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The Conformist

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  1,769 ratings  ·  124 reviews
Secrecy and Silenceare second nature to Marcello Clerici, the hero of The Conformist, a book which made Alberto Moravia one of the world's most read postwar writers. Clerici is a man with everything under control - a wife who loves him, colleagues who respect him, the hidden power that comes with his secret work for the Italian political police during the Mussolini years. ...more
Paperback, 323 pages
Published November 1st 1999 by Steerforth (first published April 15th 1951)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
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Ian "Marvin" Graye
A Psychological Thriller

Some of my favourite films explore how people have dealt with life under Fascism or Communism:

* Istvan Szabo’s "Mephisto" (Germany);

* Ingmar Bergman’s "The Serpent’s Egg" (Sweden);

* Bernardo Bertolucci’s "The Conformist" (Italy);

* Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s "The Lives of Others" (Germany).

Not only do they help understand the relationship of an individual to an authoritarian regime, but they also explore existentialist issues that became more pressing in the
Steven Godin
Apr 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: political, italy, fiction
The Conformist kick started my love affair with Moravia's work, of which now I am a big fan.
I think of him as not just one of Italy's greatest writers, but one of the most undervalued writers of the 20th century. In a spare and poetic prose he relishing in the finer details of existence, whilst also brilliantly capturing the Italian landscape. In The Conformist Moravia attempts to analyze what makes a fascist by using a physiological fictive narrative. His main character here: Marcello Clarici,
Jan 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 20th-century, italian
The obsession with normalcy was perhaps the greatest bane of the 20th century. As the world became smaller and vastly diverse people began to mix more and more, people became overly concerned with this idea of being "normal" - wearing the same clothes, living in similarly furnished homes, even smoking the same brand of cigarettes all of which bring the protagonist of this particular story a feeling of great relief that he is "normal" - that is until we see the devastation that "normal" brings ...more

Powerful. Cold but with a glassy poetic feeling for the distances between the main character, the narrator, and the rest of the world. Tense and gripping and with an eerie stillness which really adds to the effect. Very Camus-esque, (Camusian?), very modernist, very severely seen work of art.

I'm not quite sure whether to rank it as better or worse than the movie, because Bertollucci was rather faithful to the plot, but even so they do seem to branch out in distinctly different dimensions. The
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
How do you write a review if you are left speechless?

I have no idea.

All I know is that I need another dose of Moravia before the withdrawal symptoms suck the life out of me.
Feb 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
A macabre bildungsroman of man who realizes in early childhood that life is con; a troubling portrait a lá Camus or Dostoeyvsky. Spare prose but a rich text filled with doublings and odd encounters all filtered through Marcello’s (the narrator and titular character) disturbed viewpoint. An enigmatic and sudden ending leaves many questions. The amount of questions and concerns this book still raises illustrates why Moravia doesn’t consider this merely an Anti-fascism book or label it with any ...more
Dennis Littrell
Apr 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
One of several brilliant novels by Moravia

The Conformist is a psychologically complex novelistic study of an Italian fascist, although not necessarily a typical fascist, done in an existential style with intense interior monologues and introspection by Alberto Moravia's protagonist, Marcello Clerici.

No doubt Moravia intended Marcello as the conformist, but ironically it is his wife Giulia who nearly always conforms to what is considered normal behavior and who harbors uncritically knee jerk
Jan 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this for Kimley's film group, and it's one fantastic can't put down novel. Which is typical Alberto Moravia when you come to think of it.

In a nutshell I think the book is about the psychological make-up of a typical Fascist. Italian style of course! On one level it's a story about a Govt. official who wants to be normal, whatever that means. I think he realizes that 'normal' is quite ab-normal. But of course he's too late in learning that lesson. Nevertheless a remarkable book, which will
Tim Parks
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
A strange strange book about the deep roots of conformity and how it meshes with authoritarian politics under a Fascist regime.
Mar 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: booksfrommy30s
I so adore this film I when reading the novel can actually hear the voices of the actors. (or maybe I should stop taking so many psychiatric meds) Terrific story about the neurosis behind the morbid conformist fixation that drives the main character into working within the rising Italian fascist system .
Jun 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Another great one from my new boyfriend, Alberto Moravia. I liked the movie a lot, too.
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: r-r, four-star-novels

The Conformist is a novel by Alberto Moravia published in 1951, telling us about the life of a government official during Italy's fascist period and his desire to be normal. What surprised me about this book is how much I enjoyed it considering it was written by the same guy who wrote The Time of Indifference and I did not enjoy that. As I was reading I became almost convinced that this man couldn't have written both books I must be thinking of a different book or a different author when I think
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Conformist adapted and directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, based on the novel by Alberto Moravia

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

- and

A few weeks ago, I have been mesmerized by The Contempt written by the writer of The Conformist, Alberto Moravia.
Then I saw Le Mepris, the adaptation for the big screen with the superb Bardot and I have included The Contempt among my favorite works.

Dec 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
I must admit having seen the movie years ago but recently forgotten much of the details of it, and finding this book, I thought I'd give it a crack whilst I was still hazy.

Of course & obviously, like other books that have been adapted to film, this contains so much more detail about the characters' backgrounds; and studies far deeper the root motivation for Marcello Clerici's internal struggles, specifically.

I found this to be far less political and instead really a study into a man's fear
Jan 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
What's not to like about a classic novel set in Rome and Paris with elements of politcal murder and foreign intrique, questions of beauty and love, and buoyant doses of Oedipal anxiety? Moravia portrays Italian Fascism in the Mussolini era with more clarity than many historical studies as he depicts the confusion over the quest for normalcy and the delusions of conformity. Poor Marcello Clerici, our anti-hero, with a lunatic for a father and a wastrel for a mother not only has evil thoughts, but ...more
Aug 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
For years I've been a huge fan of Bertolucci's film adaptation of The Conformist, and am now a huge fan of Moravia's book that inspired it.

I'm not sure I can recall ever reading a piece of "literature" that I would also qualify as a page-turner (with no offense meant to either category).

An unmistakable sign that a book is good, in my opinion: I missed my train stop one evening while reading, so engaged was I in this masterful probing of an ordinary but psychologically tormented man hellbent on
Robert Wechsler
Jun 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: italian-lit
A 4.5. A novel about normalcy, innocence, redemption, justification, eroticism, and alienation from oneself. One is caught up in the world of a protagonist with whom it is hard to sympathize, and yet he is more like oneself than any of us would like to think.

The novel reads like a parable, but it isn’t clear that it is one. It’s a very internal novel full of detailed but often distorted, always personal descriptions of externals. It’s a cross between a nineteenth-century novel and an
Mar 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The author and his translator have created a simple but compelling story in the midst of fascism in Italy. The main character is a flawed member of the government network that is out to destroy its enemies. Parts of the story are farcical and amusing, but overall the story is disturbing because the key themes apply to many aspects of society today. The main character's wife maintains a steadfast and unending loyalty to the fascist regime right to the end. She is constantly enticed by a nice new ...more
Jake Fuchs
Jun 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What impressed me most about this very European novel is that it combines lengthy passages written in a heavily realistic style with somewhat shorter ones that are dreamlike. Somehow Moravia gets away with this. I believe this novel is often described as the story of a man, Marcello, whose urge to conform causes him to become a fascist. It doesn't seem that way to me. Yes, he does become a fascist but as 'Il Conformists' closes, Marcello accepts the verdict of Lino t hat everything is determined ...more
Feb 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
I read this book because I have been studying Italian films and the film of this novel was listed for viewing. I found the book quite unconvincing in its portrayal of a typical Italian fascist. Moravia insisted too much that the character's actions were dictated by his sexually repressed personality. Utimately the character was a pawn to Moravia's thesis rather than a convincing human character. The film was much better than the novel but it still suffered from the problem the reader/viewer has ...more
Frank McAdam
Apr 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
This was the first book I read by Moravia. He's an excellent writer who spins his tale in a calm leisurely fashion filled with elegant prose. In spite of this, the story is taut and highly compelling for most of its length and could have been a classic in its study of the complex motivations that lead its protagonist to turn toward Fascism. It's only in the last (anticlimactic) fifty pages that it falls apart. The ending, in particular, is deeply unsatisfying and seems forced.
Mark Broadhead
Feb 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourite-novels
Wonderful plot and characterisation, and every other element. Every book by Moravia I read is a delight so far. A master presenter of human moments and lifetimes.
Kobe Bryant
May 26, 2014 rated it liked it
This book is political or something, mostly its about a guy who wants to pretend to be a normie
Bruce Crown
Jul 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
An absolute page turner, Moravia's ability to keep your attention even as he describes benign apartment buildings or boring offices is preferred to the modern trash that passes for contemporary fiction: superfluous adjectives, obvious plot points, and clearly mentally disturbed characters. Moravia relies on none of these in this work. Rather, it studies the human condition not purely as a philosophical exercise in existentialism, but the desire for normality and conformity. The whole plot is ...more
Anastasia Chebanova
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: europe, favorites
It was very nice) the author really does a great job at showing how all the screws in the head of the main character work.
Halvor (Raknes)
As entertainment it had a decent pull so it was effortless reading. My motivation for picking up this book was reading about it in a 1992 Scandinavian history of world literature where the trigger was the main character being a homosexual boy. Now that turned out to be rather incorrect, tenuous at best. As for dealing with the topic of homosexuality it was the character 'Lino' whom Moravia had described in very stereotypical terms: effeminate, sickly looking, very neurotic. The main character's ...more
Paul R
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a story about Marcello, a cruel and manipulative sociopath who works for the Italian secret police during the reign of Mussolini. Marcello's pathological childhood experiences provide a critical backdrop to the plot and are an allegory of the decay of Italian society and its political system. His obsession with normality and the system's need for him to conform are both intertwined; both pathologies support and gain strength from each other, and Marcello conflates the two.

Camille McCarthy
Oct 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
After having watched the movie for Italian class, I decided to read the book in order to compare the two and write an essay on it for class. It was definitely worth reading the book because there are a few interesting differences between the movie and the book, even though a lot of the details and especially the dialogue are the same.
I am also glad I read the book because in reading the book you gain a lot more insight into Marcello's character and his family history, and you get to know a
Risky Rahmalia Sofyan
This is the first Italian literature I ever read, and it is damned good.
The narrative style is quite cold and gripping---it's divinely put me in the shoe of this secretive, melancholic, hermitlike character of Clerici---but at the same time has its alluring sentimental way of reflecting things surround him.

Our titular protagonist is a quiet, solemn young man who consciously chose to spent his life in a box---figuratively speaking, that is. It is a frigid, solidly closed box, inch-by-inch built
Dec 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: my-books
This story of an Italian male struggling towards social and sexual conformity during the time of the Fascist leader Mussolini did not resonate with me. He was the child of a mentally sick father and an emotionally immature mother who both neglected him. I assume this initiated his overwhelming desire to conform to what he perceived as 'normal'. Yet he killed a sexual predator in his teens and conspired in the death of a political opponent in later years.
Although the writing was tight, it did not
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Around the World: Italy: Kris recommends: Alberto Moravia 2 12 Nov 07, 2011 09:40AM  

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Alberto Moravia, born Alberto Pincherle, was one of the leading Italian novelists of the twentieth century whose novels explore matters of modern sexuality, social alienation, and existentialism. He was also a journalist, playwright, essayist and film critic.

Moravia was an atheist, his writing was marked by its factual, cold, precise style, often depicting the malaise of the bourgeoisie,
“desire for normality; a longing to adapt to some recognized and general rule; a wish to be like everyone else, from the moment that being different meant being guilty.” 11 likes
“...обладание истиной не только позволяет, но и заставляет действовать.” 3 likes
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