The man who hated his double

WHILE THE WOMEN ARE SLEEPING

Vintage

Mirroring, ghosts, and doubles are all present in these haunting short stories by the celebrated Spanish author Javier Marías.

He asks for the reader’s kindness towards “The Life and Death of Marcelino Iturriaga” as it was written when he was 14 – but this is disingenuous on his part as it is a wonderful short story about a man talking after his death. Marías’s narrators are usually male and experiencing some kind of identity crisis. In the title story, a man films his beautiful young girlfriend every day on the beach, while she preens herself in a mirror; in “Gualta”, a man spots his double and instantly loathes him; in “A Kind of Nostalgia Perhaps”, an old woman waits for the ghost of a national hero. Superb.

LESLIE MCDOWELL

The Independent, November 6, 2011

While the women are sleeping

Marías’s acclaimed trilogy, Your Face Tomorrow, earned him comparisons to Proust. This collection of ten short stories, a less monumental affair, spans the author’s writing career, including a precocious ghost story he penned at the age of 14.

This entry, “The Life and Death of Marcelino Iturriaga”, is set in the streets of gloomy Franco-era Madrid and, like other stories in the collection, displays Marías’s affinity for the mildly macabre.

While some period pieces such as “Lord Rendell’s Song” dabble with English Gothic, others, like the title story, trade in a modern currency of voyeuristic videos and depilated beauties.

Translator Margaret Jull Costa has done noble battle with some of Marías’s more demanding sentences.

EMMA HAGESTADT

The Independent, November 4, 2011