this affects the rest of his life. In fact, he’s not even really a painter; he just pretends to be one as a form of rebellion to being born rich. Essentially he doesn’t know what he wants out of life and instead just lies in his studio feeling a sort of contempt for everyone around him.

And then he meets a girl and it all goes downhill.

He becomes obsessed with her simply because she is not obsessed with him (or anything else, for that matter) and he cannot figure out why. He knows that he doesn’t want her for her, but merely in order to be able to discard her.

I’ll spare you the details of what my armchair psychology degree tells me lies at the bottom of this behaviour.

What I really loved about this was the prose. Moravia is an extremely intelligent writer and uses those long, winding sentences with a seemingly endless amount of commas. It’s equally frustrating and riveting being inside of Dino’s neurotic head, and I couldn’t help but sighing and telling him (out loud, mind you) to stop this useless obsessing. Basically he is just a bored rich boy who should get his act together and stop playing the tortured artist, mostly because he’s not a boy anymore, but also because the shtick obviously isn’t working for him. He is constantly asking his mother for money and resenting his need to do so, and when he meets Cecilia he is relentlessly goading her into saying things he knows will upset him.

It’s all very exhausting.

Having said all that, I enjoyed every most seconds of it. Moravia kept me captivated because I wanted to see how deep his obsession would become and just how far he would go to try to possess this poor girl.

He went far.

Very far.

So yeah, 4.5/5 because of a little plot twist towards the end that didn’t feel plausible and seemed more like a way to bring the story to an end. Other than that it was interesting both from a psychological and an existentialist point of view, and I desperately want to discuss this with someone, so I’m off to find a suitable victim.

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