Entrega del Premio Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

le-italia

Vídeo de la ceremonia de entrega del premio
Vídeo de la entrega del premio

A Javier Marias il Premio Tomasi di Lampedusa

Una manifestazione culturale oramai consolidata che si ripete nel comune di Santa Margherita Belice, nell’Agrigentino, da ben undici edizioni, con larga partecipazione di pubblico. Si tratta del premio letterario internazionale Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa che quest’anno ha premiato lo scrittore spagnolo Javier Marias per il romanzo, edito Einaudi, Gli innamoramenti.

Un libro inquietante, come lo stesso scrittore l’ha definito, in cui, per la prima volta, nei suoi scritti la protagonista e’ una donna. L’idea de Gli innamoramenti “Nasce a partire dalla volontà di analizzare il sentimento di amore e vendetta come esperimenti ed esperienze estreme –ha detto lo scrittore Marias– Quasi al limite della follia”. Un noir metafisico e un caso letterario, quello dello scrittore spagnolo, che già nel 2012 in Spagna, aveva vinto il Premio Nacional de Narrativa assegnato dal Ministero della Cultura spagnolo come miglior opera letteraria pubblicata in una delle quattro lingue ufficiali riconosciute nel Paese. A causa dei tagli alla cultura decisi dal governo, però, Marías aveva rifiutato il premio di 20 mila euro. Una decisione che aveva fatto molto discutere, ma che rappresentava l’esempio di coerenza dell’autore: “In tutto questo tempo ho evitato le istituzioni dello Stato, senza curarmi del partito al potere –aveva commentato– Lo Stato non ha nulla da darmi per il mio compito di scrittore che ho scelto di mia propria iniziativa”.

Durante la serata, sul palco, Marias ha accennato un parallelismo tra Cervantes, scrittore spagnolo del ’600 e Tomasi di Lampedusa, entrambi, secondo l’autore spagnolo, sarebbero scrittori inaspettati. “Un’opera magistrale –ha detto Marias in riferimento all’opera di Lampedusa, durante la premiazione– Il Gattopardo e’ importante perché unico romanzo completo dell’autore, per essere apparso quando egli era già morto, quindi aver circolato nel mondo senza alcuna assistenza, per essere stato scritto da un isolano senza contatti con la letteratura pubblica. Per me e’ un romanzo sulla morte. La preparazione alla sua accettazione. Una parte della vita e, non la più importante”.

Madrina e conduttrice della serata e’ stata la presentatrice Rosanna Cancellieri. Ospite d’eccezione e’ stato l’attore Sebastiano Somma che ha letto alcuni passi del romanzo di Tomasi di Lampedusa e, che stasera sarà nuovamente sul palco del comune di Santa Margherita Belice per recitare alcuni brani del testo celebre, in questione. Presenti tra il pubblico anche il vescovo Domenico Mogavero, il rettore di Palermo, Roberto La Galla, gli assessori regionali Michela Stancheris e Patrizia Valenti.

L’edizione 2014 pero’ non e’ stata solo un evento letterario, ma anche musicale grazie alla presenza della voce raffinata di Fiorella Mannoia che ha chiuso la serata, omaggiando lo scrittore, vincitore del Premio, attraverso un midley di canzoni note al pubblico. La manifestazione si e’ affermata anche per le numerose iniziative che, proprio a partire da quest’anno potrebbero fungere da trampolino di lancio per gli eventi futuri, coinvolgendo gli altri comuni italiani. Presenti alla conferenza stampa erano infatti i sindaci dei comuni di Casarsa della Delizia in provincia di Pordenone, il comune di Santo Stefano Belbo in provincia di Cuneo, entrambi presenti in rappresentanza delle città che hanno dato i natali a scrittori celebri come Pier Paolo Pasolini e Cesare Pavese. L’iniziativa, come annunciata durante l’incontro con lo scrittore Marias, sarebbe quella di promuovere il territorio e la cultura attraverso i nomi di scrittori celebri. “Attraverso l’associazione nazionale città del vino – ha detto Iole Piscolla, responsabile del progetto New Art e Wine in Tuscany – abbiamo intenzione di implementare la coesione tra comuni soci e non in riferimento a nuovi prodotti turistici , attività e progetti tra i vari comuni italiani, che sono interessati a promuovere il profilo identitario, culturale del proprio territorio. Un modo per promuovere il turismo, attraverso il territorio e la letteratura”.

L’idea di fondo sarebbe infatti quella di creare un percorso culturale che abbracci le diverse esperienze artistiche delle diverse città italiane, partendo da un fil rouge che e’ quello fatto dai nomi di scrittori e poeti che hanno segnato la letteratura italiana.

“Cercheremo insieme agli altri comuni –ha detto Tanino Bonifacio, vice sindaco di Santa Margherita Belice– Di fare un percorso culturale che abbraccia diverse esperienze, diversi comuni e diverse realta’. Speriamo di incontrare il ministro Franceschini per fare insieme un percorso culturale e un protocollo di intesa che unisca i sindaci delle citta’ per promuovere lo sviluppo del territorio e sancire le linee di indirizzo, individuando i requisiti per creare un protocollo e un ampliamento dello stesso”.

MARGHERITA INGOGLIA

Sicilia Informazioni.com, 6 Agosto 2014

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Javier Marías vince il Premio Letterario Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

E’ stato accolto ieri all’Ars lo scrittore spagnolo Javier Marías, vincitore, con il suo nuovo romanzo Gli innamoramenti (Einaudi), del Premio Letterario Internazionale Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. A fare gli onori di casa nel giardino di Palazzo dei Normanni è stata la deputata regionale Margherita La Rocca, componente della commissione Cultura dell’Ars e assessore comunale nella “Città del Gattopardo”.

“Sono felicissima oggi –ha detto Margherita La Rocca a Javier Marías– di ospitarla qui in questo illustre e antico Parlamento e di ospitarla in questi giorni nel Comune di Santa Margherita di Belice. Ringrazio il presidente dell’Ars Giovanni Ardizzone che con tutto il Parlamento regionale e la Fondazione Federico II ha fortemente sostenuto il Premio Letterario Internazionale Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, che certamente rappresenta uno dei momenti culturali più importanti della Sicilia”.

L’autore spagnolo Javier Marías, vincitore Premio Letterario Internazionale Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, ha incontrato stamattina nel giardino di Palazzo dei Normanni i giornalisti insieme al presidente della Fondazione Federico II, Francesco Forgione, al sindaco di Santa Margherita di Belice, Franco Valenti e a Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, presidente della giuria del premio. Marías ha affermato che il suo rapporto con il capolavoro dello scrittore siciliano Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa è “molto antico, nato durante l’adolescenza” fino al punto da diventare oggi una sorta di “modello” non in sé stesso ma “come atteggiamento verso la scrittura”. “Sono onorato di ricevere questo premio –ha aggiunto Javier Marías– che porta il nome di uno degli autori per me più grandi del Novecento”.

“Siamo molto orgogliosi di ospitare un grande scrittore come Javier Marías. Il Premio –ha detto il sindaco di Santa Margherita di Belice Franco Valenti– è diventato negli anni patrimonio comune dell’intera cittadinanza. Incontrare e ascoltare le parole di uno scrittore di fama internazionale è un segnale di crescita culturale soprattutto per le giovani generazioni”.

La cerimonia di premiazione si svolgerà oggi martedì 5 agosto a partire dalle ore 20.45 in Piazza Matteotti a Santa Margherita di Belice, la serata sarà condotta dalla giornalista Rai Rosanna Cancellieri. Sul palco, oltre a Javier Marías, anche Fiorella Mannoia in acustico alcuni fra i più noti brani del suo repertorio musicale e Sebastiano Somma che leggera alcuni frammenti de Il Gattopardo di Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa.

Comunicalo.it, 5 Agosto 2014

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Javier Marías in Sicilia, Margherita La Rocca Ruvolo fa gli onori di casa

L’autore spagnolo, vincitore Premio Letterario Internazionale Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa ha incontrato nel giardino di Palazzo dei Normanni i giornalisti insieme al presidente della Fondazione Federico II

E’ stata la deputata regionale Margherita La Rocca, componente della commissione Cultura dell’Ars, a fare ieri gli onori di casa nel giardino di Palazzo dei Normanni dove è stato accolto lo scrittore spagnolo Javier Marías, vincitore -con il suo nuovo romanzo Gli innamoramenti (Einaudi)- del Premio Letterario Internazionale Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa la cui premiazione si volgerà domani a Santa Margherita di Belice.

“Sono felicissima oggi di ospitarla qui in questo illustre e antico Parlamento e di ospitarla in questi giorni nel Comune di Santa Margherita di Belice. Ringrazio il presidente dell’Ars Giovanni Ardizzone che con tutto il Parlamento regionale e la Fondazione Federico II ha fortemente sostenuto il Premio Letterario Internazionale Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, che certamente rappresenta uno dei momenti culturali più importanti della Sicilia”.

L’autore spagnolo Javier Marías, vincitore Premio Letterario Internazionale Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa ha incontrato ieri mattina nel giardino di Palazzo dei Normanni i giornalisti insieme al presidente della Fondazione Federico II, Francesco Forgione, al sindaco di Santa Margherita di Belice, Franco Valenti, a Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, presidente della giuria del premio e al presidente dell’Istituzione Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. Marías ha affermato che il suo rapporto con il capolavoro dello scrittore siciliano Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa è “molto antico, nato durante l’adolescenza” fino al punto da diventare oggi una sorta di “modello” non in sé stesso ma “come atteggiamento verso la scrittura”.“

Agrigento Notizie, 5 Agosto 2014

Margherita La Rocca e Javier Marías-2

Javier Marías vince il “Tomasi di Lampedusa”. Amore e morte nel suo Gli innamoramenti

Javier Marías si è aggiudicato l’undicesimo Premio Tomasi di Lampedusa con il suo libro Gli innamoramenti. Per l’occasione lo scrittore e giornalista spagnolo ha riletto il grande capolavoro dello scrittore siciliano, Il Gattopardo: “Non mi è successo, come a volte capita, di rimanere deluso, ma credo che sia il più grande romanzo europeo del Novecento”, ha detto Marías, a Palermo.

Gli innamoramenti, definito “noir metafisico”, racconta di un omicidio. Ma la storia –è subito evidente– è più complicata di quello che appare e mentre la trama rimane sullo sfondo per affermarsi con forza soltanto verso le ultime pagine, Marías scava nell’animo degli uomini e delle donne che si trovano ad affrontare una morte.

Amore e morte, dunque. Due temi molto cari a Javier Marías. “Sono temi di tutti i tempi, universali – ha detto – ma bisogna continuare a parlarne. Parlarne con la lingua dei tempi. Il pubblico ce lo chiede”.

La premiazione avrà luogo martedì 5 agosto a Santa Margherita Belice, in provincia di Agrigento. Ospiti d’onore la cantante Fiorella Mannoia e l’attore campano Sebastiano Somma che interpreterà alcuni brani de Il Gattopardo, con la regia di Gaetano Stella.

MARIA TERESA CAMARDA

Sì 24.it, 4 Agosto 2014

premio tomasi di lampedusa, martedi' conferenza stampa con javier marìas

Javier Marías, premiado en Sicilia

El escritor español Javier Marías, que mañana recibirá el premio Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa por su novela Los enamoramientos, publicada en España en 2011 y en Italia en 2013, denunció que “a nadie le interesa resolver” el conflicto israelí-palestino.

“Me temo que a nadie le interese resolver el conflicto entre Israel y Palestina, pero lo que me parece inadmisible es la desproporción de las fuerzas enfrentadas”, declaró Marías en una entrevista con ANSA.

Y agregó: “si alguien me amenazase por la calle no reaccionaría atacando porque de esta manera yo sería un agresor pero eso es exactamente lo que está haciendo Israel. No estoy de acuerdo con Hamas pero es obvio que Israel cuenta con el apoyo de Estados Unidos, que es la principal potencia mundial pero que no se atreve a criticarlo”.

Esta es la undécima edición del premio dedicado a la memoria del autor de El Gatopardo, que será entregado mañana en la ciudad de Palermo, en Sicilia, y que recompensa una novela publicada en Italia en los últimos doce meses.

Los enamoramientos
, que trata temas universales como el amor, la muerte y la verdad, fue definida “angustiante” por el hijo adoptivo de Tomasi di Lampedusa, Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, miembro permanente del jurado del premio.

“Vivimos en una época en la que parece que nadie quiere cambiar las cosas y estamos sumergidos en una suerte de parálisis debida tal vez al hecho de que el poder verdadero actual está en las manos incontrolables de la finanza”, agregó el escritor español.

La España que Marías describe en el libro sigue esperando una recuperación de la economía que el Fondo Monetario Internacional asegura que ha comenzado “pero que todavía no es bien visible, con mucha desocupación y dos millones de familias sin rédito fijo y quien tiene la culpa? De todos, creo, del gobierno español, de Angela Merkel y de la Unión Europea”, reflexionó el escritor.

“Pero eso no significa que antes con Franco estábamos mejor -afirmó Marías-. Cuando él murió yo tenia 24 años y mi padre fue encarcelado durante el franquismo. Si Franco viviera yo no podría escribir los artículos que me publica El País pero es cierto que en una democracia es grave que todos piensen que es imposible cambiar las cosas pero eso es lo que está pasando en Europa”.

Sobre Italia declaró: “Me parece que sin Silvio Berlusconi ustedes están mejor”.

GLORIA RAVISA

ANSA, 4 Agosto de 2014

 

‘Los enamoramientos’, de Javier Marías, gana el Premio Tomasi di Lampedusa

Enam

Los enamoramientos, de Javier Marías, ha sido distinguida con el premio literario internacional Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. El galardón, cuyo jurado está compuesto en esta edición por Salvatore Silvano Nigro, Giorgio Ficara y Mercedes Monmany, lo han recibido anteriormente escritores de la talla de Tahar Ben Jelloun, Claudio Magris, Amos Oz, Kazuo Ishiguro y Mario Vargas Llosa, entre otros. Los enamoramientos, traducida en italiano como Gli Innamoramenti, ha sido publicada en Italia por la editorial Einaudi. La ceremonia de entrega del premio, que celebra este año su undécima edición, tendrá lugar la noche del martes 5 de agosto en Sicilia.

Este premio internacional se suma al reconocimiento y al gran éxito de crítica y público que ha recibido Los enamoramientos (Alfaguara, 2011). En España, fue elegido mejor libro del año por Babelia, en 2011, y recibió el XIV Premio Qué Leer que otorgan los lectores de esta revista literaria. En el extranjero, Los enamoramientos ya se ha traducido a un total de 29 lenguas y ha sido finalista del National Book Critics Circle Award como mejor novela publicada en Estados Unidos en 2013. Además, fue seleccionada por el diario The New York Times entre las cien mejores obras de ficción de 2013. Las ediciones se han sucedido en países como Alemania, Francia, Holanda, Italia, Reino Unido y Estados Unidos.

AELM

La próxima novela de Javier Marías, Así empieza lo malo, la publicará Alfaguara el 23 de septiembre de 2014 en lanzamiento simultáneo en todo el ámbito de la lengua castellana. Así empieza lo malo cuenta la historia íntima de un matrimonio de muchos años, narrada por su joven testigo cuando éste es ya un hombre maduro. Juan de Vere tiene 23 años, acaba de finalizar sus estudios y encuentra su primer empleo como secretario personal de Eduardo Muriel, un antaño exitoso director de cine, en el Madrid de 1980. Su trabajo le permite entrar en la privacidad de la casa familiar y ser espectador de una misteriosa desdicha conyugal.

Alfaguara, 15 de julio de 2014

«Sea lo que sea que creamos que vaya a suceder mientras leemos, estamos eligiendo pasar tiempo en compañía de un autor. En el caso de Javier Marías, se trata de una buena decisión; su mente es profunda, aguda, a veces chocante, a veces hilarante, y siempre inteligente.

The New York Times Book Review

«Es fácil entender por qué el nombre de Javier Marías se menciona a menudo en las discusiones sobre los potenciales ganadores del Premio Nobel de Literatura ya que Los enamoramientos aborda temas que atacan al corazón mismo de la condición humana. Marías entrelaza argumentos filosóficos, literatura clásica y conversaciones tanto reales como imaginadas que dan forma a una caleidoscópica obra de arte. Un libro para ser saboreado, discutido y releído.»

The Gazette

le-italia
Efe

El País

Abc

20 Minutos

Las Provincias

Revista Arcadia

El Universal

Más información

Premio Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa a ‘Gli Innamoramenti’

 

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Premi: allo spagnolo Javier Marias il “Tomasi di Lampedusa”

“Un romanzo angosciante”. Così Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, presidente della giuria della undicesima edizione del Premio letterario internazionale intitolato a “Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa”, commenta il romanzo Gli Innamoramenti (Einaudi), opera dello scrittore Javier Marías, vincitore di questa edizione.

La cerimonia di premiazione, condotta dalla giornalista Rai Rosanna Cancellieri, si svolgerà la sera di martedì 5 agosto in Piazza Matteotti a Santa Margherita di Belìce. Sul palco della città del “Gattopardo”, oltre a Javier Marías, anche la cantante Fiorella Mannoia che eseguirà alcuni fra i brani più noti del suo repertorio e l’attore Sebastiano Somma che leggerà alcuni frammenti tratti dall’opera di Tomasi di Lampedusa.

“Una delle idee per l’Expo 2015 – commenta l’assessore regionale al Turismo, Sport e Spettacolo Michela Stancheris – è quella di raccontare il territorio partendo dalle personalità che hanno narrato la Sicilia, come Tomasi di Lampedusa. Un intreccio tra storia e territorio, promuovendo la Sicilia culturale”. Si parte dunque da Santa Margherita di Belìce, luogo tristemente noto per il terremoto del 1968, simbolo della Sicilia del feudo del mondo tomasiano. “Il Premio è diventato patrimonio comune dell’intera cittadinanza – spiega Franco Valenti, sindaco di Santa Margherita di Belìce -. Ascoltare le parole di uno scrittore di fama internazionale è un segnale di crescita culturale”.

Quest’anno il Premio punta sui giovani con una sezione didattica intitolata “L’officina del Racconto” in cui sono stati coinvolti studenti attraverso un laboratorio di scrittura legato ai Ricordi d’Infanzia del Tomasi. “Siamo convinti – aggiunge il vice sindaco e direttore del premio Tanino Bonifacio – che questa idea possa rappresentare un ulteriore passo in avanti per avvicinare i ragazzi alla cultura letteraria”. Alla cerimonia di premiazione parteciperà anche la giuria del Tomasi di Lampedusa, presieduta da Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, e composta da Salvatore Silvano Nigro, Giorgio Ficara e Mercedes Monmany.

ANSA, 8 Luglio 2014

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Javier Marías vincitore della XI edizione del Premio Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

E’ Javier Marías, il vincitore della undicesima edizione del Premio letterario internazionale Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. Lo scrittore spagnolo, che è anche traduttore, giornalista e saggista, si aggiudica il riconoscimento per il romanzo dal titolo Gli innamoramenti (Einaudi). La cerimonia di premiazione si svolgerà martedì 5 agosto (ore 20.45), in Piazza Matteotti a Santa Margherita di Belìce, la serata sarà condotta dalla giornalista Rai Rosanna Cancellieri. Sul palco della città del Gattopardo, oltre a Javier Marías, anche Fiorella Mannoia che eseguirà in acustico alcuni fra i brani più noti del suo repertorio musicale e Sebastiano Somma che leggerà frammenti tratti da Il Gattopardo. L’attore campano, noto al grande pubblico per le sue interpretazioni televisive, tornerà sempre sullo stesso palco anche l’indomani, e cioè mercoledì 6 agosto, alle 21,00 con un recital-spettacolo per immagini dedicato a Il Gattopardo per la regia di Gaetano Stella.

Il sindaco Franco Valenti: “Siamo molto orgogliosi di ospitare un grande scrittore come Javier Marías. Il Premio è diventato negli anni patrimonio comune dell’intera cittadinanza. Incontrare e ascoltare le parole di uno scrittore di fama internazionale è un segnale di crescita culturale soprattutto per le nuove generazioni”. E proprio sui giovani punta quest’anno il Premio con una sezione didattica intitolata “L’officina del Racconto”. “Abbiamo voluto coinvolgere gli studenti dell’Istituto Comprensivo Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa di Santa Margherita – spiega il vice sindaco e direttore del Premio Tanino Bonifacio – attraverso un laboratorio di scrittura ispirato ai ricordi di infanzia del Tomasi. Sono una quindicina i racconti che abbiamo sottoposto all’attenzione della giuria del Premio, ed alcuni sono veramente emozionanti, il miglior componimento sarà premiato con una targa. Siamo convinti – conclude Bonifacio – che questa idea possa rappresentare un ulteriore passo in avanti per avvicinare i ragazzi alla lettura, alla cultura letteraria”.

Matteo Raimondi, presidente dell’Istituzione Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, punta sul territorio: “Il Premio è diventato un appuntamento importante non solo per Santa Margherita di Belìce ma per tutto il territorio siciliano. E evidente a tutti come negli ultimi anni il Premio sia cresciuto in maniera esponenziale. Sono migliaia le persone che partecipano alla cerimonia di premiazione, tutto ciò comporta una crescita culturale ma anche uno sviluppo economico per l’intero territorio delle Terre Sicane”. Alla cerimonia di premiazione del 5 agosto parteciperà anche la giuria del Tomasi di Lampedusa, presieduta da Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, insieme al musicologo Salvatore Silvano Nigro, Giorgio Ficara e Mercedes Monmany.

Nelle precedenti edizioni il riconoscimento è stato assegnato a: Abraham B. Yehoshua con il romanzo La Sposa liberata (Einaudi), Tahar Ben Jelloun con Amori stregati (Bompiani), Claudio Magris con Alla cieca (Garzanti), Anita Desai con Fuoco sulla montagna (Einaudi), Edoardo Sanguineti con Smorfie (Feltrinelli), Kazuo Ishiguro con Notturni. Cinque storie di musica e crepuscolo (Einaudi), alla memoria di Francesco Orlando con La doppia seduzione (Einaudi), Valeria Parrella con Ma quale amore (Rizzoli), Amos Oz con Il Monte del Cattivo Consiglio (Feltrinelli) e Mario Vargas Llosa con Il sogno del Celta (Einaudi).

GuidaSicilia, 9 Luglio 2014

Entrevista con Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi
ALFONSO ARMADA
Abc, 19 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

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

No pudo ser

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Los premios de la Crítica de Nueva York distinguen a África

La escritora nigeriana Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie es la vencedora de los National Book Critics Circle Awards con su novela Americanah (que en marzo publica Random House), una historia sobre la raza y la identidad que ha sido elegida la mejor del año por esta asociación de críticos de Nueva York.

El escritor español Javier Marías estaba nominado por Los enamoramientos a este premio literario, uno de los de más repercusión en Estados Unidos, y era el único hombre aspirante en una categoría en la que también competían Alice McDermott, por Someone; Ruth Ozeki, por A Tale for the time being, y Donna Tartt por El jilguero (que en marzo publica Lumen).

Americanah, una historia de amor, feminismo y racismo situada en el país de Adichie, había sido elegida como una de las mejores novelas de 2013 por The New York Times. Los enamoramientos (Alfaguara) a su vez ha sido ensalzada en las críticas de algunos de los periódicos más importantes de Estados Unidos y llegó a ser portada del suplemento The New York Times Book Review.

En la categoría de no ficción, el libro ganador fue de la ganadora del Pulitzer Sheri Fink, por Five days at memorial: life and death in a storm-ravaged hospital.

Los premios del National Book Critics Circle fueron creados en 1974 y reconocen trabajos en las categorías de ficción, no ficción, biografía, autobiografía, poesía y crítica publicados en Estados Unidos. A lo largo de sus cuarenta años de historia ha destacado a otros autores de prosa en español, como el chileno Roberto Bolaño por su libro 2666, o a literatos de origen latino radicados en Estados Unidos como el dominicano Junot Díaz, por La maravillosa vida breve de Oscar Wao.

Solo una novela en español ha obtenido ese premio en sus 40 años: Roberto Bolaño por 2666. Entre los ganadores figuran escritores como Alice Munro, Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy, Louise Erdrich, Ian McEwan y John Cheever.

AGENCIAS

El País, 14 de marzo de 2014

Chamamanda N Adichie se impone a Javier Marías en los premios de la Crítica de New York

La escritora nigeriana Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie se ha impuesto hoy a Javier Marías en los National Book Critics Circle Awards con su novela Americanah, elegida la mejor del año por esta asociación de críticos de Nueva York.

El escritor español estaba nominado por Los enamoramientos a este premio literario, uno de los de más repercusión en Estados Unidos, y era el único hombre nominado en una categoría en la que también competían Alice McDermott, por Someone; Ruth Ozeki, por A Tale for the Time Being, y Donna Tartt por The Goldfinch.

Americanah, una historia de amor, feminismo y racismo situada en el país de Adichie, había sido elegida como una de las mejores novelas de 2013 por el New York Times.

Javier Marías no acudió a la ceremonia y Los enamoramientos ha sido ensalzada en Estados Unidos en las críticas de algunos de los periódicos más importantes del país y llegó a ser portada del suplemento The New York Times Book Review.

En la categoría de no ficción, el libro ganador fue de la ganadora del Pulitzer Sheri Fink, por Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital.

Los premios del National Book Critics Circle fueron creados en 1974 y reconocen trabajos en las categorías de ficción, no ficción, biografía, autobiografía, poesía y crítica publicados en Estados Unidos.

A lo largo de sus cuarenta años de historia ha destacado a otros autores de prosa en español, como el chileno Roberto Bolaño por su libro 2666, o a literatos de origen latino radicados en EE.UU. como el dominicano Junot Díaz, por The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Otros premiados han sido Philip Roth, Alice Munro, Louise Erdrich, Ian McEwan y Cormac McCarthy.

Efe, 14 de marzo de 2014

Awards

JM candidato al Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2014

Spanish writer Javier Marías, frequently tipped for the Nobel Prize, has been longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2014 for his crime novel, 'The Infatuations'

Spanish writer Javier Marías, frequently tipped for the Nobel Prize, has been longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2014 for his crime novel, ‘The Infatuations’

Karl Ove Knausgaard, Javier Marías, Andreï Makine longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

Karl Ove Knausgaard, the author about whom Zadie Smith wrote, “I need the next volume like crack”, is on the longlist for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2014 for A Man in Love, the second volume of his blockbuster My Struggle. This is his second time on the longlist, and he goes head to head with contemporary greats such as Spanish writer Javier Marías, frequently tipped for the Nobel Prize, for his crime novel, The Infatuations, and Prix Goncourt winner Andreï Makine, author of Brief Lives that Live Forever.

This year’s 15-strong longlist was chosen by a panel of five judges from a record number of entries and languages – 126 titles from 30 source languages.

Boyd Tonkin, senior writer and columnist at The Independent and one of this year’s judges commented: “Every year this unique prize delivers to our doorsteps an outstandingly rich harvest of the world’s finest fiction. This year, a record number of submissions has resulted in a longlist as diverse and powerful as any in its history. From Iceland to China, Israel to Iraq, Spain to Japan, the contenders – served by a selection of the most gifted translators at work today – represent a huge variety of nations and cultures, all bound together in the border-free republic of talent and imagination.”

The list features a number of pairs: two female Japanese writers; two German writers, both tackling the shadow of East Germany; and two Iraqi authors, Hassan Blasim and Sinan Antoon, offering very different pictures of post-Saddam Iraq. There’s also an Icelandic duo: Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir and Jón Kalman Stefánsson, an astonishing achievement for a nation of 320,000 people.

Four newcomers are translated into English for the first time: Andrej Longo whose short story collection Ten uncovers the darker side of southern Italy, and Man Asian prize shortlistee Hiromi Kawakami for her unconventional romance, Strange Weather in Tokyo. English-language readers can also discover Hubert Mingarelli for the first time (A Meal In Winter) and Birgit Vanderbeke, whose debut novel The Mussel Feast was first published in 1990 and is viewed a modern German classic.

Readers of Sayed Kashua, a Palestinian Israeli writing in Hebrew, whose title Exposure is on the longlist, might be intrigued to know that he is also the author of Israel’s best-known sitcom, Arab Labour.

The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize celebrates the work of authors and translators equally. Translator Anthea Bell, who won in 2002 for her translation of Austerlitz by W G Sebald, is longlisted for her translation of Julia Franck’s Back To Back. Franck herself made the shortlist in 2010. Margaret Jull Costa, Javier Marías’ translator, has also been shortlisted before. Sometimes, of course, authors translate their own work, and in 2008 Paul Verhaeghen won with his self-translated Omega Minor: this year, Sinan Antoon, who was shortlisted for the International Prize of Arabic Fiction 2013, (the “Arabic Booker”) has translated his own work into English. Ma Jian’s work is translated by his wife, Flora Drew, representing an unusually special bond between author and translator – this is the second time they appear on the shortlist.

This year’s books tackle some challenging themes including war, corruption and totalitarian regimes. Some of the writers have faced oppression in their own lives: Ma Jian’s work has been banned in his own country and he also cannot now return; Andreï Makine, a Siberian Afghan War veteran fled to France from Soviet Russia; while for years anyone who wished to read Hassan Blasim in Arabic could only do so online. Their lives and work are a stark reminder of the power of fiction, still seen by many of the world’s governments as dangerously subversive.

Penguin Random House is the publisher most represented on the list with seven books, with four from Harvill Secker, two from Chatto & Windus and one from Hamish Hamilton. Five independent publishers have made the list including Comma Press, MacLehose Press, Portobello Books, Pushkin Press and Peirene Press. The final publisher securing a place is Yale University Press.

British writer, broadcaster and former stand-up comedian Natalie Haynes, one of the judges, said: “This is a very strong list, reflecting both the enormous diversity of nationalities, themes and subjects which we received. It shows that there has never been more of an appetite for translated fiction in the UK, and from every corner of every populated continent. It ranges from the intellectual to the emotional via the political, and no-one could come away from reading these books without having a greater understanding of a complex world. In the face of so much bland globalisation, it’s both a relief and a delight to see world fiction remains as quirky and individual as ever.”

The £10,000 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is awarded annually to the best work of contemporary fiction in translation. The 2014 Prize celebrates an exceptional work of fiction by a living author which has been translated into English from any other language and published in the United Kingdom in 2013. Uniquely, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize acknowledges both the writer and the translator equally – each receives £5,000 – recognising the importance of the translator in their ability to bridge the gap between languages and cultures. The Prize is funded by Arts Council England, supported by The Independent and Champagne Taittinger, and managed by Booktrust.

Previous winners of the Prize include Milan Kundera in 1991 for Immortality translated by Peter Kussi; WG Sebald and translator, Anthea Bell, in 2002 for Austerlitz; and Per Petterson and translator, Anne Born, in 2006 for Out Stealing Horses. The 2013 winner was The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker translated from the Dutch by David Colmer (Harvill Secker).

The shortlist will be announced on April 8th and the winning author and translator will be announced and awarded their £10,000 prize at a ceremony in central London at the Royal Institute of British Architects on May 22nd.

iffp_2014_logoThe full longlist of 15 titles is:

A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard and translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett (Harvill Secker)

A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli and translated from the French by Sam Taylor (Portobello Books)

Back to Back by Julia Franck and translated from the German by Anthea Bell (Harvill Secker)

Brief Loves that Live Forever by Andreï Makine and translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachan (MacLehose Press)

Butterflies in November by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir and translated from the Icelandic by Brian FitzGibbon (Pushkin Press)

The Corpse Washer by Sinan Antoon and translated from the Arabic by the author (Yale University Press)

The Dark Road by Ma Jian and translated from the Chinese by Flora Drew (Chatto & Windus)

Exposure by Sayed Kashua and translated from the Hebrew by Mitch Ginsberg (Chatto & Windus)

The Infatuations by Javier Marías and translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa (Hamish Hamilton)

The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim and translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright (Comma Press)

The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke and translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch (Peirene Press)

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa and translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder (Harvill Secker)

The Sorrow of Angels by Jón Kalman Stefánsson and translated from the Icelandic by Philip Roughton (MacLehose Press)

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami and translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell (Portobello Books)

Ten by Andrej Longo and translated from the Italian by Howard Curtis (Harvill Secker)

The Irish Times, March 7, 2014

The Inf Penguin Bolsillo

Judge Shaun Whiteside on The Infatuations:

‘A woman is enthralled by a couple she sees in the street every day, and invents a life for them. When the man is murdered, she is drawn into their world and forced to re-examine everything she thinks she knew. A richly allusive murder mystery about love, death and literature.’

Booktrust

Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2014: Our long-list reveals a fictional eco-system of staggering diversity

In a week when the Norsemen stormed the British Museum, how fitting – if purely coincidental – that two books long-listed for this year’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize should hail from the most authentically Viking land of all.

Between them, the novels by Icelanders Audur Ava Ólafsdóttir and Jón Kalman Stefánsson – one a quirkily comic road-movie of a tale, the other a snow-blasted highland odyssey – show that fine fiction can adopt a dizzying array of shapes even in a country of just 320,000 people.

This year, the judges for the £10,000 award – divided equally between author and translator, and supported once more by Arts Council England, Booktrust and Champagne Taittinger – had a higher-than-ever mountain to climb: 126 books, a record entry, translated from 30 different languages. Joining me on the ascent are author, broadcaster and Independent columnist Natalie Haynes, ‘Best of Young British’ novelist Nadifa Mohamed, award-winning translator Shaun Whiteside, and artist, writer and academic Alev Adil.

Our long-list of 15 reveals a fictional eco-system of staggering diversity. Three accomplished sets of linked short stories make the cut, by Hassan Blasim (Iraq), Andrej Longo (Italy) and Yoko Ogawa (Italy). Hunting for a thinking person’s murder mystery? Try Javier Marias (Spain). The latest instalment of a volcanic semi-autobiography? Go to Karl Ove Knausgaard (Norway).

A Dickensian blockbuster that follows one fugitive family? Ma Jian (China). A thriller about imposture and paranoia rooted in the unease of minority culture? Sayed Kashua (Israel). From Germany, Birgit Vanderbeke and Julia Franck explore the burden of history; from Japan, Hiromi Kawakami crafts an eerie inter-generational romance; from Iraq, Sinan Antoon looks into the abyss left by tyranny and invasion. French writers Hubert Mingarelli and Andrei Makine find new ways – oblique, lyrical, humane – to address the Nazi and Soviet past.

I warmly recommend each of our chosen books, both for their own singular virtues and the skill and flair of their translators. Odin knows how we will rise to the next peak: the shortlist of six, due to be announced at the London Book Fair on 8 April.

BOYD TONKIN

The Independent, March 7, 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

Entrevista americana

T I dobleNBCC Fiction Finalist Javier Marías in Conversation with MFA Student Gabriel Don

Thanks toThe School of Writing at The New School, as well as the tireless efforts of their students and faculty, we are able to provide interviews with each of the NBCC Awards Finalists for the publishing year 2013 in our 30 Books 2013 series.

Gabriel Don, on behalf of the School of Writing at The New School and the NBCC,  interviewed Javier Marías, via email, about his book The Infatuations, translated by Margaret Jull Costa (Knopf), which is among the final five selections, in the category of Fiction, for the 2013 NBCC awards.

GD: The first sentence of the novel The Infatuations raises so many questions and pulls the reader immediately into the story seeking answers. How does one decide where to begin when writing fiction?

JM: When I start writing a novel, I never know much about the plot, and certainly not the ending. I simply have an idea, or an image, or a sentence that has been lurking for a while. So I suppose my first sentences have to be interesting and appealing enough to lead me down the path they reveal. I very much decide things on the spot, I improvise a lot. But, once I make a decision, I almost never go back on it. I stick to what I said on page 10, even if on page 200 I discover that it would have been easier to say something different on page 10. I realize this is absurd—and perhaps suicidal—but I apply to my novels the same principle of knowledge that rules life: at 40 you may wish you had made a different decision when you were 20, but you can’t go back. Well, in my novels it is the same. The funny thing is that many critics have pointed out that, often, on my very first page, there is a sort of “summary” of the whole novel. But, as I have said many times before, I don’t have a map when I write, just a compass. So I know I am heading “north,” as it were, but not the way I will get there.

GD: I very much enjoyed the long sentences throughout. They seemed to meander like a river, frequently extended by commas, like Proust, often arriving at unexpected places which is rare in contemporary fiction—post Gordon Lish and Raymond Chandler—which I feel favours short sentences with most of the information contained in the top half. What authors—contemporary or historical—do you admire and have influenced the way you structure sentences?

JM: Though I am a great admirer of Dashiell Hammett, for instance, I think that the widespread tendency to use short sentences in fiction is rather impoverishing and boring. To convey a complex or nuanced idea it is often necessary to use long sentences. This means—to a certain extent—that complex and nuanced ideas have been almost banished from literary fiction. However, I try to make my sentences as clear and understandable as possible. Even with the meandering you mention, my prose runs swiftly, at least in my mind and my own reading. Whenever I have read from my books in front of audiences, the pace is fast. I look not only to Proust, but also to Henry James, Faulkner, Sir Thomas Browne, Sterne and Conrad (I have translated work by the latter four, only poetry by Faulkner, though) as models for how to deal with complex ideas and how to do so “musically.” The rhythm of the prose is very important to me, and one of the reasons to use commas, which sometimes allow you to skip “sinces,” “therefores” and “howevers” that may feel like hindrances. Faulkner was once asked why his sentences were so long, and he replied, more or less: “Because I never know if I shall be alive to write the next one.” Thank you so much for liking mine, that is very kind of you.

GD: I was asked to write a wedding poem for the ceremony in India I just attended and I quoted a romantic section of The Infatuations:

“The nicest thing about them was seeing how much they enjoyed each others’ company…for there are people who can make us laugh even when they don’t intend to, largely because their very presence please us, and so it’s easy enough to set us off, simply seeing them, and being in their company and hearing them is all it takes, even if they they are not saying anything extraordinary or even deliberately spouting nonsense which we nonetheless find funny.”

The intriguing thing to me was how by admiring the beauty of this couple, the audience is made an accomplice with Maria as she stalks and finds solace in their relationship. Do you think by placing the narrative in the first person, a reader has already to some degree taken sides?

JM: Well, I have been writing my novels in the first person since 1986, with The Man of Feeling, so I have grown perhaps too accustomed to it. It has both advantages and disadvantages. Among the former, in principle everything is more “believable,” as fragmentary as our own knowledge of reality and of other people’s lives; and yes, it somehow encourages the reader to “take sides,” even if a first-person narrator is not always reliable or trustworthy, just as we are not in real life. Among the latter, you are forced to justify all your knowledge of things; unfortunately, you can’t just enter Madame Bovary’s bedroom, or mind, and say what is going on there, something a narrator in the third person is allowed to do. Throughout my literary career I have strived to find ways of entering characters’ bedrooms or minds without actually doing so.

GD: In contrast to the long sentences, the chapters in The Infatuations are brief, averaging 3-5 pages. Is this for pacing purposes? As an aspiring novelist, who has only written short stories thus far, I find figuring out when to end a chapter very complicated, and committing to and continuing on with chapters to shape a novel as a whole a conundrum. What advice do you have?

JM: Yes, it is for pacing purposes. In other novels my chapters are longer, sometimes very long. On this occasion I realized conventional chapter breaks would serve a purpose. You can start a new chapter without starting a new scene or interrupting a conversation between two characters. I notice that readers are more urgently compelled to go on reading after a chapter break. And, as I said, that break may only be formal, a convention. It is not that you “delude” the reader, but rather invite him or her to pause, and he or she will usually accept the invitation. We authors must be very grateful to readers who comply with us.

GD: Do you feel that something is lost, or possibly gained, in translation? Are their some things (words, meaning, concepts) you think cannot be transferred from Spanish to English?

JM: When I used to teach Theory of Translation (in Madrid, also at Oxford University and at Wellesley College), the very first day I said two contradictory things: 1) Translation is impossible. 2) Everything can be translated. And gave examples that supported both assertions. I believe both are true. For instance, in Spanish we have so many different diminutives that it’s a challenge not only to “properly” translate them, but even just to explain them. In Spanish, a “tonto” (a fool, a silly person) is not quite the same thing as a “tontuelo,” “tontín,” “tontito,” “tontazo,” “tontorrón,” “tontaina,” or “tontaco.” Similarly, English has “to look,” “to watch,” “to glare,” “to gaze,” “to stare,” “to peer,” “to peep.” Spanish doesn’t, so we must usually add an adverb. But I do think there are always ways of “compensating,” as it were, for what you might miss in one line of the text, perhaps in the next line. Certainly, if a translator is poor, then a lot is lost. And if he or she is excellent, then something may be gained. And, of course, once you know a second or third language, then you miss, in your own, certain words or expressions that are available in other languages. For a writer it is a challenge, sometimes, to try to “incorporate” into your own language what it lacks.

GABRIEL DON

Critical Mass, February 21, 2014

‘The Infatuations’ finalista de The National Book Critics Circle Awards

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NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE ANNOUNCES ITS FINALISTS FOR PUBLISHING YEAR 2013
The National Book Critics Circle today announced its 30 finalists in six categories -autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry- for the best books of 2013. The winners of an additional three prizes were announced as well. The National Book Critics Circle Awards, founded in 1974 at the Algonquin Hotel and considered among the most prestigious in American letters, are the sole prizes bestowed by a jury of working critics and book-review editors. The awards will be presented on March 13 at the New School, in a ceremony that is free and open to the public.

NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE FINALISTS, PUBLISHING YEAR 2013:

FICTION

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah (Knopf)
Alice McDermott, Someone (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Javier MaríasThe Infatuations, translated by Margaret Jull Costa (Knopf)
Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being (Viking)
Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch (Little, Brown)

Más información

ABOUT THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE

The National Book Critics Circle was founded in 1974 at New York’s legendary Algonquin Hotel by a group of the most influential critics of the day, and awarded its first set of honors the following year. Comprising nearly 600 working critics and book-review editors throughout the country, the NBCC annually bestows its awards in six categories, honoring the best books published in the past year in the United States. It is considered one of the most prestigious awards in the publishing industry. The finalists for the NBCC awards are nominated, evaluated, and selected by the 24-member board of directors, which consists of critics and editors from some of the country’s leading print and online publications, as well as critics whose works appear in these publications.

New York, January 13, 2014

The Washington Post
Los Angeles Times
The Boston Globe
Long Island Newsday,
Khaleej Times

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

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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

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

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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

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‘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

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