After a second reading of Contempt, I feel compelled to call the short, tautly written novel a masterpiece. Told from the perspective of a neurotic egotist, the narrator accounts how he "sacrificed" his literary writing career to debase himself in the tawdry task of writing screenplays so that he can afford to lavish his wife with a bigger more opulent living quarters. The narrator convinces himself that not only does his wife not appreciate his "sacrifice," but that she no longer loves him. It's horrifying to read this narcissist's account of his marital disintegration because you begin to realize that he is projecting his own lack of love toward his wife (a pefectly fine, loving woman) and you realize that he is so emotionally arrested that he is incapable of loving anyone. Further, a close reading reveals that the narrator never sacrificed his writing career for his wife's opulent tastes, but rather is debasng his writing talents for his own greedy materialistic acquistion.
Many see Moravia's novel as the quintessential example of "modernism," the movement that emphasizes the human limitation for self-understanding and the understanding of others. Also, the novel explores Freudian themes of projection, paranoia, and the powers of the unconscious.
The novel is fast-paced save for a few chapters where the writer and director indulge in long-winded discussions about the mythical exposition of their film but overall the novel is a real page-turner full of suspense and psychological realism.
If you enjoy this suspensful novel told from the point of view of an unreliable narrator, I recommend Asylum by Patrick McGrath, Despair by Vladimir Nabokov, and The Horned Man by James Lasdun.