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Erotic Tales
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Published in Italy in 1983, these 20 stories limn the undeniable power of sexual desires. It seems to this reviewer that Moravia has the creative capacity to enter the psyches of women, earlier seen in The Woman of Rome (1947) and Two Women (1957). Here, at age 74, still with extraordinary sensitivity, Moravia depicts woman's sexual impulses. In ``The Devil Can't Save the World,'' Satan metamorphoses himself into a naughty little girl, then into a lustful woman overwhelmed with desire for a scientist with whom she/he has made a Faustian pact. ``The Thing'' speaks realistically of lesbianism and bestiality. Throughout these 20 stories are Moravia's own insights coupled with his awareness of the overpowering sexual compulsions that bring conflict and pleasure into our lives. Glenn O. Carey, English Dept., Eastern Kentucky Univ., Richmond

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

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