The Conformist is one of a series of novels in which Moravia attacked the moral bankruptcy of the Italian bourgeoisie, beginning with Gli indifferenti (1929; The Time of Indifference, 1953). Much of his fiction of the 1930’s was written as satire against the Fascist government of Italy. He was forced to flee Rome to find refuge in a remote mountain area of Italy to avoid prosecution and probable imprisonment. With his postwar novels, Moravia became one of the major European existentialist novelists—along with Nikos Kazantzakis in Greece and Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus in France—who explored the consequences of the devastation of the war.
The Conformist, which was adapted for a film version by Bernardo Bertolucci in 1970, is an engrossing, simply told tale of a man who is both a victim of his age and a perpetrator of its crimes. No one has analyzed more tellingly than Moravia the psychological bases of Fascism and the consequences of nihilism.