MÍNIMA MOLESTIA. ‘Una institución narrativa’

CTB 2Desde que la leí por primera vez, hace más de veinte años, se me quedó grabada esa frase de Corazón tan blanco en la que dice el narrador que “el matrimonio es una institución narrativa”. Con frecuencia he visto corroborada, desde entonces, la idea que Javier Marías acierta a sintetizar tan bien.

En una muy recomendable novela de Elizabeth Taylor, Una vista del puerto (de 1947, publicada por Alfaguara en 1990), Tory Foyle, una mujer divorciada, le confiesa a un amigo: “Sabes, he llegado a la conclusión de que el verdadero objetivo del matrimonio es hablar. Es lo que lo distingue de otros tipos de relación entre hombres y mujeres, y es también lo que más se echa en falta a la larga, por extraño que parezca: la profusión de comentarios cotidianos sobre trivialidades. Creo que es una necesidad humana fundamental, mucho más importante que una pasión violenta, por ejemplo”.

La fórmula de Marías apunta más allá del rutinario parloteo al que Tory Foyle alude: sugiere que, en el marco del matrimonio (o de la pareja estable, por aliviar ahora al asunto de su carga contractual), el “otro” se convierte en recipiente del relato que cada uno hace de sí mismo. Un relato que al otro, como “lector”, le corresponde respetar en términos generales, aun si, como todo relato, posee sus zonas oscuras, sus silencios, sus debilidades, sus trucos y engaños, sus motivos recurrentes, sus efectos de estilo.

De resultas de haber conversado sobre la cuestión con Pablo Muñoz, escritor todavía en ciernes a quien envidio su voracidad y agudeza como lector, éste me mandó un estupendo pasaje de El cuento de nunca acabar (1983), de Carmen Martín Gaite. Allí se lee: “Incluso en la actualidad, cuando los asuntos amorosos tienden a entablarse aceptando la transitoriedad de su condición y esquivando el compromiso derivado de idealizar su propio comentario, la queja implícita en el desengaño de un amante a punto de verse abandonado por otro reside primordialmente en el ‘’ya no me hace caso’, ‘’está distraído cuando le hablo’, ‘’no atiende a lo que le cuento’. El hecho de que haya variado el material narrativo que hoy se ofrecen unos enamorados a otros, enfocando menos hacia la descripción de sus propios sentimientos y más, por ejemplo, hacia el comentario de aficiones comunes no quita validez a lo que digo. Lo que busca siempre un enamorado es mantener despierto el interés del otro, no tanto por su vida como por su palabra, lograr que le escuche sin pensar en otra cosa. La traición amorosa es, sobre todo, rechazo de narración”.

Un nuevo y contundente testimonio (los hay por doquier, parece mentira cómo una fórmula feliz predispone a su comprobación a cada rato) de eso sobre lo que Javier Marías indagaba a su modo en Corazón tan blanco y que se me antoja, conforme he especulado ya en otro lugar, toda una clave para observar y analizar los rumbos y las maneras de la narrativa contemporánea.

Cuando se discurre sobre ésta, muy pocas veces se considera algo tan obvio y tan determinante como es la improbabilidad cada vez mayor de que, en la esfera privada, el individuo consiga sostener un relato continuado a través del tiempo, ni consiga retener a un público fiel (vale decir su propia pareja).

Las conductas narrativas no dejan de ser -en buena medida, al menos- expresión o reflejo de las que el sujeto emplea cotidianamente para contarse a sí mismo. La discontinuidad que entraña el nuevo orden -o desorden- amoroso, la reiterada disolución del “pacto narrativo” que uno establece tácitamente con su pareja, la tendencia creciente a recomenzar una y otra vez el propio relato o a abandonar el recién empezado, probablemente vengan siendo factores determinantes de algunas tendencias de la narrativa contemporánea. En cuanto a esa “profusión de comentarios cotidianos sobre trivialidades” a las que Tory Foyle se refiere, también ellos se han dispersado entre un sinfín de interlocutores, casi siempre virtuales. Los teléfonos inteligentes, el correo electrónico, la promiscuidad y la densidad de los tráficos sociales vaporizan esa actividad parlanchina, que en su multiplicidad va perdiendo la capacidad de tejer redes firmes y duraderas sobre las que sostener el propio relato, con la consiguiente pérdida del sentido de responsabilidad que lo acreditaba. Habría que ver si la locuacidad, la inestabilidad, la volubilidad, la inanidad, la falsa confidencialidad de buena parte de la narrativa contemporánea no tienen que ver con eso.

IGNACIO ECHEVARRÍA

El Cultural, 27 de junio de 2014

SILLÓN DE OREJAS. ‘Abdicaciones’

URDPAhora que a casi todo el mundo le ha dado por abdicar —incluyendo entre las abdicaciones las renuncias a seguir trabajando de dos de mis reyes favoritos: Philip Roth y Jean Luc Godard—, el único que parece seguir inconmovible en su trono inmaterial y literario es Javier Marías, actual monarca de la isla caribeña de Redonda, despreocupado de los pronunciamientos republicanos de alguno de sus cortesanos. Testarudo y contumaz, pero siempre muy atento a la recepción y procesamiento de su obra —ahí tienen, sólo para abrir boca y mercadotecnia, sus tempranas manifestaciones acerca de su nueva novela Así empieza lo malo, que no aparecerá hasta septiembre—, resulta porfiado hasta en sus errores. Porque feliz error —en sentido estrictamente comercial— es esa carrera de editor exquisito en la que persiste tozudamente, a pesar de que pierde dinero casi con cada libro que publica, por más que el catálogo de Reino de Redonda esté repleto de deslumbrantes joyas y alguna bisutería de lujo de las que hacen las delicias de connaisseurs y amantes de las rarezas. Su última entrega, Un reguero de pólvora, de Rebecca West (prólogo de Agustín Díaz Yanes), pertenece a la primera categoría. En un momento en que, quizás ahítos de tanta ficción clónica, los lectores recurren a la crónica en busca de más refrescantes narratividades, estos ensayos de la señora West —por cierto, duquesa de Redonda desde 1951, durante el reinado más bien dipsómano de John Gawsworth— en torno a juicios sonados o menores, resultan una lectura más que agradecida. El más extenso de ellos, Invernadero con ciclámenes compuesto en tres partes escritas entre 1946 y 1954, fue en su origen un reportaje sobre los procesos de Núremberg que le encargó The New Yorker, tres lustros antes del que encargaría a Hannah Arendt sobre el juicio de Adolf Eichmann. La crónica de West tiene la contundencia de la inmediatez y de la cercanía al horror, lo que le confiere un especial interés que se incrementa con sus observaciones de primera mano acerca de la psicología de los acusados. Los otros tres ensayos se refieren a asuntos más domésticos, pero en ellos también se examinan con lucidez y buen hacer literario los eternos mecanismos del crimen, el castigo y el perdón, motivos, por cierto, muy presentes en las novelas de Xavier I, nom de trône del señor Marías.

MANUEL RODRÍGUEZ RIVERO

El País, Babelia, 14 de junio de 2014

‘Jardines totalitarios’

URDP

El nuevo volumen de Redonda, Un reguero de pólvora, de Rebecca West, es la crónica de los Juicios de Núremberg en 1946, seguido de dos colofones sobre la postguerra alemana, lo que se llamó el milagro alemán, y tres piezas sobre juicios en otras latitudes, un linchamiento sureño de un negro en Carolina, un caso de descuartizamiento en la campiña inglesa y otro sobre espionaje en Londres, que nos hace recordar su estupendo El significado de la traición, publicado también en Redonda.

La autora tiene un don especial para la escritura, la habilidad para calar y perfilar tipos pintorescos, o para cavilar sobre las procelosas aguas de la conducta humana. Valga como ejemplo la historia del jardinero cojo alemán que en medio de la miseria absoluta de la postguerra alemana es capaz de hacer funcionar un invernadero donde cultiva ciclámenes y otras especies de la floristería más selecta. Quizá las semblanzas de los jerarcas nazis dejan algo que desear, acaso porque el juicio de Núremberg ya estaba descabezado desde el principio. Hitler y Goebbels se suicidaron en el búnker de Berlin, sin duda, porque adivinaban el aquelarre soviético que les esperaba. Puede que si la toma de Berlín la hubiesen llevado a cabo los americanos o los ingleses, se hubiesen vestido de gala para esperarlos, sabiendo que eran sin duda, más civilizados que los rusos de Stalin. En todo caso, vemos a Rudolf Hess, tembloroso como un flan, y a otros figurones nazis de segunda fila, sometidos a un juicio que tiene algo de circo judicial. Quizá estamos maleados por el género cinéfilo americano, ya que es dudoso que se imparta justicia en la realidad, al menos en la ficción el culpable acaba pagando con sus huesos o con su vida sus fechorías en este mundo. Hay un pasaje delicioso sobre una viejecita aristócrata alemana, o al menos se comporta como tal, en la que se burla de la ingenuidad inglesa respecto al fiscal Sir David el Escocés, sobre si llamarse David es indicio sobrado o no de pertenencia a la raza judía. Algo similar sucede con una anécdota sobre un poeta neoyorquino del montón, que presumía de leerle poemas a su baby de dos añitos. Y qué le lees, le preguntó otro colega del lirismo sin fronteras : Shelley y alguna cosa mía. Ah, entonces ya tiene la gama completa. No faltan en el libro misiles hilarantes de este tipo, que en mitad de un pasaje árido sobre los tejemanejes protocolarios de un juicio, le hacen a uno soltar la carcajada durante un minuto glorioso.

El nieto de Jack

RW nos cuenta un juicio inglés y despliega ante los ojos del lector su inmenso talento como escritora. Un cazador de patos en unas marismas inglesas al norte del estuario del Támesis, puede que la misma zona que hechizó a Sebald. Conoce bien la fauna inglesa, sus excentricidades y su naturaleza embaucadora, y en la historia de Setty y Hume, nos regala las semblanzas comparadas de un juez budista y un falso héroe de la RAF. La orfandad victoriana es el género estrella de las letras inglesas, por no hablar de su peculiar afición al género de la picaresca eduardiana, si puede llamarse así, y en estas páginas, se nos ofrece una suculenta exhibición de ambos géneros literarios. Todo gira en torno a un tortuoso discípulo de Jack el Destripador y al singular ejercicio de la laberíntica justicia inglesa. Una pieza memorable que justifica la lectura del libro.

CÉSAR PÉREZ GRACIA

El Heraldo, 15 de mayo de 2014

 

‘The Infatuations’, edición americana en bolsillo

The Inf KNOPF bolsillo

THE INFATUATIONS
JAVIER MARÍAS
Translated by Margaret Jull Costa
Vintage, April 22, 2014

“This is writing at its purest: elegant, stylish and subtle. The work of Javier Marías transcends such bromides as: “I couldn’t put it down!” It insists that you savor every word; that you stop and reflect on what you have just read; that you parse the sinuously snaking sentences for every nuance they reveal. It is a virtuosic performance that makes it obvious why such literary giants as Bolaño, Sebald, Coetze and Pamuk have lavishly sung his praises. You will understand why he is a shoe-in for the Nobel Prize. And, you will scratch your head in utter befuddlement at the lack of a wider audience for his work in America. Read it and be amazed.” —Conrad Silverberg

“Whatever else we may think is going on when we read, we are choosing to spend time in an author’s company. In Javier Marías’s case this is a good decision; his mind is insightful, witty, sometimes startling, sometimes hilarious, and always intelligent . . . The masterly Spanish novelist [has] a penetrating empathy.” —Edward St. Aubyn, on the cover of The New York Times Book Review

“The Infatuations is mysterious and seductive; it’s got deception, it’s got love affairs, it’s got murder—the book is the most sheerly addictive thing Marías has ever written . . . Marías is a star writer in Europe, where his best-sellers collect prizes the way Kardashians collect paparazzi. He’s been hailed in America, too, yet he’s never broken through like Haruki Murakami or Roberto Bolaño. This should change with his new novel, The Infatuations, which is the ideal introduction to his work.” —Fresh Air/NPR

“The work of a master in his prime, this is a murder story that becomes an enthralling vehicle for all the big questions about life, love, fate, and death.” —The Guardian

“Blindingly intelligent, engagingly accessible—it seems there’s nothing Marías can’t make fiction do . . . Marías’s rare gift is his ability to make intellectual jousting as suspenseful as the chase scenes in a commercial thriller.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A haunting masterpiece . . . The lasting challenge to literature is to achieve a satisfying marriage between high art and the low drives of a simple plot. The Infatuations is just such a novel . . . Just as Macbeth is a thriller that’s also a great tragedy, The Infatuations is a murder story that’s also a profound story of fatal obsession . . . Don Quixote was first published as long ago as 1620. I wouldn’t be surprised if The Infatuations soon acquired an equally devoted following.” —The Observer

“Extraordinary . . . Marías has defined the ethos of our time.” —Alberto Manguel, The Guardian

“Marías [is] a consummate stylist . . . Magic, stupendous.” —Booklist

“Absorbing and unnerving . . . A labyrinthine exploration, at once thrilling and melancholy, of the meanings of one man’s death—and a vivid testimony to the power of stories, for good or ill, to weave the world into our thoughts and our thoughts into the world.” —The Sunday Times (London)

“A novel that further secures Marías’s position as one of contemporary fiction’s most relevant voices.” —Publishers Weekly

“Hypnotic . . . The Infatuations plays off Marías’s enchantingly sinuous sentences. They suck you in and lull you along with their rhythm, which gives the unusual and palpable awareness of how masterfully Marías has made time itself his peculiar object of investigation . . . Powerful.” —Bookforum

“A masterpiece . . . Here, great literature once again shows its true face.” —ABC Cultural (Spain)

“Keeps us guessing until almost the last page. Yet what lingers in the reader’s mind is not the murder mystery, compelling though it is. Rather, it is the author’s examination of the ebb and flow of flawed relationships; the chances that bring us together and the fates (in this case, murderous intent) that pull us apart.” —Financial Times

“I ended up getting angry with myself for not having rationed the reading so it would last longer.” —El País

“Uniquely luminous . . . Like Beethoven, Marías is a brilliant escape artist . . . But Marías is original; he cannot help it.” —Times Literary Supplement (London)

The Infatuations is a metaphysical exploration masquerading as a murder mystery . . . Quietly addictive.” —Spectator

“Smart, thoughtful, morally challenging, and consistently surprising in its tense twists.”—Scotland on Sunday

“Haunting. . . . Evokes verbal puzzle-makers like Borges, and Marías’s ingenious chessboard plots bring to mind the 20th century’s grand-master strategist, Vladimir Nabokov.”—Los Angeles Times

“An arresting story of love and crime.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“The unspoken romance at the heart of Marías’s work is the recuperation of old-fashioned adventure within perfectly serious, cerebral contemporary fiction.”—The Daily Beast

“Great art often emerges from breaking, or at least tweaking, rules. A work that transcends its conventions can produce special results. Here’s such a book . . . The Infatuations takes you where very few novels do.”—Paste magazine

“A masterly novel . . . The classical themes of love, death, and fate are explored with elegant intelligence by Marías in what is perhaps his best novel so far . . . Extraordinary . . . Marías has defined the ethos of our time.”—The Guardian (UK)

“Marías has created a splendid tour de force of narrative voice. . . . A luminous performance.”—Wichita Eagle

“Javier Marías is a master of first lines. He’s a master of other things as well . . . All Marías books feel like chapters in one much longer book. And it’s one you should start reading, if you haven’t already.”—Slate

“Beyond the interesting ideas his work draws on, Marías’s novels are simply a pleasure to read . . . The Infatuations, containing the qualities of Marías’s best work, is an important addition to his oeuvre.”—The Millions

“Marías’s novel operates on so many levels simultaneously, it becomes a piece of evidence itself, an artifact that proves its own argument.”—The Onion, A. V. Club

“Marías’s novel weaves an intricate web, but its triumph is in the power of its narrator. Marías has found the ideal voice—detached, inquisitive, and vigilant—for one of his finest novels.”—Los Angeles Review of Books

0033123a-9490-485e-abfc-831ca1f43a7fThe Infatuations

Everyone needs something to get through the day. For some, it’s faith. For others, drugs, shopping, sex, or love. Reserved, thirty-something María Dolz relies on a man and a woman she sees almost every morning in the café where she has breakfast. Still laughing and joking like the best of friends after years of domestic union, they are, she thinks, the Perfect Couple: a vision of marital bliss. “It was the sight of them together that calmed and contented me before my working day began,” María tells us. Without them, she felt depressed. Then one afternoon the husband is stabbed to death by a homeless man. A tragic accident? Or the perfect crime?

From this scenario and three books (Balzac’s Colonel Chabert, Dumas’s The Three Musketeers, and Shakespeare’s MacBeth), the acclaimed Spanish novelist Javier Marías spins an exquisite web of confessions, lies, and sticky half-truths. That’s only the beginning. For The Infatuations is not merely a tale of love gone wrong, it’s also an evocation of modern sexual manners, a meditation on the relationship between the living and the dead, and a dazzling portrait of the master criminal as a kind of gorgeous spider: careful, patient, venomous. Not since Tom Ripley have I met such a cunning, and envious, creature.

Marías himself likes to work in delicate circles. His sentences are long, conversational, circuitous, their tension constantly redirected by his characters’s shifting doubts, evasions, and desires. More than anything, his prose reflects the brooding tenor of María’s cautious, intelligent mind — a mind agitated by her contact with a widow’s desperate grief and a womanizer’s deft manipulations. For after the Perfect Husband dies, María Dolz falls in love with his best friend: a man she meets only in his apartment, only when he calls her. Thus does one infatuation pave the way for another.

Javier Marías’s has long been acclaimed as one of Spain’s most exceptional writers: an author who builds intoxicating cocktails of philosophy and noir. His masterful murder story culminates in an scene of unforgettable ethical ambiguity. The most sinister thread his novel, however, is the silken connection that Marías traces between crime and confusion. For when the killer is finally cornered, a smokescreen of doubt is enough to enable the unrepentant to escape:

“When you don’t know what to believe,” Marías writes, “when you’re not prepared to play the amateur detective, then you get tired and dismiss the entire business, you let it go, you stop thinking and wash you hands of the truth or of the whole tangled mess—which comes to the same thing.” [319]

In other words, hidden crimes go unpunished not because criminals can’t be caught, but because of our own unwillingness to undertake the burden of sifting truth from deception, crime from camouflage. Thus our apathy abets the spiders of this world.

MARCELA VALDÉS

Critical Mass, March 11, 2014

THE INFATUATIONS – WHY THIS BOOK SHOULD WIN

The Infatuations by Javier Marías rolled into its publication date with more baggage than the Coast Starlight, more anticipation than the Wells Fargo wagon in The Music Man.

Immediately, the griping and whining started. “It isn’t his best book.” “It isn’t as good as (fill in the blank with any of his previous books).” “I really loved the trilogy, but this…” “Knopf paid serious money for the book, did they know what they were getting?” I even heard someone suggest the book was slighted because of readership loyalty to New Directions, Marías’ previous publisher.

However, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, NPR, and Slate all made it through their reviews without an audible groan – and for good reason. This is a really good book.

Marías is writing in genre, and he appears to be having a hell of a good time doing it. It’s cerebral in ways similar to Frederick Knott’s Dial M for Murder. It’s less about the crime, less action, and more about the paths and perception – more philosophic than forensic.
I’ve read a boatload of mysteries, but I can’t remember one that does exactly what The Infatuations does. Not going to outline the plot, but the ending, no spoiler alert here, is dropped in your lap.

I love Marías. I don’t care if what he writes is High Fecking Art or not. And you shouldn’t either.

This book should win The Best Translated Book Award.

GEORGE CARROLL

Three Percent, March 12, 2014

Ramón Pernas: “Creo que soy el único escritor que dice en público que le gusta Javier Marías”

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Ver entrevista
[Menciona a JM a partir del minuto 17]

Entrevista a Ramón Pernas:

“Creo que soy el único escritor que dice en público que le gusta Javier Marías, considero que es uno de los grandes escritores vivos en español. También tengo un afecto literario por Antonio Soler y por un atrevido y excéntrico escritor francés nacido en España, Enrique Vila-Matas que es un magnífico escritor que es está en una etapa de su vida espléndida regenerando la literatura”.

“Esos tres (Javier Marías, Antonio Soler y Enrique Vila-Matas) son suficientes para diagnosticar el estado de salud de la literatura española. Han emergido unos jóvenes escritores como Salomón y tal, pero está a una distancia notable de estos tres”.

LORENZO RODRÍGUEZ

Periodista Digital, 11 de abril de 2014

Reseñas de ‘Comme les amours’

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COMME LES AMOURS DE JAVIER MARÍAS: UNE DÉAMBULATION TROUBLANTE DANS LE JARDIN DU BIEN ET DU MAL ….

«Vous me croyiez mort, n’est-ce pas, comme je vous croyais morte? Notre position est vraiment étrange ; nous n’avons vécu jusqu’à présent l’un et l’autre que parce que nous nous croyions morts, et qu’un souvenir gêne moins qu’une créature, quoique ce soit chose dévorante parfois qu’un souvenir.» Alexandre Dumas, extrait Les trois mousquetaires.

Editrice madrilène à l’existence discrète, lasse des atermoiements des auteurs dont elle a la charge, María prend chaque matin à proximité de son lieu de travail un petit-déjeuner qu’elle accompagne d’une contemplation: celle d’un couple dont la perfection enchante ses journées et en rend tolérable l’ennui.

Un émerveillement de courte durée quand elle apprend l’assassinat sauvage de l’homme, Miguel Desvern, producteur de renom et époux de Luisa avec laquelle il composait cette partition de conte de fées. Privée de tout optimisme, la vie de María reprend un cours sans saveur et lorsqu’elle croise à nouveau la femme elle ose enfin décliner son identité et lui révéler la joie que lui procurait leur couple. Dévastée par l’absence de l’être aimé, Luisa évoque la ténacité du chagrin et c’est par la petite porte des confidences qu’elle autorise María à entrer dans son intimité, lui présentant quelques proches dont le très séduisant Javier Díaz-Varela, qui fut l’ami de son compagnon. Très vite, le hasard mettra Díaz-Varela sur le chemin de María. De cette rencontre imprévue naîtra une mélodie bien plus sombre, une variation empreinte de duplicité où s’invitera un tout autre deuil: celui de la perte des illusions…

Unaniment salué de par le monde littéraire, le savoir-faire de Javier Marías prend dans ce roman une dimension de conte philosophique à faire pâlir d’envie Monsieur Perrault en personne. S’aidant d’une langue altière et impeccable dont il demeure l’un des indiscutables garants, Javier Marías livre une réflexion exigeante sur les insuffisances de nos jeux de l’amour et du hasard et c’est avec une cruauté délectable qu’il nous invite à méditer sur les roueries et petits arrangements dont peuvent s’entourer les plus nobles sentiments. En choisissant de se glisser dans la psyché et les palpitations d’une narratrice, il témoigne de sa vaste connaissance de l’intériorité féminine et de de sa disposition séculaire à tomber en amour pour ce qui lui échappe, laissant ainsi à l’homme un autre emploi bien connu: celui du prédateur à l’effleurement sensuel animé par la convoitise.

En filigrane de cette incursion dans la fable, Javier Marías se réapproprie avec agilité une autre thématique: celle de la mort et plus largement celle de notre faculté d’oubli. Car une fois la perte du proche acceptée, souhaitons-nous vraiment la réapparition des défunts dans nos vies? Ne préférons-nous pas l’espace cotonneux du souvenir? Une savante digression qu’il met en abyme en nous offrant une relecture admirable de modernité du Colonel Chabert auquel Honoré de Balzac fit dire cette phrase tristement célèbre «J’ai été enterré sous des morts, mais maintenant je suis enterré sous des vivants, sous des actes, sous des faits, sous la société tout entière, qui veut me faire rentrer sous terre.»

Un très grand roman, une écriture délectable parce que rare. Saisissant et venimeux . Beau et imparfait «comme nos amours»…

ASTRID MANFREDI

Laisse parler les filles (Blog), 18 Janvier 2014

COMME LES AMOURS

Si Laura Kasischke joue avec le lecteur et l’inconscient, Javier Marías place la manipulation au cœur même de son sujet avec une brillante déambulation dans les méandres de la conscience. Une performance à déconseiller aux amateurs de péripéties musclées, mais qu’apprécieront les passionnés de grande littérature.

À force de prendre son petit déjeuner chaque matin dans la cafétéria à côté de son bureau, María Dolz remarque l’heureuse complicité qui anime un couple d’habitués. Petit à petit, leur présence agit comme un rituel réjouissant avant de commencer une ennuyeuse journée de travail. Elle ne s’inquiète guère de ne plus les voir à son retour de vacances jusqu’à ce qu’elle apprenne que l’homme, Miguel Deverne a été assassiné de seize coups de couteau par un sdf déséquilibré qui l’accusait de vouloir spolier ses deux filles de leur héritage.

Bouleversée, elle rend visite à Luisa, sa veuve qui la reconnaît, l’accueille et lui confie vivre un chagrin insurmontable. Lors de cette entrevue, elle fait la connaissance du meilleur ami de la victime, Javier Díaz-Varela, un séduisant parleur dont elle pressent qu’il est amoureux de Luisa et avec qui elle entame néanmoins une liaison. Involontairement, María va se retrouver au cœur d’une conspiration diabolique en relation avec la mort de Miguel qui l’obligera à sonder ses propres gouffres, tester son courage, sa loyauté ou sa lâcheté, sa capacité à se convaincre d’une version ou d’une autre, suivant qu’elle apaise ses états d’âme ou non.

Que savons-nous de ceux qui nous entourent? De leurs pensées intimes, de leurs réelles intentions ou de ce qu’ils ont fait par le passé? Quelle vérité nous parvient d’eux au bout du compte? Et quelles mains invisibles pétrissent parfois notre propre destin? D’introspection en fausses pistes, de correspondances littéraires en rebondissements, Javier Marías élabore une réflexion machiavélique sur l’amour, la mort, le deuil et le travail falsificateur du temps.

Par une multitude de circonvolutions, toujours pertinentes, qui passent par une relecture étonnante du Colonel Chabert, ainsi que des références à Shakespeare ou Dumas, il diffuse, à dose homéopathique, un suspense dont les digressions étudient la moindre palpitation du cheminement de María. Mensonges, trahisons, autosuggestion alimentent cette construction philosophique complexe, qui explore chaque recoin de nos douteux arrangements avec la vérité et la morale.

BÉATRICE ARVET

La Semaine, 3 Novembre 2013

Mainer-Marías

Mainer reivindica la literatura española del medievo y del XVIII

En este “presente incierto y vivaz” encajan dentro del hilo argumental narradores como Javier Marías, poetas como José Manuel Caballero, ensayistas como Fernando Savater y dramaturgos como Juan Mayorga

Millones de palabras en 50.000 palabras. Infinitas páginas en 201 páginas. Centenares de nombres de escritores, temas, corrientes y tendencias en nueve capítulos. 800 años de creación literaria para leer en unas… cuatro horas. Millares de libros asomados en un libro: Historia mínima de la literatura española (Turner), de José-Carlos Mainer. Un ensayo que se lee como un relato de la creación literaria en España y de la vida del país en el cual destacan las luces reivindicadoras que lanza sobre periodos más o menos eclipsados por la Historia oficial y el imaginario colectivo, como son la Edad Media y el siglo XVIII, mientras arriesga con el presente.

[...]

Siempre es más difícil valorar la creación contemporánea porque no se sabe qué dirá el tiempo, asegura Mainer. Pero aceptó el reto. No como un diccionario ni una lista de nombres ni de obras, sino dentro del hilo argumental del relato que empezó en la Edad Media. Entre los autores contemporáneos presentes en dicha línea argumental de Historia mínima de la literatura española figuran Fernando Savater, Javier Marías, José Manuel Caballero Bonald, Ana María Matute, Juan Marsé, Antonio Muñoz Molina, Antonio Gamoneda, Cristina Fernández Cubas, Juan Eduardo Zúñiga, Enrique Vila-Matas, Álvaro Pombo, Luis Mateo Díez, Eduardo Mendoza, Juan y Luis Goytisolo, Francisco Brines, Félix de Azúa, Rafael Chirbes, Pere Gimferrer, José María Merino, Antonio Colinas, Juan José Millás, Almudena Grandes, Andrés Trapiello, Ignacio Martínez de Pisón, Luis Landero, Jon Juaristi y Fernando Aramburu. De las últimas generaciones figuran autores como Juan Antonio González Iglesias, Ray Loriga, Isaac Rosa, y José Ángel Mañas, el más joven de todos.

[...]

WINSTON MANRIQUE SABOGAL

El País, 26 de febrero de 2014

Reseñas sobre ‘The Infatuations’

The Inf KNOPF bolsillo

Uses of Uncertainty

No novel, reflects María Dolz, the narrator of Javier Marías’s The Infatuations, “would ever give houseroom to the infinite number of chances and coincidences that can occur in a single lifetime … It’s quite shameful the way reality imposes no limits on itself.” The world, Marías’s latest novel reminds us, continually exceeds our attempts to account for it through narrative. And whether we find this fact disheartening or encouraging, The Infatuations exemplifies an attitude with which to face it, which is a healthy distrust of the plausible story. Marías gives us, if not houseroom for infinite coincidences, a brilliant meditation on the uncertainty that such distrust entails. His protagonists, faced with situations of life-or-death severity, make of their skepticism a resource: they become essayists in the manner of Montaigne.

The Infatuations is about the aftermath of a senseless and violent murder and the resulting loss of ordinary certainties in life. Dolz opens the novel with news of the death of Miguel Desvern or Deverne (she alternates uncertainly between the names), a man whom she barely knew but who had formed part of her daily routine. She only finds out his name from the newspaper report of his death. Each morning before work, she had seen him and his wife at breakfast at a café, very much in love. The “sight of them together … calmed and contented me before my working day began,” Dolz explains, “as if they provided me with a vision of an orderly, or if you prefer, harmonious world.” Deverne’s apparently unmotivated murder by a homeless man puts an end to a world about which Dolz knew very little but whose abrupt curtailment she experiences as a kind of paradise lost.

With the murder and the rupture of this happy pair Dolz loses a feature of her own life that was reassuring both in the apparent certainty of its recurrence and its lack of demand on her to know anything specific about it. Comfort in modern life, The Infatuations suggests, relies on such thoughtless certainties, on what precisely we don’t need to know about people in order for them to behave in predictable ways (the great sociologist Georg Simmel called this “confidence under complex conditions”). When such certainties are lost, we are apt to become questioners, philosophers—even murder investigators. For Dolz this transformation comes unwillingly: “I lack the detective instinct, it’s just not me.” Her aloofness attracts others and she briefly becomes the confidante of Deverne’s widow, Luisa Alday, and, less briefly, the lover of the dead man’s best friend, Javier Díaz-Varela. Deverne’s murder turns out to be more complicated than first thought, and much of the novel consists of extended dialogues between Dolz and Díaz-Varela on the motivations behind and consequences of this death, and on the relationship between life and fiction (it’s no coincidence that the characters’ first names, compounded, nearly produce the name of their author). The dialogues report on speculation and sometimes are speculation: Dolz, for example, often imagines Díaz-Varela’s thought processes and composes accounts of his former encounters, including those he had with his murdered friend. The layers of prose, each rich and gripping in its own right, are skillfully framed.

There’s a moment in these dialogues when Dolz recounts the nostalgia of Díaz-Varela for the lost decency of hired assassins. Between hit men now, he laments,

There’s no sense of camaraderie, no sense of belonging: if one of them gets caught, tough, let him sort himself out, it was his fault for getting nabbed. He’s expendable, and the organizations accept no responsibility, they’ve taken the necessary measures so that they don’t get tarnished or tainted … And so those who are arrested respond in kind. Nowadays, all anyone cares about is saving his own skin or getting his sentence reduced.

Though it comes in a serious context (an attempt to account for an unaccountable murder), it’s a wry plaint. And not only because the subject matter of organized murder undermines the clichés at hand for lamenting social decay—the disintegration of corporate bonds, the triumph of selfish individualism—but also because it neatly conveys a preoccupation of the novel. To say that hit men aren’t what they used to be is to suggest that the world may be a fallen one—but then it always was. We are never, in fact, falling from former certainties, even when we think we are, because things have never been certain.

And so The Infatuations, whatever else it is, is a novel about the uses to be made of uncertainty. Provoked by the uncertainty surrounding Deverne’s death, Dolz becomes neither a nihilist nor a dogmatist, but adopts the style of an essayist, a speculator on the human condition. It’s a style that avoids certainties and recognizes that life is more complex than any plot. “The truth is never clear,” Dolz comments, “it’s always a tangled mess. Even when you get to the bottom of it. But in real life almost no one needs to find the truth or devote himself to investigating anything, that only happens in puerile novels.” Statements like these are not usually found in murder mysteries: The Infatuations aims to broaden our palates by weaning us from a diet that caters to our craving for certainty.

In place of certainty, we are offered the resources of fiction. The novel suggests that fictions “have the ability to show us what we don’t know and what doesn’t happen,” and this what is like other people’s lives, which we also don’t know, and which don’t happen to us. We can only know other people’s lives in the way we know fictions, and this raises the stakes of fiction. What happens in a fiction matters less, insists Díaz-Varela, than “the possibilities and ideas that the novel’s imaginary plot communicates to us and infuses us with.”

The novel’s many literary allusions reinforce its preoccupation with the relationship between fiction and life. For instance, Dolz disagrees with Díaz-Varela’s use of the “possibilities and ideas … communicate[d]” by a Balzac novella, Le Colonel Chabert. Díaz-Varela had quoted a catalog of crimes that a character in the novel, the lawyer Derville, offers as evidence of human depravity. In particular, Derville claims he had “seen women administer lethal drops [gouttes] to a legitimate child born of the marriage bed in order to bring about its death and thus benefit a love-child.” But María objects to Díaz-Varela’s translation of the word “gouttes,” and thus to his use of the story. For her, “‘tastes’ (or perhaps ‘inclinations’)” should be substituted for “drops.” She speculates about what to make of this substitution:

The meaning still wasn’t very clear even in that interpretation, nor was it easy to imagine what exactly Derville meant. To give or instil in a child tastes or inclinations that would bring about his death? Drink or opium or gambling or a tendency to criminal behaviour perhaps? A taste for luxury that he would be unable to give up and that would lead him to commit crimes in order to satisfy that taste? A morbid lust that would expose him to diseases or propel him into rape? A character so weak and fearful that the slightest setback would drive him to suicide? It was obscure and almost enigmatic.

This version, Dolz reflects, might point to an even more perverse and sustained crime than outright murder: more horrifying because more plausible, and because a mother might easily claim she never intended to commit it. A well-meaning mother could raise a monster out of good intentions and excessive compliance.

This quibble about a single word hints at The Infatuations’ picture of human relations, at “the possibilities and ideas” that this novel “communicates to us.” Instead of the direct, intended actions of one person upon another, Marías offers something more “obscure and almost enigmatic.” People indirectly bring others to ruin all the time; equally indirectly, they enliven and restore them. But how are we to tell when and how this happens? And yet it is a difference that makes all the difference. The Infatuations is such a brilliantly disturbing novel because it raises doubts about whether any narrative can explain anything fully enough; and it implicitly enjoins on us closer attention to the high stakes of our everyday uncertainties.

DAVID RUSSELL

Public Books, February 1, 2014

0033123a-9490-485e-abfc-831ca1f43a7fThe Infatuations

It is the habit of María Dolz, a prudent young woman who works in a nearby publishing house, to have breakfast every morning before work at a certain café in Madrid. There, she regularly and contentedly observes Miguel and Luisa Desverne, a husband and wife who she comes to think of as the Perfect Couple. Sometime later, she is shocked to learn that the husband has been brutally stabbed on the street near his home.

“’What happened is the least of it.’”

While coming to grips with the sudden death of someone she barely knows, María meets Desverne’s wife and Javier, his best friend. As she becomes entangled with Javier, she gradually discovers that the murder was not random. In this contemplative and literary novel by award-winning Spanish author Marías what happens is of far less importance than how possibilities and events are interpreted by the main characters. More a philosophical essay than a psychological thriller and more emotionally reflective than suspenseful, this is the story of a murder that is, at the same time, just a murder and much more.

LINDA FREDERIKSEN

Portland Book Review, February 3, 2014

Más acerca de ‘The Infatuations’

The Infatuations recorteCatching up with Stuart Roberts

In an effort to get to know our Oxford University Press staff better, we’re featuring interviewing our staff in different offices.

[…]

What are you reading right now?

Javier Marías’ new novel The Infatuations. It’s a haunting, beautiful murder mystery. I’ve already gifted several copies. Bedside, I’m enjoying evenings with one of Oxford University Press (OUP)’s own — The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean. It’s an adventure story at heart.

Open the book you’re currently reading and turn to page 75. Tell us the title of the book, and the third sentence on that page.

The Infatuations: “All those speaking objects have been left dumb and meaningless, as if a blanket had been thrown over them to silence and soothe them, making them think that night has come, or as if they, too, regretted the loss of their owner and had withdrawn instantaneously, strangely aware that they had become redundant, futile, and were thinking: “What will we do here now?”

[…]

ALYSSA BENDER

Oxford University Press’s Blog, January 11, 2014

2013 a breakout year for unknown writers such as Drndic, Ledgard

Unlike 2012, 2013 was low on releases from heavyweight authors, but this was no bad thing, as it meant there were more surprises for the reader from breakthrough or unknown writers.

Trieste by Daša Drndic was an outstanding debut novel with Sebaldian undertones about the Nazi occupation of northern Italy. Drndic blended fact and fiction and incorporated photos, maps and lists of Jewish deportees to produce a harrowing, affecting and gripping reading experience. Submergence by J M Ledgard flitted between a kidnapped spy in Somalia and a scientist exploring the depths of the ocean; a third strand covered their romance in a snowbound French hotel; powerful prose with lyrical flurries and characters that mattered kept me entranced. Two established writers continued to work wonders: John le Carré’s A Delicate Truth and Javier Marías’s The Infatuations proved that certain old masters are still rich with ideas and the talent to express them.

[...]

MALCOLM FORBES

The National (Abu Dhabi), December 25, 2013

‘The Infatuations’ triunfó en 2013

T I camisa
Los libros que han triunfado por el mundo en 2013

Estados Unidos

La lista norteamericana por excelencia es la de la revista de libros del The New York Times. O, mejor dicho, listas –así, en plural– porque publica varias. La más influyente es “Los 10 mejores libros de 2013” –cinco títulos de narrativa y cinco de ensayo– en la que destacan tres novelas muy mencionadas en otras clasificaciones de medios estadounidenses y británicos; son, seguramente, los tres libros del año en inglés.

[...]

La otra gran lista del periódico neoyorquino es la de “Los 100 libros notables de 2013”, en la que destacan dos títulos traducidos del español: Los enamoramientos, de Javier Marías, y El ruido de las cosas al caer, del colombiano Juan Gabriel Vásquez, ambos editados por Alfaguara. No es un logro menor si tenemos en cuenta que el mercado norteamericano es casi impermeable a las traducciones, que apenas suponen un 3% del total.

JOSÉ LUIS IBÁÑEZ RIDAO

Zoom News, 2 de enero de 2014

Los libros que han triunfado en medio mundo

Este año, The New York Times confió la selección de cien libros notables del 2013 (50 de ficción y 50 de ensayo) a los editores del Sunday Book Review. Tan solo dos autores, que representan las dos orillas del castellano fueron incluidos en la selección. El español Javier Marías, con Los enamoramientos (The Infatuations. Knopf) y el colombiano Juan Gabriel Vásquez, con El ruido de las cosas al caer (The sound of things falling. Riverhead), Premio Alfaguara 2011.

CAROLINA ETHEL

El País, Blog Papeles perdidos, 1 de enero de 2014

Editors’ Picks for 2013: Fiction

The Infatuations
By Javier Marias

Sometimes the mystery is not what leads up to a murder, but what happens after. Javier Marías’s existential thriller about a crazed attack and the shockwaves it sends through the lives of fatally intertwined Madrid citizens couples the grace and patience of Henry James with the delicious tension of a Hitchcock film.

Barnes and Noble Review, December 18, 2013
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Globe Books: What we learned from what we read in 2013

My reading life in 2013 continued with more novels that seemed to unravel in my hands. The master of this technique is the Spanish novelist Javier Marías. His backlist will reward new readers, so be prepared to lose a month or two. This immersion is particularly interesting with Marìas, whose novels and short stories interlock and reference one another. The characters reappear, and his chosen style, a swirling and smothering and loquacious stream (thanks to superb translations by Margaret Jull Costa) allows for epic digressions. Make a TV show from, for instance, Marías’s trilogy, Your Face Tomorrow, and it might feature a man sitting and smoking remembering another moment he was sitting and reading, remembering another moment he was sat speaking to a mysterious man, remembering another moment: the time he discovered a single drop of blood on a staircase, and then somewhere within these trapdoors of remembrance, Marías finds a way to weave in a profound examination of Franco’s Spain. Maybe Jon Hamm could pull off such a scene.

To read Marías is to surrender expectations: his latest, The Infatuations, is a murder mystery, but the author is too concerned with what might have happened, or what could have happened, too concerned with love, sex, infatuation, to rush into the machinations of a whodunit. His trilogy – I can’t offer anything better than this description – has been called a Le Carré novel as written by Proust. “I had opened myself up too much to evocations,” his narrator confesses halfway through book two, “although without ever becoming bored…” It’s true. For some reason it’s never boring. I will, Marías seems to be saying, give you a long sentence, a multi-clause monster, so that you can disprove everything they say is happening to attention spans these days and enjoy one of the less-discussed formal pleasures of sticking with a sentence and following its contours right to the last stop, right to the end. They unspool and unspool.

GRAIG TAYLOR

The Globe and Mail (Canadá), December 27, 2013

The infautatiosReaders’ books of the year 2013

Martin Hills, Chichester

In Javier Marías’s mesmerising The Infatuations (Hamish Hamilton), the narrator María’s compulsive daily observation of a model couple in a Madrid cafe morphs from romance to murder mystery and on into metaphysics. The magic of Marías’s writing derives from the fluidly shifting conjectures, qualifications and modifications of his prose, unravelling individual perception into nuanced medications on love, time and death. The result is a magisterial evocation of emotional flux and preoccupation with the ordering containment of art. In a 2013 Guardian interview Marías stated that the novelist’s function was “a way of imparting, recognition of things that you didn’t know you knew”. There is a quality of fantastic normality in his novels as he dredges up the familiar from bizarre, claustrophobic, almost gothic events and obsessions.

Lynne Taylor, Burnley, Lancashire

The  Infatuations by Javier Marías (Hamish Hamilton) is a completely new take on murder. Marías’s insight into the human condition is acute. In language that is intelligent and a joy to read, this novel is about the coalescence of reality and fantasy, obsession, and the lengths people will go to in the state of el enamoramiento: the madness of being in love. The plot is elicited in glimpses, gradually enabling the reader to disentangle truth from lies. I wish I hadn’t read it, then I would still have the pleasure of unknowingness one has when reading it for the first time.

The Guardian, December 28, 2013

‘Vidas escritas’

portada-vidas-escritas_med

Vidas escritas no es una novela, aunque se lee como sí lo fuera. Es un libro biográfico, un libro compuesto de pequeñas semblanzas de grandes escritores y el autor, Javier Marías, es un reconocido novelista y articulista español que posee además un conocimiento enciclopédico sobre literatura, a la que ha dedicado su vida, como escritor, como profesor o como traductor de muchos autores del espacio literario anglosajón. Esta lectura es recomendable por muy variadas razones y para mucho tipo de lectores ya que al ser pequeños retratos compuestos en capítulos breves es fácil leer uno o dos y dejarlo si se está cansado o no se goza de mucho tiempo.

Otra razón es que Javier Marías es un magnífico escritor con un dominio de nuestro idioma que nos permite disfrutar de cada frase y de cada palabra, siempre situada en el lugar apropiado para producir la máxima capacidad expresiva, y por último, estos pequeños textos de perfecta prosa nos permiten adentrarnos en la vida de insignes escritores y conocer situaciones, pensamientos, actitudes y anécdotas sobre personajes muy interesantes. Sin embargo, estas biografías mínimas no siguen un esquema usual en el modo de describir una vida, no sabemos, en la mayor parte de los casos, en qué fechas vivieron los biografiados, o cuáles fueron sus estudios o dónde nacieron siquiera, no obstante, la elección de los hechos reseñados nos permiten conocer su carácter, sus manías o sus obsesiones y placeres desde un punto de vista singular, y sentimos, a medida que vamos leyendo, que nos acercamos más a esos hombres y mujeres que sí hubiéramos hecho un recorrido exhaustivo por los datos sobre sus vidas.

La mayor parte de los escritores a los que Javier Marías nos permite conocer de un modo tan peculiar forman parte de la historia de la literatura en mayúsculas: Faulkner, Conrad, Joyce, Stevenson, Nabokov…

BIBLIOTECA SÁNCHEZ DÍAZ

Vive Campoo (Cantabria), 30 de diciembre de 2013

Mentir de bonne foi

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Beaucoup de fins lecteurs pensent -à juste titre- que Javier Marías serait un excellent candidat pour le prix Nobel de littérature. Une opinion que confirme Comme les amours, roman qui, dans tous les pays où il a été traduit, a remporté un vif succès critique, et qui paraît aujourd’hui en France.

Si vous n’avez aucun goût pour l’analyse psychique, si les recoins ombreux de l’âme humaine ont peu d’attrait pour vous, vous passerez votre chemin. Mais si ce n’est pas le cas et si vous n’avez jamais ouvert le moindre ouvrage de Javier Marías -l’auteur d‘Un coeur si blanc et de Demain dans la bataille pense à moi (Rivages, 1997 et 1998)-, il serait dommage de rater cette occasion. Une grandiose porte d’entrée dans l’univers subtil, intelligent et raffiné d’un envoûteur hors pair, né à Madrid en 1951, et devenu sans conteste l’un des meilleurs stylistes espagnols.

Au premier abord, rien de spectaculaire. Une simple histoire d’amour accrochée à un fait divers. Une vaste étude sur des thèmes classiques: raison et sentiments, trahison et loyauté, destinée et libre arbitre… Dès les premières pages, la narratrice observe un couple. Dans la vie professionnelle, María Dolz est éditrice. Elle a pour habitude de prendre chaque matin son petit déjeuner dans un café proche de son bureau et d’y fixer son attention sur ce couple inconnu. Miguel Desvern et Luisa Alday sont mari et femme. Un couple régulier, mais qui “rit, parle, plaisante et se stimule” d’une manière qui semble ne laisser aucune place à l’usure des jours.

Est-ce cela qui fascine tant María? Cette habileté qu’ont certains à s’amuser de la vie et à préserver dans leur regard cette lueur confiante et rieuse qu’elle décèle chez Miguel et Luisa? Un jour pourtant, le couple ne vient pas et l’éditrice apprend par la presse que Miguel a été assassiné par un fou au sortir de sa voiture. Même si elle ne lui a jamais parlé, María décide de se rapprocher de Luisa, la veuve inconsolable. Dans son entourage, elle fait bientôt la connaissance de Javier Díaz-Varela, que Luisa lui présente comme “le meilleur ami de Miguel”. Mais tout cela serait trop simple. Lorsque María et Javier deviennent amants, María comprend que les liens qui unissent Luisa à l’ex-meilleur ami de son défunt mari ne sont pas, loin de là, sans ambiguïté. Et tout cela jette soudain un éclairage fondamentalement différent sur le couple et son passé.

L’épaisseur de l’ombre

Que Varela soit un menteur et même peut-être un assassin, le lecteur s’en doute assez vite. Mais qu’importe. Ce qui compte chez Javier Marías, ce n’est jamais l’histoire à la lettre – même si celle-ci est ici si prenante qu’on ne peut s’empêcher de tourner les pages. Non, c’est plutôt les mille possibilités de récits qui sont en germe. Latents. Comme des ramifications silencieuses de l’histoire principale. C’est le cheminement infiniment complexe et troublant de la pensée. Le silence. Les mensonges. Toute cette machinerie lourde que l’on voit se mettre en branle dans les cerveaux des personnages afin que chacun puisse arriver à se mentir à lui-même en toute bonne foi. Que sommes-nous capables de faire et de justifier par amour? De quoi parvenons-nous à nous convaincre? Sur quelles trahisons et quelles impostures sommes-nous prêts à fermer les yeux?

Fermer les yeux. La littérature est là au contraire pour les déssiller. “Elle nous aide à penser ce que l’on n’ose pas penser en temps normal”, dit Marías, de passage à Paris. Après réflexion, il ajoute: “Faulkner s’interrogeait sur le pouvoir de la littérature. Et il disait à peu près ceci: “Ecrire, c’est comme craquer une allumette au milieu de la nuit, en plein milieu d’un bois.” Ce que vous comprenez alors, c’est combien il y a d’obscurité partout. La littérature ne sert pas à mieux voir. Elle sert seulement à mieux mesurer l’épaisseur de l’ombre.”

Javier Marías a refusé le Premio nacional de narrativa (“Prix national du roman”, doté de 20.000 euros) attribué à Comme les amours“L’Etat venait de suspendre ses aides aux bibliothèques, je trouvais cela déplacé”, dit-il. Espérons, si on le lui proposait un jour, qu’il ne dirait pas non aux jurés de l’Académie Nobel.

FLORENCE NOIVILLE

Le Monde des Livres, 18 décembre 2013

Le Monde (édition papier), 4 octobre 2013

Libros recomendados

The holiday newsletter at Third Place Books, Washington

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The holiday newsletter at Politics & Prose, Washington, DC

The Infatuations, by Javier Marías

Someone dies unexpectedly and all at once reality shifts for everyone within range of the deceased, whether they knew him or not. María, protagonist and narrator of Javier Marías mesmerizing 14th novel, is in the latter category, familiar with the dead man and his wife only from seeing them most mornings at a café. Her account starts as a meditation on chance, fate, and how so many unknowns make us who we are— philosophical observations drawn from the shock of the killing, which seemed like bad luck or a mistake and which, falling on the victim’s birthday, “doesn’t make any sense, precisely because it seems to.” María gets to know the widow and falls in love with a friend of the couple’s—a man she wouldn’t have met without the death—and her musings extend to thoughts on love, romance, and whether one person can ever really know another. As compelling as are these ideas and the psychological complexity they convey, the novel gains yet greater depth and tension as the existential mysteries segue into those of a murder mystery. The accidental death wasn’t an accident after all, and María plunges into a chilling world of passions so powerful they turn decent people into evildoers. Marías’s sinuous, graceful prose is reminiscent of Saramago’s conversational fluidity, and his language beguiles as surely as does its brilliant story.

T I camisa

Writers’ favorite books of 2013
San Francisco Gate, December 13, 2013

The infautatios

Books Gift Guide Part II: Spuds, spies and sports
Irish Examiner, December 13, 2013

MBPM Vintage

Laura van den Berg’s 6 favorite unconventional mystery novels
The Week, December 8, 2013

‘The Infatuations’, libro del año según John Ashbery

The Infatuations recorte

Books of the Year

JOHN ASHBERY

As in years past, my favourite novel of those I read this year is one by Javier Marías, The Infatuations (Hamish Hamilton). This time the narrator is a woman, although there is also a character named Javier. As usual, a fiendishly complex little plot triggers wave after wave of achingly beautiful prose whose mood of ecstatic disquiet becomes addicting. Perhaps slightly less bristling than usual, his sentences often begin with a proposition that soon gets modified, and so on till the end, which can be a radical transformation. This peeling-of-the-onion operation has once again been superbly performed by the translator Margaret Jull Costa…

The Times Literary Supplement, November 27, 2013

NPR Books

Kirkus Reviews

McNally Robinson Booksellers

Roy Foster y Anthony Marra recomiendan ‘The Infatuations’

The Infatuations IndependentRoy Foster’s books of the year

Hermione Lee’s Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life (Chatto) is a revelation, brilliantly demonstrating the undemure existence of this widely admired novelist: a louche Irish husband, debt, a poverty-stricken life on sinking barges and council flats lie behind a facade of mild English eccentricity and powerfully original (often very un-English) work. It reads like a Fitzgerald novel.

I was dazzled by Javier Marias’s The Infatuations (Hamish Hamilton): nobody else writes so hypnotically of obsession, suspicion and the murky areas of love and crime.

Similar themes characterise Edna O’Brien’s short stories in The Love Object (Faber), each one a masterclass in her quintessential qualities of delicacy and toughness.

Lucy Riall’s Under the Volcano: Revolution in a Sicilian Town (Oxford) tells the story of an 1860 peasant revolt on an English-owned Sicilian property: a classic of microhistory, raising large issues of landlordism, violent history and mutual incomprehension, with distinct Irish echoes.

The poems that meant most to me in 2013 were Seamus Heaney’s, read with a revived intensity after his loss. But of new publications, I was deeply impressed by Martin Dyar’s Maiden Names (Arlen House): funny, astute, marvellously judged, and a genuinely new voice.

[Roy Foster is Carroll professor of Irish history at Hertford College, Oxford]

The Irish Times, November 30, 2013

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PW’s Top 10 Authors Pick Their Favorite Books of 2013

Marra’s pick: The Infatuations by Javier Marías (Knopf)

“Sometimes the book you’ve been looking for, without even knowing it, finds its way into your hands, and for me, this year, that book was The Infatuations. It’s billed as a metaphysical murder mystery—imagine if Proust had a murder instead of a madeleine and you begin to get a sense of the stylistic synthesis on display. Rather than the forward momentum of plot, Marías relies on a downward drop into psychology; instead of hurtling through events, the reader plunges through the thick strata of contradictions, deceptions, and unvarnished need lining the hearts of the novel’s fully realized characters. It’s the best and truest kind of mystery—one of enduring questions rather than delayed answers. But what makes The Infatuations the most personally moving novel of the year for me are its asides, digressions, and tangents, which are so integral you almost get the sense that Marías constructed his suspense story to scaffold his riffs. He ruminates on the loss of a loved one in what are the most unsentimental, clear-eyed, and honest passages on either loss or love I’ve read in some time. The book finds hope, or at least consolation, in the ceaseless mutability of the human psyche. Someone you once couldn’t live without becomes someone you now can’t live with at all, to paraphrase Marías, and the person you were when you were in love becomes a ghost you simply move away from. And while ghosts do populate the novel, its ultimate power comes in letting them dissolve.”

ANTHONY MARRA

Publishers Weekly, December 6, 2013

Anthony Marra: ‘Write what you want to know’

- 2013 must have been a very busy year for you. But did you have time to read other 2013 books? Any you especially enjoyed or would recommend?

It’s been an amazing year for fiction, but four I particularly enjoyed are “The Infatuations” by Javier Marias, “We Need New Names” by NoViolet Bulawayo, “A Marker to Measure Drift” by Alexander Maksik, and “The Woman Who Lost Her Soul” by Bob Shacochis.

MARJORIE KEHE

CS Monitor, December 4 ,2013

Más reseñas francesas

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Comme les amours-Javier Marías

Luisa et Miguel forment un couple parfait. La narratrice, María, les observe tous les matins prendre leur petit déjeuner dans la cafétéria où elle va, elle aussi, prendre un café avant d’aller travailler.

Je l’avais vu de nombreux matins où je l’avais entendu rire et parler, presque chaque fois au cours de ces quelques années, de bonne heure, mais pas tant, car j’arrivais au travail avec un léger retard pour avoir l’occasion de me trouver un instant avec ce couple, pas avec l’homme seul –que l’on ne se méprenne pas– mais avec eux deux, c’étaient eux deux qui me faisaient du bien et me réjouissaient, avant d’entamer la journée.

Oui, mais voilà. Dès le premier chapitre, on apprend que Miguel vient d’être assassiné: il meurt bêtement, un coup après l’autre, encore et encore, sans lui laisser une chance, avec la volonté de le rayer du monde et de l’expulser sans délai de la surface de la terre, là-bas et à ce moment-là.

María les a beaucoup observés. Ils semblent s’entendre parfaitement, et prolonger de quelques minutes leur tête-à-tête avant que lui ne s’éloigne pour son travail. Elle, s’attarde parfois encore un peu après son départ. Un matin, ils ne viennent plus. María, en voyage, ne sait pas le drame qui s’est joué non loin de la cafétéria en son absence. C’est une collègue qui évoque l’accident devant María, qui travaille dans une maison d’édition (portrait très drôle d’écrivains à l’égo démesuré). Le soir, sur Internet, elle découvre l’horreur de la situation: un matin, Miguel Devern a voulu garer sa voiture, lorsqu’un indigent faisant office de voiturier s’est mis à divaguer et injurier le malheureux mari, qui n’était pour rien dans les accusations portées contre lui.

Mais le voiturier s’est emporté et s’est jeté sur lui par-derrière, le poignardant d’une dizaine de coups de couteau mortels.

Commence alors une fausse enquête policière, au cours de laquelle María, témoin indirect du couple, qui la surnommait la Jeune Prudente, va rencontrer, dans la même cafétéria où elle venait avec son mari, cette femme devenue veuve. Une Luisa qui ne se remet pas de ce coup du sort. Fascinée par la tragédie, María va pénétrer le giron de cette famille, et y rencontrer Javier Díaz-Varela, l’ami intime du couple. Javier, devenu le confident de Luisa, l’ami indispensable qui console, et dont María va s’éprendre jusqu’à ce qu’une mystérieuse conversation surprise chez lui fasse basculer radicalement la situation.

Avec beaucoup d’habileté Javier Marias nous parle d’amour et de trahison. Il place son récit sous l’égide de plusieurs grands textes: Le Colonel Chabert de Balzac, l’histoire de ce soldat que tout le monde croyait mort et qui revient, bien vivant, retrouver son épouse remariée; celle de Shakespeare, Macbeth, avec la fameuse tirade du hereafter: He should have died hereafter ou il aurait dû mourir plus tard, comme le dit mystérieusement le meurtrier, ou encore Dumas et ses Trois Mousquetaires.

Javier Marías n’a pas son pareil pour sonder l’âme humaine, notamment dans ses lâchetés et ses mensonges. Ce n’est pas qu’une fausse enquête policière, à la recherche de la vérité, mais aussi un roman superbement mené parce que épousant totalement les pensées les plus intimes de la narratrice, nous guidant pas à pas dans son cheminement. On ne saura jamais définitivement ce qui a provoqué la mort de Miguel Devern, et tant mieux, le lecteur est libre de se faire sa propre opinion. Mais l’essentiel se situe ailleurs.

Peut-on aimer quelqu’un qui a commis un acte répréhensible? L’amour excuse-t-il la trahison? Où partent les amours une fois que l’être cher a disparu?

Si j’ai mis un peu de temps à entrer dans l’histoire, la seconde partie a tout rattrapé et ce roman est désormais mon coup de cœur de la rentrée littéraire en matière d’auteur étranger.

Intelligent, pertinent, avec beaucoup de style, Javier Marías nous livre en effet un splendide récit d’amour et de trahison, qui s’enracine dans la tradition de la littérature européenne.

Le nom de Miguel Desvern ne disparaît pas tout à fait, même si je ne l’ai jamais connu et que je l’ai vu de loin, tous les matins avec plaisir, alors qu’il prenait son petit déjeuner avec sa femme. Comme ne s’en vont pas non plus tout à fait les noms fictifs du Colonel Chabert et de Mme Ferraud, du Comte de la Fère et de Milady de Winter ou dans sa jeunesse Anne de Breuil, à qui on lia les mains derrière le dos et que l’on pendit à un arbre, afin que mystérieusement elle ne meure pas et revienne, belle comme les amours.

ALICE- ANGE

Bíblío blog, 6 decembre 2013

biscomme.les_.amours.galliamrd.002La vérité, cet embrouillement

L’amour et la mort au cœur d’une histoire orchestrée avec maestria par l’écrivain espagnol Javier Marías. Où il sonde les méandres de l’âme humaine en tenant son lecteur en haleine avec un suspense étonnant.

Nous ne pouvons prétendre être les premiers, ou les préférés, nous sommes tout simplement ce qui est disponible, les laissés-pour-compte, les survivants, ce qui désormais reste, les soldes, et c’est sur des bases si peu nobles que s’érigent les amours les plus grandes et que se fondent les meilleures familles, nous provenons tous de là, de ce produit du hasard et du conformisme, des rejets, des timidités et des échecs d’autrui […].” Tout est là du regard sur nos vies de Javier Marías qui, d’une écriture raffinée, généreuse, enveloppante, livre avec “Comme les amours” une magistrale fable morale sur l’amour et la mort, entités siamoises. Ce, en mêlant suspense et réflexion, à travers les pensées, les intuitions, les interrogations d’une narratrice hors pair.

Avant de se rendre à son travail dans une maison d’édition, María aime prendre son petit-déjeuner dans un établissement modeste du quartier. Elle y observe quotidiennement deux êtres qu’elle admire pour leur complicité rayonnante et l’optimisme qu’ils lui procurent. A son retour de congé, le “couple parfait” a disparu. Elle apprend que le mari, Miguel Desvern, a été sauvagement assassiné par un indigent déséquilibré. Un jour, María ose aborder Luisa, la veuve de ce riche héritier d’une compagnie de production cinématographique. Le temps d’une soirée, elle deviendra son oreille attentive et compatissante. C’est alors qu’elle rencontre Javier Díaz-Varela, le meilleur ami de Miguel, dont l’attitude et la présence auprès de Luisa se révèlent des plus ambiguës. Très vite, Javier et María (personnages créés par Javier Marías…) deviennent amants. Malgré elle, María en vient à s’interroger sur l’histoire du couple et les circonstances de la disparition de Miguel. Alors que Javier la cantonne au rôle de partenaire de distraction, elle ne peut toujours réfréner ses espoirs de devenir bien plus.

Selon Javier Marías (“Un cœur si blanc”, “Demain dans la bataille pense à moi”), si le roman peut être rapidement oublié, sa force est d’inoculer possibilités et idées permettant au lecteur de mieux appréhender le réel. Ainsi convoque-t-il Shakespeare, le Balzac du “Colonel Chabert”, le Dumas des “Trois Mousquetaires” pour tisser une toile d’une rare intelligence autour du temps qui superpose en nous “ses fines couches indiscernables” , de la vérité qui est “toujours un embrouillement” , du hasard qui orchestre nos vies, des choix qu’on croit poser en toute liberté, de la place que les morts occupent auprès des vivants, de l’engouement amoureux, seul à même de pouvoir faire barrage à l’indifférence et l’ennui. Brillant de bout en bout.

GENEVIÈVE SIMON

La Libre Belgique, 21 octobre 2013

Reseñas francesas

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Javier Marías, maître de l’ambiguïté

Le titre français de ce dernier roman de Javier Marías, l’un des écrivains espagnols les plus subtils mais aussi l’un des plus énigmatiques de sa génération, n’évoque sans doute pas grand-chose et n’a même qu’un rapport assez superficiel avec la substance véritable du récit. Mais on pourrait en dire de même du titre original, los Enamoramientos, que l’on traduirait plus prosaïquement par “les Engouements amoureux”.

C’est que, comme l’explique l’auteur par la voix d’un de ses deux personnages centraux en prenant l’exemple balzacien du colonel Chabert, l’important dans un roman n’est pas tant l’histoire qu’il raconte et dont on oublie souvent les péripéties et même la fin une fois qu’on l’a terminé, mais ce qu’il inocule dans notre imaginaire de possibilités et de suggestions prêtes à battre librement la campagne. Sur ce thème où ne manquent pas non plus les références shakespeariennes chères à l’auteur d’Un Coeur si blanc ou de Demain dans la bataille, pense à moi, Javier Marías développe une intrigue criminelle où tout se joue dans l’imagination insatisfaite, à la fois distante et sentimentalement engagée, d’une jeune éditrice en quête d’une vérité ambivalente et jamais parfaitement atteinte.

María Dolz, en prenant chaque matin son petit déjeuner dans une cafétéria madrilène proche de son lieu de travail, a été fascinée par l’image de parfait bonheur qu’offrait un couple inconnu, élégant et rieur, partageant les mêmes habitudes aux mêmes heures matinales après avoir conduit les enfants à l’école. Or, apprenant au retour de vacances que le mari a été assassiné dans des circonstances aussi tragiques qu’imprévisibles, elle cherche à en savoir davantage, noue une amitié compassionnelle avec Luisa, la veuve inconsolable de ce “couple parfait”, et, de fil en aiguille, devient la maîtresse du meilleur ami du défunt. Celui-ci ne lui cache en rien sa dévotion pour la femme de son ami qu’il ambitionne un jour d’épouser quand son chagrin sera atténué.

Au gré de circonstances fortuites mais assez bien fondées, surgit néanmoins dans l’esprit de María, la narratrice, le soupçon que son amant a commandité l’assassinat de son ami pour satisfaire ses projets amoureux. Et le lecteur, avec elle, à travers elle dont les hypothèses occupent la plus grande place du récit, serait tout prêt de conclure à une infâme trahison — thème récurrent cher à Marías — si une autre explication ne venait in fine rebattre les cartes d’un jeu où « l’embrouillement des vérités et des mensonges » ne débouchera sur aucune certitude moralement apaisante, l’ambiguïté existentielle demeurant aux yeux de nos auteurs contemporains une échappatoire presque obligée.

Javier Marías n’échappe pas à cette facilité mais son propos est évidemment moins d’élucider une énigme dramatique que de pénétrer le coeur et les raisons de son témoin privilégié, ce qu’il réussit avec une virtuosité stylistique quasi proustienne. Il en résulte une sorte d’envoûtement dont on ne se déprend pas au fil des pages, malgré d’excessifs étirements dont Balzac, si souvent cité, se montrait beaucoup plus économe en utilisant le même pouvoir suggestif dans la triste et courte histoire du colonel Chabert.

PHILLIPPE NOURRY

Valeurs actuelles, 5 novembre 2013

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Comme les amours

Par accoutumance, Maria prend chaque jour son petit-déjeuner dans un café, tout proche de la maison d’édition où elle travaille. Ce moment-là, la jeune madrilène ne le manquerait pour rien au monde. Elle y puise un souffle qui l’accompagnera tout au long de sa journée. La réservée et mesurée Maria passe ce temps à observer ou plutôt contempler un homme et une femme qui s’installent non loin d’elle, quotidiennement. Ce couple parfait, comme elle le nomme, la fascine. Leur amour est tellement palpable qu’il irradie jusqu’à elle. Ainsi, chaque matin, Maria prend une bouffée de ce bonheur, par procuration.

Mais voilà que le rituel se brise. Les chaises où le couple avait l’habitude de s’asseoir restent désespérément vides. De longues semaines sans leur présence. Puis, Maria apprend enfin l’origine de cette absence : l’homme, Miguel, s’est fait poignarder le jour de ses cinquante ans par un déséquilibré.

Sa veuve, Louisa, réapparaît enfin. Maria ose l’aborder. Les deux femmes vont alors au domicile de Louisa et s’entretiennent longuement. Durant leur discussion, un homme, Diaz-Varela, le meilleur ami de Miguel qui veille désormais sur Louisa fait irruption. Maria tombe amoureuse de lui. S’en suivra une liaison dont elle n’a rien à attendre, ce dernier aimant passionnément Louisa.

La prose de Javier Marias est remarquable et son intrigue à mi-chemin entre le roman policier et le roman psychologique est subtilement élaborée. De réflexions en analyses, d’hypothèses en faits, de digressions en révélations, il promène le lecteur au fil des pages sur d’innombrables chemins. Le récit est sciemment lent puisque l’auteur part en exploration, il prospecte l’âme humaine, la sonde.

Il est évidemment question de la mort, du deuil, mais surtout de l’amour qui lui subsiste ou pas… de l’absence de la personne aimée, de la notion de temps, de l’amité, de la trahison, de la passion, de la reconstruction, de l’oubli, de la mémoire, de la manipulation, du doute, autant de sujets abordés qui assaillent le lecteur de toute part avec une justesse dans les mots et dans le ton.

Judicieusement, Javier Marias propose des points de vue très personnels sur le roman de Balzac Le Colonel Chabert, sur Les Trois mousquetaires de Dumas et sur MacBeth de Shakespeare, illustrant différents aspects de la mort, du crime, du remords, de l’absurdité et de l’égarement de l’esprit.

Un roman épatant où les idées foisonnent, l’ironie plane, la poésie s’invite, le style percute, les sentiments se confondent et les zones d’ombre planent. Une histoire captivante qui nous entraîne dans un enchevêtrement de questionnements sur l’amour et la mort.

NADAEL

Les mots de la fin, 18 octobre 2013

SILLÓN DE OREJAS

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Fantástico

Las librerías comienzan a poblarse de libros “navideños”. Atalanta, como cada año, saca el suyo: una estupenda Antología universal del relato fantástico editada por Jacobo Siruela. Desde la Anthologie du fantastique (1966) de Roger Caillois, que ocupa un lugar de honor en la estantería de mi biblioteca (junto a la de Borges, Bioy y Ocampo, y los Cuentos únicos editados por Javier Marías), no tenía en mis manos una selección tan manejable (1.200 páginas en semibiblia), impecable e indiscutible, por más que en ella se aprecien los gustos muy personales de un editor tan proclive al género: si no están todos los que son, al menos son todos los que están, lo que no es poco. Bien traducidos y presentados, con un apasionado exordio en el que Siruela traza una reivindicación de la literatura fantástica en su muy variado despliegue histórico. Este año, y debido a la contracción del mercado, la competencia entre los libros de regalo será mucho más dura, pero aquí tienen mi primera sugerencia. De nada.

MANUEL RODRÍGUEZ RIVERO

El País, Babelia, 9 de noviembre de 2013

CUENTOS U

‘Las huellas dispersas’ en el Ciclo de Oxford

Las huellas dispersas

LAS HUELLAS DISPERSAS
JAVIER MARÍAS
Introducción y edición de Inés Blanca
CICLO DE OXFORD
Debols!llo, octubre de 2013

Las huellas dispersas es una colección de textos de Javier Marías relacionados con su Ciclo de Oxford. Visitan estas páginas los personajes -también sus reversos históricos- de las novelas que, hasta la fecha, lo componen. También se recorren aquí sus lugares ingleses, hasta colarse en el gabinete del autor, alguien que trabaja realidad y ficción y las convierte en literatura. Como una nueva perspectiva de sí mismo, este volumen ensancha la obra de Marías y completa la lectura de Todas las almas, Negra espalda del tiempo y Tu rostro mañana.

ciclo de oxford
CICLO DE OXFORD:
TODAS LAS ALMAS
NEGRA ESPALDA DEL TIEMPO
TU ROSTRO MAÑANA

Las huellas dispersas
JAVIER MARÍAS
Edición de Inés Blanca
Debols!llo, octubre de 2013

Reseña de ‘The Infatuations’

T I RecorteThe Story Begins in Death: A Review of Javier Marias’ The Infatuations 

Ask an American why certain international imports, say, soccer and French film, have yet to be fully embraced by the culture and he or she may answer, “Because nothing really happens” in them.  Perhaps the same complaint could be leveled at acclaimed Spanish author Javier Marías, who has sold more than seven million books in forty languages world-wide but has yet to find a significant following stateside.  Marías is a master of crafting plots that are light on the action and accelerated pacing American readers have come to expect.  In his novels, pages upon pages, entire chapters even, are devoted to isolated, apparently stagnant scenes in which characters contemplate and/or discuss from every angle the sometimes minor, often bizarre circumstances in which their author has placed them.  Marías’ latest novel, The Infatuations is no exception and it is splendid.

Though born during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, who imprisoned Marías’ philosopher father Julián for his opposition to the regime, Marías has mostly refrained from injecting politics into his work, though his nation’s history often casts a shadow.  In February, 2013, he told The Guardian, “The idea was that writers, as far as censorship would allow, must try to raise the consciousness of the people about the terrible situation. I thought it was well meant, but had nothing to do with literature.  My generation knew that a novel couldn’t end the dictatorship, and so as writers we did as we wanted.”  His first novel, Los Dominios del Lobo (The Dominions of the Wolf), published when Marías was twenty years old, was what he calls a “tribute” to mid-twentieth century American cinema.  He published several more novels while at the same time establishing himself as a translator of American and English writers before achieving international acclaim with the publication of 1992’s A Heart So White. Known for his sprawling narratives, dark, intellectual humor and, at times, tryingly digressive voice, Marías is often mentioned as a contender for the Nobel Prize.  The Infatuations, his twelfth novel, is the first to be released in the United States by a major publisher.

TomorrowThe Infatuations is the story of a murder as seen through the eyes of a woman who becomes part of the victim’s life in the aftermath of his death. Marías has a fondness for beginning his books with an act of violence then spending the course of the novel realizing its significance, both to the characters and to the greater metaphysical truths of life. In Tomorrow in the Battle Think On Me, a man’s attempt to start an affair with a married woman ends when the woman dies in his arms.  In A Heart So White, a new bride shoots herself in the heart.  In The Infatuations, a happy husband is stabbed to death by a homeless man he has never met.  The murder has great psychological consequences for the narrator, María Dolz, a timid Spanish woman who has been secretly admiring from afar the husband and his elegant wife at the café where she enjoys her breakfast each morning:

“The last time I saw Miguel Desvern or Deverne was also the last time that his wife, Luisa, saw him,” writes Marías in the novel’s first line, “which seemed strange, perhaps unfair, given that she was his wife, while I, on the other hand, was a person he had never met, a woman with whom he had never exchanged so much as a single word.”  Such an opening triggers a tantalizing series of questions: Why does the murdered man have two last names?  Who is the narrator and what is at stake for her in this gruesome affair?  And, of course, how and why did the murder happen?

Rather than using the revelation of the crime to kick off the plot’s sequence of events, or to start answering these questions, Marías immediately decelerates into the first of countless digressions in which he allows his characters to ponder the philosophical minutiae of their circumstances.

His last thought must have been that the person stabbing him was doing so by mistake and for no reason, that is, senselessly, and what’s more, not just once, but over and over, unremittingly, with the intention of erasing him from the world and expelling him from the earth without further delay, right there and then.  But why do I say ‘too late,’ I wonder, too late for what?  I have no idea, to be honest.  It’s just that when someone dies, we always think it’s too late for anything, or indeed everything – certainly too late to go on waiting for him – and we write him off as another casualty.

In the pages that follow, Marías provides what might be considered by American standards as parenthetical, if not completely unnecessary details to a plot device as bold and dynamic as murder: María, the narrator, describes how observing the couple each morning provided her with “a vision of an orderly or, if you prefer, harmonious world;” she goes into extensive detail about the pair’s looks and personalities, her reasons for admiring them and her fantasies of their life together that, before Desvern’s passing, gave her “a feeling of relief that in the real world there could exist what I believed to be a perfect couple;” she recalls the day when the couple failed to appear at the café leaving her with an existentially uncomfortable awareness of “‘how easy it is for a person simply to vanish into thin air.’” Marías spends an entire chapter in the publishing house where María works as she interacts with her pretentious clientele, a scene which touches more on the arrogance and oddness of writers – “you have to be slightly abnormal to sit down and work on something without being told to” – than Desvern’s death.

The crime, set up in the provocative opening line, seems to promise a narrative packed with high drama, offering the relentless twists, turns and confrontations one might expect from a thrilling albeit highly literary whodunit.  But as this is a Javier Marías novel, actual events are few and far between.  After forty-three pages of contemplation and digression, María finally approaches Luisa in the café, which is only the second “event” of the plot after the murder.  And what is the plot?  Desvern is murdered (some time before the novel begins), María befriends his wife, meets and becomes lovers with a family friend who has been tasked with caring for the grieving widow, then discovers the apparently random murder may not have been so random after all.

The five main events of the plot – the murder, the meeting between the women, the beginning of the love affair, the moment of discovery and subsequent conversation revealing the truth – are the points that move the story forward, though it may be more accurate to describe them as the ties in the thread that carry the reader through an exploration of ideas.  Rather than laying the tracks of a well-ordered plot, the author seems more invested in exploring themes.  Thus, what may seem like tangents or superfluous meditations might be better interpreted as the real purpose of the author’s work.

Edward Hooper

Edward Hooper

Marías separates the novel into four parts; each part presents a plot event and muses upon one of the book’s themes.  In part one, Desvern is murdered and María befriends the wife, which leads to a meditation on death.  In part two, the characters explore romantic desire and the nature of existence, including the advantages of death, after María becomes lovers with Javier, the Desvern family friend, and finds out there may be more to the mystery of Desvern’s death.  Part three revolves around a conversation between the lovers and takes crime as its theme, while part four shows María’s life after the mystery is solved and ponders truth.

Thus, what makes up the bulk of the novel are the characters’ lengthy meditations and conversations about the circumstances in which they find themselves and the larger metaphysical issues arising from them.  These passages lay the philosophical and psychological groundwork from which the readers are invited to engage with the few doses of actual plot.

For example, when María approaches Luisa in the café, more than a month after Desvern’s death, Marías writes, “That was when I decided to go over to her.  The children had left in what had been their father’s car, and she was alone.”  A more conventional plot structure might require María to go directly to the table where a conversation would begin.  Instead, María moves inward, “‘How many small eternities will she experience in which she will struggle to make time move on,’ I thought, ‘if such a thing is possible…You wait for time to pass during the temporary or indefinite absence of the other…as our instinct keeps whispering to us, and to whose voice we say: ‘Be quiet, be quiet, keep silent, I don’t yet want to hear you, I’m still not strong enough, I’m not ready.’”

María introduces herself, the two women bond over having noticed one another in the café then end up in Luisa’s home where, for the next three chapters of the novel, they talk about Luisa’s feelings about the crime.  The passages are made up mostly of an extensive monologue in which Luisa reveals her angst –

“The most painful and irremediable thing is that the person has died,” she says, “and the fact that the death is over and done with doesn’t mean that the person didn’t experience it…What came after that moment is beyond our grasp, but, on the other hand, when it took place, we were all still here, in the same dimension, him and us, breathing the same air”

– and María’s thoughts about it –

Perhaps Luisa clung to me that afternoon because with me she could be what she still was, with no need for subterfuge: the inconsolable widow, to use the usual phrase.  Obsessed, boring, grief-stricken.

Marías provides tidbits of information readers will need to make sense of the revelation at the novel’s end, but mostly María’s internal monologue and the prolonged dialogue between the women is a philosophical examination of mortality.  As is the case throughout the novel, the movement for readers to follow is not the movement from one plot event to the next, but from one thought to the next or one thought cycling back to a previous thought.  At times, movement stops altogether in order for the characters to linger to the point of exhaustion on one idea alone.  There is even hypothetical dialogue, for instance the imagined conversation in which Desvern asks Javier to take care of his wife should something happen, which lasts eleven pages.

“You shouldn’t confuse us, the living me and the dead me,” Desvern says in María’s imagination. “The former is asking you for something that the latter won’t be able to question or remind you about or else check up on you to see whether or not you have carried out his wishes.  What’s so difficult, then, about giving me your word? There’s nothing to prevent you from failing to keep it, it will cost you nothing.” Contemplation is the action here, not only for the characters but also for readers.

Death is the overarching theme, a menace that obsesses each character.  It is the unpredictability of death, its instantaneous erasure of the individual from the planet, that haunts María as she imagines beginning “a day like any other with not the faintest idea that someone is going to take your life” and fixates on reports that the murderer killed Desvern while screaming, “You’re going to die today and, by tomorrow, your wife will have forgotten you!”

She also contemplates death vicariously through Luisa: “You cannot fantasize about a dead man, unless you have lost your mind,” María thinks, “and there are those who choose to do that…those who consent to do so while they manage to convince themselves that what happened really happened, the improbable and the impossible, the thing that did not even have a place in the calculation of probabilities by which we live in order to get up each morning without a sinister, leaden cloud urging us to close our eyes again, thinking: ‘What’s the point if we’re all doomed anyway?’”

Some of the book’s more original, and often humorous, reflections on human mortality consider the tiny inconveniences of death and its aftermath: “From the start, though, we know – from the moment they die – that we can no longer count on them, not even for the most petty thing, for a trivial phone call or a banal question (‘Did I leave my car keys there?’  ‘What time did the kids get out of school today?’), that we can count on them for nothing.  And nothing means nothing.”

Is Marías suggesting life is ultimately pointless?  “You only have to glance around the room of the person who has vanished to comprehend how much was interrupted and left hanging,” he writes, “how much becomes, in that instant, unusable and useless; yes, the novel with the page turned down, which will remain unread, but also the medicines that have suddenly become utterly superfluous.”  Perhaps human beings are useful only for the life they bring to other things – to their belongings, to relationships, to other people’s days – and so are useless in and of themselves. “They’re alive one moment and dead the next,” says Luisa, “and in between there is nothing.”

The leitmotif in which all other themes are rooted in the book is certainty.  Marías uses the word and words like it – precise, irremediable, definitive, solid, firm, concrete, final, guarantee – repeatedly throughout the novel.  The characters may seem obsessed with mortality, love and truth, but really they are all on a search for certainty in life when there is none; or, at least, they seek a return to the illusion of certainty with which they lived before Desvern’s murder.

They suffer because of the uncertainty of life and also the uncertainty of love – whether it will be returned, whether it will last, whether it will be interrupted by death, whether it even exists in the first place. “I could never be certain that my visit would end up with our bodies entangling,” María says of her rendez-vous with Javier.  “I both liked and didn’t like that strange uncertainty: on the one hand, it made me think that he enjoyed my company…on the other hand, it infuriated me that he could hold off for so long, that he didn’t feel an urgent need to pounce on me without further ado.”  The novel begins with María more or less spying on the couple because of a desire to see the world as “orderly” and “harmonious,” a desire Desvern’s death crushes.

It is particularly challenging to suspend the need for action near the end of the novel when the mystery of the murder is on the verge of being solved.  Marías goes into an extensive interpretation of the psychology of the character about to reveal the truth and even repeats some of the ideas he has already covered extensively in the preceding pages.

YourFace2In the Paris Review, Marías discusses his penchant for taking such detours by describing a scene from his novel Your Face Tomorrow, Volume Two, in which a character is about to slit another character’s throat until the action is interrupted by, “a reflection on the sword: what a sword means, what a sword has meant in history, what it means nowadays and how anachronistic it is, and how, precisely because of this, it is feared maybe even more than a gun because a gun—the possibility of its being drawn—is something that you would expect if you are attacked.  There is a long reflection for many, many pages.  No one knows what has happened to that sword that has just been drawn.  If someone would skip those pages to find out whether the man is going to be beheaded, they are free to do that, but my intention—my wishful thinking—is that all digressions in my books should be interesting enough in themselves to make the reader wait, not just for the sake of waiting, but to say, OK, this writer has interrupted this and I would like to know what happens with the sword, but what he is telling me next instead of what happened with the sword is something that I am interested in, too.  I try the reader’s patience on purpose but not gratuitously.”

The Infatuations is packed with dense, obsessive, unanswerable and inconclusive ruminations about life, love and death.  In Reading for the Plot, writer Peter Brooks called plot “the internal logic of the discourse of mortality” and that, to paraphrase Walter Benjamin, “we seek in narrative fictions…that knowledge of death which is denied to us in our own lives.” There is meaning in death because its finality allows us to craft stories with beginnings and ends, stories forever linked to the endless cycle of life.  Though clarity may seem to emerge from those stories, Marías warns, “the truth is never clear, it’s always a tangled mess.  Even when you get to the bottom of it.” María’s search for answers in Desvern’s demise mirrors a universal search for certainty and meaning, a futile search but one that gives life its shape.

Moreover, it is these ruminations that distinguish Marías’ work from his American counterparts’ as he offers a rare opportunity to slow down, to invite the mind to labor over intellectually complex and even tormenting ideas, to follow a train of thought or a desire without ever achieving completion or closure.  To let nothing happen in the outer world so that the inner world can come fully alive. For this, The Infatuations is a treasure.

LAURA K. WARRELL

Numéro Cinq Magazine, October 9, 2013

Soledad y miedo en ‘Tu rostro mañana’, de Javier Marías

TRM 2 SpainUn torrente de pensamientos e ideas que llevan a reflexiones existenciales enlazadas de una manera natural con el estilo de párrafos interminables saltando de un asunto a otro, pero que finalmente están hilvanados en un argumento que reproduce de manera extraordinaria un mural sobre la maldad y la crueldad humana, es la novela ‘Tu rostro mañana-2 Baile y sueño’, del escritor, filólogo y articulista español Javier Marías.
Este texto se inscribe en la tendencia novelística contemporánea del narrador-ensayista (Milan Kundera, Paul Auster, Salman Rushdie, Philiph Roth, Enrique Vila-Matas, Ricardo Piglia y Sergio Pitol, entre otros), que enriquecen la trama con meditaciones, yuxtaposiciones y entrelazamientos de ideas para llevar al lector hacia un territorio en el que la novela es algo que supera el estadio primero de narración y hecho, sirviéndose de la filosofía y la historia con el propósito de presentar su particular enfoque de lo que los maestros de literatura llaman: “visión del mundo”.

Con un dominio magistral del idioma, Javier Marías juega con las palabras de una manera muy interesante, pero que requiere del lector conocimiento y agilidad mental, que también necesitará para seguir los numerosos asuntos que se tratan en la narración, cuyo tema central es el poder de la mente humana para crear escenarios sobre un futuro desconocido, a partir de una situación concreta en el presente.

‘Tu rostro mañana-2 Baile y sueño’ forma parte de una trilogía que tiene como personaje central a Jacobo Deza, un hombre solitario, sin amigos, que desde joven ha convivido con gente mucho mayor y quien circunstancialmente vive en un país que no es el suyo, donde realiza una tarea secreta… de espionaje; sin embargo su familia -no se sabe si está casado o divorciado, aunque a lo largo del texto se intuye que su soledad deriva de que está ‘inmerso en algún paréntesis vital’- cree que se dedica a hacer traducciones.

El autor aborda aspectos de la existencia humana como la amistad y la fidelidad, las consecuencias de lo que cada individuo revela a otros, de la memoria restauradora del olvido -de los horrores cometidos durante la Guerra Civil Española- y de la violencia que es capaz de generar el ser humano; una crueldad enfermiza solo para demostrar superioridad (en muchos casos racial), pero además ejercida contra un individuo indefenso, narcotizado, sometido.

En ‘Tu rostro mañana-2 Baile y sueño’ (Alfaguara) Marías también habla del miedo y de las maneras de sufrirlo, planteando disquisiciones fluidas y en apariencia interminables acerca del temor de saberse vulnerable ante los otros por la posibilidad de ser espíados y de no tener la certeza sobre cuánto y qué sabe el otro de uno, o a las metamorfosis que pueden sufrir los seres amados.

Con una prosa, elegante, rica y compleja, Marías –quien es un experto en la divagación inteligente y con sentido- lleva a su protagonista, Jacobo Deza, a plantearse serias dudas morales que lo hacen sentir un ser cada vez más desarraigado y lo llevan a crear escenarios futuristas a partir de situaciones imaginarias que le infunden el temor de saber cómo serán el día de mañana los rostros de quienes lo rodean, pues ‘tu rostro de hoy puede no ser el mismo de mañana’’.

La maestría del escritor español en la construcción de narraciones que el lector nunca podría identificar con la palabra hablada, lo convierten en un creador de lenguaje porque no actúa como un mero imitador de voces, ello le permite hacer desde una soberbia disertación sobre el tiempo: cómo es para los vivos y para los muertos, hasta profundas reflexiones para poblar de ideas, recuerdos o merodeos léxicos rayanos en lo metafísico los espacios tan vacíos de su solitario protagonista, inmerso en una suerte de exilio interior que necesita del soliloquio para trascender su vida en suspenso.

Si bien ‘Tu rostro mañana-2 Baile y sueño’ no es una novela para todo público, porque requiere una lectura pausada y reflexiva, así como una complicidad total con el autor y el personaje central, seguramente se convertirá en un clásico.

NORMA L. VÁZQUEZ ALANÍS

TodoTexcoco.com (México), 21 de octubre de 2013