Picks and Pans Review: The Voyeur

updated 05/18/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/18/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Alberto Moravia

The Italian author of Two Women, Conjugal Love, Roman Tales and nearly two dozen other books has created a young narrator who is consumed with worry about the potential of nuclear weapons to destroy the world. He is called, affectionately, Dodo, and he and his wife live in two rooms of a large Rome apartment that belongs to his father, a distinguished physics professor. Dodo teaches too, but his subject is French literature. After protesting against everything his father stood for during the '60s, Dodo has achieved a kind of delicately balanced relationship with the old professor. The father ignores the bomb, but Dodo believes, "The very fact that the bomb has been invented has destroyed the world spiritually, long before destroying it materially." One of the symptoms of this malaise is Dodo's compulsive voyeurism. He sees his wife as a madonna and watches her during their sex together. He is always conscious that women find his father powerful and attractive. Dodo is haunted by a French poem about an evil woman, and when he meets a model who seems to fit the poet's description, he talks her into letting him photograph her nude on her bed in the manner of Manet's Olympia, When Dodo's wife leaves him, his attempt to woo her back leads to a dreadful realization. Moravia's characters, while not always convincing, are interesting in context. Dodo observes that intelligent men developed the atomic bomb simply out of curiosity, never thinking it through to its ultimate possibilities. Dodo's curiosity about sex is the same kind of destructive lure. (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, $17.95)

From Our Partners