cover image Erotic Tales

Erotic Tales

Alberto Moravia. Farrar Straus Giroux, $15.95 (184pp) ISBN 978-0-374-14868-3

Though it opens with ""The Thing,'' an extremely explicit chronicle of lesbianism and bestiality, this short story collection isn't so much concerned with sex per se as with the ways in which sexuality expresses the essence of character. In ``To an Unknown God,'' a nurse fondles her patients' genitals because the act seems an affirmation of life and health in an atmosphere of sickness. The unhappy young protagonist of ``The Belt'' uses insults and taunts to goad her husband and family into violence, which is the only form of love she can accept. A man is forced to confront his dissatisfaction with his marriage after spying on a couple making love in ``The Voyeur's Stroll.'' Moravia circles obsessively around several recurrent themes: the sexuality of little girls, the influence of the demonic on human affairs (several characters sell their souls to the devil), humanity's relentless journey down the path of self- and world destruction, violence as an intrinsic component of desire. The vision of this distinguished Italian writer (Two Women, Time of Desecration, etc.) is bleak, but the robust clarity of his language and unsentimental honesty of his insights make Erotic Tales a compelling experience. QPBC selection. U.K. rights: Secker & Warburg.January