Javier Marías: «Este Gobierno actúa de una manera muy poco democrática»

747e264059f03d59c810efcf09348c66_MEl escritor y académico Javier Marías, que recoge esta noche el Premio Formentor de las Letras 2013, es una de las voces más críticas y comprometidas de la literatura, y asegura que, después de esa especie de burbuja vacacional de agosto, la vuelta está llena de «desánimo».

«Me temo -explica el autor a Efe– que, por mucho que diga el Gobierno que lo peor ha pasado, la situación es muy mala: sigue habiendo seis millones de parados y contratos más que precarios, del Medievo. Este Gobierno actúa de manera muy poco democrática en general, no sólo en los recortes económicos sino en recortes de derechos y libertades».

«Hay un montón de cosas que están haciendo que pasan más inadvertidas -argumenta el autor- porque parecen noticias menores, pero son graves; porque resulta, por ejemplo, que ahora se va a poder juzgar determinados casos por el código militar, o que los detectives van a tener que hacer un informe de su trabajo para entregarlo a la policía. Con ello se acaba la privacidad. Son ejemplos, indicios de algo grave. Se cambian las leyes y todo eso es escasamente democrático», sostiene el escritor, horas antes de recibir el Premio Formentor.

Para el autor de Tu rostro mañana o Los enamoramientos, que se encuentra inmerso de pleno en la escritura de su decimocuarta novela, la democracia no consiste simplemente en ganar unas elecciones, sino en gobernar democráticamente cada día. «Y eso es una cosa de la que este Gobierno no tiene ni idea», precisa.

Pero para Javier Marías, que ha recibido el Premio Formentor, entre otras cosas, por ser uno de los escritores más admirados en Europa, «en España y en el resto de Europa, los políticos están impermeabilizados. No escuchan y les da igual lo que les diga la calle, la sociedad o un grupo de intelectuales que firmen un manifiesto».

«Es difícil que un intelectual pueda hacer cambiar de opinión, a algún lector individual sí, pero a un político, no. Los políticos han desactivado el Parlamento, la justicia y la sociedad. Si les da igual lo que digan los ciudadanos que salen para pedir que no recorten en educación o sanidad, cómo van a hacer caso a un escritor, a lo mejor a un (Mario) Vargas Llosa, pero ni eso», sostiene el académico.

En cuanto a un posible ataque a Siria por las matanzas de Damasco y el uso de armas químicas contra su población civil, Marías asegura que no tiene una posición clara y que no se «avergüenza» por ello. «Me irritan los tertulianos que chillan y parece que saben de todo, sin saber».

«Hace diez años, en Irak, no había necesidad de ninguna intervención, pero en este caso, no lo sé muy bien, es muy difícil tener una opinión clara. Entiendo que lo que está haciendo (el presidente de Siria, Bachar) Al Asad es horrible pero entiendo también las dificultades de meterse en un asunto de este tipo, cuando están Rusia y China por medio son muy grandes».

Marías desvela que tiene en proyecto entre manos con Hollywood para que su novela Tu rostro mañana sea llevada al cine muy pronto, pero no quiere decir más sobre quién la rodará.

Sin embargo, confirma que uno de sus cuentos, Mientras ellas duermen, va a ser dirigido por el cineasta chino Wayne Wang, el autor, entre otras, de películas como La caja china o Smoke.

El Premio Formentor, que se creó en 1961 por Seix Barral y las editoriales más importantes de Europa, se entrega en el hotel que lleva el mismo nombre, en medio de un paraje natural, con el silencio y el aroma de los pinos como únicos testigos, y dejó de entregarse en 1967 por la desconfianza del régimen de Franco, como también recuerda a Efe Marías.

Hoy, restaurado, dotado con 50.000 euros e impulsado desde hace tres años por el hotel Formentor y las familias Barceló y Buadas, recupera ese aroma «mítico y heroico» que tenía el premio y que en su primera etapa lo obtuvieron autores como Jorge Luis Borges, Samuel Beckett, Carlos Semprún o Witold Gomobrovicz.

Y en su segunda etapa, Carlos Fuentes, Joan Goytisolo y ahora Javier Marías.

CARMEN SIGÜENZA

EFE, 31 de agosto de 2013

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Javier Marías. ‘Comme les amours’

Javier-Marias.-Comme-les-amours_int_carrousel_news

Servie par une prose magistrale, cette fable morale sur l’amour et la mort ne peut que nous rappeler, par son intensité, les meilleures pages d’ Un cœur si blanc ou de Demain dans la bataille pense à moi. Comme par le passé, Javier Marías y dialogue avec les tragédies de Shakespeare mais également avec le Colonel Chabert de Balzac dont il nous offre ici une lecture brillante, complètement inattendue et strictement contemporaine.

La citation des Trois mousquetaires «Un meurtre, pas davantage» revient régulièrement. Est-ce le thème dont le roman constitue les variations, une position philosophique ou une constatation désabusée?

C’est une citation saisissante, dont j’ignore si elle a été suffisamment prise en compte. Comme si, d’une certaine façon, un assassinat n’était pas la pire chose possible, ou comme si les assassins étaient si normaux et communs que nous ne devrions jamais, au fond, nous étonner ni nous scandaliser devant eux. Ce n’est pas le thème de mon roman (il y en a plusieurs et ils sont tous importants), mais on trouve effectivement cette idée selon laquelle les crimes individuels, «civils», ceux qui ne sont ni massifs ni politiques, sont une constante au cours de l’histoire, dans toutes les époques et toutes les régions, sans que les gens ne les commettent, pour ainsi dire, par imitation ou «contagion», ou par folie collective. Chaque personne agit pour son compte et de sa propre initiative. Si l’on pense à cette constante, et si l’on pense au nombre de ces crimes qui sont restés impunis et le restent encore, et à ceux dont nous n’avons même pas connaissance, on ressent en effet comme un sentiment de déception vis-à-vis de la condition humaine. Et ceci est un autre thème du roman : l’impunité et la manière dont nos sociétés tendent de plus en plus à l’accepter.

Le pourquoi et le comment d’une mort sont-ils plus importants que la mort elle-même? 
Non, j’imagine qu’ils ne sont pas plus importants que la mort elle-même. En fin de compte nous savons bien que le temps nivelle toute chose, quand il ne l’oublie pas tout bonnement. Si l’on nous parle aujourd’hui d’un meurtre commis au XVIIIe siècle, nous n’écoutons certes pas avec indifférence, mais nous le considérons bien comme un récit, une histoire fictionnelle, plutôt que quelque chose de réel, qui s’est véritablement produit. Le temps a tendance à transformer les faits en événements «fictifs», et en ce sens le comment et le pourquoi sont ce qui «offre une bonne histoire» ou non. Ensuite, oui, il y a les morts ridicules, dont je parle dans les premières pages de mon roman Demain dans la bataille pense à moi. Il vaut mieux ne pas en être victime, car c’est sans aucun doute ce dont l’on se souviendra à notre sujet. Les morts trop marquantes sont injustes : elles effacent parfois la vie entière qu’a pu avoir une personne auparavant.

«La vérité n’est jamais nette, c’est toujours un embrouillement. Même la plus élucidée», écrivez-vous. Estimez-vous que la vérité est par essence minée?
Oui, très certainement. Il y a quelques années, dans mon discours d’entrée à l’Académie royale espagnole, j’ai parlé «De la difficulté de raconter». Il est presque impossible de détenir la vérité sur quoi que ce soit – demandez donc aux historiens, qui ne sont jamais à l’abri de rectifications, de corrections, de démentis et d’amendements. De même, il est presque impossible de raconter ce qu’il s’est passé et que nous avons vu, ou même notre propre biographie, qui nous apparaît immanquablement parsemée de zones d’ombres. Qui furent mes parents avant d’être mes parents, par exemple? Et par conséquent, de qui suis-je issu en réalité et pourquoi suis-je né? C’est peut-être pour cela que nous écrivons et lisons des romans, pour que quelque chose, une fois, bien que ce soit inventé, puisse être pleinement raconté. La vérité n’entre pas dans un roman et n’en sort pas non plus, car celui-ci se déroule dans une dimension au sein de laquelle il n’y a ni mensonge ni vérité.

Pour vous, le monde est-il un gigantesque mensonge? Ou plutôt une gigantesque hypocrisie?
Ni l’un ni l’autre. C’est plutôt ce que Faulkner disait du pouvoir de la littérature, ce qu’elle peut faire de plus, et que j’ai cité à de nombreuses reprises. «C’est comme une allumette que l’on enflamme au milieu de la nuit, au milieu d’une forêt : la seule chose qu’elle parvienne à illuminer est l’obscurité qui l’entoure.» Ou quelque chose comme ça, je ne me rappelle pas exactement. Le monde est une gigantesque obscurité, même à l’heure où nous croyons presque tout savoir et pensons pouvoir espionner, filmer et enregistrer presque tout. Même ainsi nous sommes enveloppés d’obscurité.

Gallimard, août 2013

Comme les amours, un fin quatuor psycologique signé Javier Marías

Crítica de ‘Comme les amours’

A13873Javier Marias, crime de beauté

Que les murs aient des oreilles ou que les oreilles n’aient pas de paupières, les romans de Javier Marias entretiennent un rapport particulier avec «le champ auditif». Il y a ce qu’on dit et que les autres ne devraient pas entendre et, surtout, ce que les autres disent et qu’il aurait mieux valu ne pas entendre. Comme les amours (titre original :Los Enamoramientos) est le premier roman en un volume de l’Espagnol né en 1951 traduit depuis Dans le dos noir du temps en 2000 (Rivages), après les trois tomes de Ton visage demain (Gallimard). On y retrouve le charme narratif et intellectuel propre à Javier Marias, quand les pensées et interprétations des personnages sont elles-mêmes créatrices de romanesque, envahissant l’intrigue. Non pour la détruire ou la diminuer mais pour la faire mieux avancer. Comme il est répété dans le texte, «ce qui arrive dans les romans n’a pas d’importance et on l’oublie, une fois qu’ils sont finis. Ce sont les possibilités et les idées qu’ils nous inoculent et nous apportent à travers leurs cas imaginaires qui sont intéressantes». Avant, les sirènes des ambulances, de la police ou des pompiers poussaient les gens à la fenêtre, quand elles n’étaient pas trop fréquentes. «A présent plus personne ne regarde au-dehors, nous attendons qu’elles s’éloignent et qu’elles sortent le malade, l’accidenté, le blessé, le presque mort de notre champ auditif, afin qu’ainsi elles ne nous concernent plus ni ne nous mettent les nerfs à vif.» Mais il y a une femme dont le mari vient d’être assassiné, alors les sirènes d’urgence la concernent. Et il y a la narratrice qui va entendre ce qui n’aurait jamais dû siffler à ses oreilles, alors tout récit la concerne. Les romans, à travers Balzac et Dumas, le Colonel Chabert et les Trois Mousquetaires, ont inoculé quelque chose de particulier dans le nouveau roman de Javier Marias (il faut aussi prendre en compte une phrase de Macbeth, ce n’est pas la première fois que l’auteur utilise Shakespeare dans ses fictions).

Il y a donc un meurtre dès la première page. L’homme du couple si resplendissant que la narratrice l’a remarqué au café est assassiné par un déséquilibré, sans doute par erreur. Mais cette énigme plus grande qu’il n’y paraît n’est pas le sujet du roman. Ce dont il s’agit est la place respective des morts et des vivants, d’où le recours au colonel Chabert,«celui qui est mort à Eylau» et dont la réapparition provoque autant de catastrophes que l’avait fait sa disparition. «C’est un meurtre, pas davantage», dit Athos quand il exécute Milady dans le consensus. Un meurtre, c’est quelque chose qui arrive, doit en arriver à se dire le meurtrier qui «ne voit plus l’assassinat comme une monstrueuse exception ou une tragique erreur, mais comme une ressource supplémentaire que procure la vie aux plus audacieux et résistants».Tout le monde connaît ces basculements plus vitaux que moraux et celle qui n’imaginait pas son existence sans tel homme finit par surmonter sa disparition. Eh bien, cela va plus loin. «Il y en a peu, mais il y a des gens comme ça, des gens qui s’impatientent et qui s’ennuient dans le malheur, avec lesquels ce dernier a peu d’avenir, même si, de toute évidence et objectivement, il s’est acharné sur eux durant un certain temps. […] Mais ils sont destinés à s’en débarrasser rapidement et sans y mettre une grande détermination, par une sorte d’incompatibilité.» Il faut compter avec le «caractère», celui des amoureux comme celui des assassins.

Les morts, on peut normalement les regretter «en toute sécurité», certains qu’ils ne vont pas ressusciter. Les journalistes le savent qui peuvent «commettre des titres comme «Décès du dernier génie du piano» ou «La dernière légende du cinéma s’est éteinte», comme s’ils célébraient avec ravissement qu’enfin il n’y en a plus et qu’il n’y en aura plus, qu’avec le décès du jour nous nous délivrons de l’universel cauchemar comme quoi il existe des gens supérieurs ou particulièrement doués que nous admirons à nos dépens» (l’humour de Javier Marias s’exerce aussi sur les écrivains, la narratrice travaillant dans une maison d’édition). Le mystère de la mort n’est pas tant le moment que «le bon moment»«»Notre époque est étrange», pensai-je. «On se permet de parler de tout et on écoute tout le monde, quoi qu’aient fait les gens, et pas seulement afin qu’ils se défendent, mais comme si le récit de leurs atrocités avait en soi un intérêt».» Et la narratrice ne peut y contrevenir puisqu’elle est dans cette époque et qu’elle n’en est qu’«un pion». Elle fait partie de ceux, «chaque jour moins nombreux», qui ont la délation en aversion et préfèrent «parfois être injustes et qu’une chose reste impunie plutôt que de nous voir en délateurs, nous ne pouvons le supporter – au bout du compte la justice n’est pas notre affaire, nous n’avons pas à agir d’office». Il ne faut pas se «formaliser» que les choses se fassent «faute de mieux», fût-ce le choix d’une amoureuse.

MATHIEU LINDON

Libération, 28 août 2013

A13873

Le grand retour de Javier Marías

MICHEL SCHNEIDER

Le Point, 22 août 2013

JAVIER MARÍAS EN CUENTO Y NOVELA

Conocer para olvidar

Javier Marías (1951) publicó su primera novela a los 19 años. Hijo del filósofo Julián Marías, pasó parte de su infancia en Estados Unidos, tuvo una educación selecta y cosmopolita, fue profesor universitario en Oxford y en Madrid, y es uno de los escritores españoles más reconocido internacionalmente (premiado, editado, mimado por la crítica).

Como suele suceder -y quizás a causa del éxito y prestigio, que parece llevar como una prenda natural-, la recepción en su país ha sido ambivalente. Sus detractores lo acusan de difícil, libresco y pedante, combinando sus dosis de ataque a la obra y al autor. Pese a esas escaramuzas propias del mundillo literario español, no puede dudarse de que Marías es un gran novelista. Además de esto, mantiene una columna periodística, reseña libros, es un excelente traductor. También ha escrito cuentos, que acaba de reunir en el volumen que tituló como uno de ellos, Mala índole.

MI recorteCuentos completos.

En el Prólogo del Quijote, dice el autor que «acontece tener un padre un hijo feo y sin gracia alguna, y el amor que le tiene le pone una venda en los ojos para que no vea sus faltas; antes las juzga por discreciones y lindezas y las cuenta a sus amigos por agudezas y donaires». Esta metáfora cervantina, que refiere a la difícil distancia entre el creador y su obra, puede aplicarse a la relación de Javier Marías con sus cuentos, caracterizada por la ambigüedad. Por un lado, en este volumen admite la flaqueza de algunos, de los que se avergüenza «un poco» y sugiere que el lector no perdería mucho si los saltea. Hay otro grupo que «aún no lo avergüenzan». Esta discriminación explica la división del volumen en dos partes: «Cuentos aceptables» y «Cuentos aceptados». Impulsado por la decisión de no escribir más cuentos, las razones que da el autor para la publicación conjunta de tan dudoso corpus apuntan a la posteridad y a devolverles el valor que les niega en el juicio: facilitar la tarea de quienes buscan sus primeros cuentos publicados en revistas, complacer a «lectores impacientes» que ya no encuentran antiguas ediciones, ofrecer unos pulidos cuentos completos a exégetas futuros, todo lo cual lo coloca en el circuito de la consagración y lo eleva implícitamente a la condición de clásico. También Cervantes empleó el dispositivo de autoelogio en sus prólogos, lo que puede ser una razón para perdonárselo a Marías, aunque éste no pueda alcanzar el sentido del humor y la dosis siempre justa de ironía de aquél. Por otra parte, es bastante notorio que los cuentos no están a la altura de sus novelas. Hechos con los mismos ingredientes, muchos de ellos, sin embargo, resultan un poco banales, o bien efectistas, afectados por la elección de puntos de vista artificiosos (un fantasma, un muerto), o por las casualidades o hechos inauditos que justifican la trama. Hay predilección por muertos cuya energía opera en el mundo de los vivos, cierta obsesión por muertes misteriosas administradas por médicos sórdidos y discretos, por los asesinatos por encargo, siempre impunes, que a veces dependen sólo de un gesto o una palabra que se pudo haber evitado y a menudo pesan sobre la conciencia de alguien poco involucrado. La repetición de asuntos y situaciones de un cuento a otro contribuye a la creación de lo siniestro como atributo del conjunto.

«Mala índole», el preferido del autor y, según declara, de algunos fieles lectores, resulta mediano, sin embargo, frente a «Cuando fui mortal», uno de los mejores de la suma, donde da rienda a un punto fuerte de su obra: el retorno de lo ominoso silenciado y la familia como espacio sórdido y asfixiante. «Domingo de carne» y «El viaje de novios» son reescrituras de una misma escena, que a su vez se integra a la estupenda novela Corazón tan blanco (1992). Aun fuera de ese marco que los explica de otro modo, logran toda su fuerza precisamente en el inacabado, que refuerza la situación de un hombre atrapado en una escena incomprensible que lo atrae y le repugna al mismo tiempo. Algo similar -respecto al clima generado por la diferencia de conocimientos de los distintos personajes sobre la situación que comparten, y que suma al desconcierto del lector- ocurre con el logrado «Un epigrama de lealtad», al principio del cual el autor advierte que sólo los lectores de la novela Todas las almas (1988) «dispondrán de todos los datos para su comprensión cabal».

EnamAmor, invención, palabra.

Entrar en una novela de Marías es ingresar a un terreno en el que el placer de dejarse llevar por la escritura limpia se combina con la imposibilidad de despegarse de una trama sugestiva, que arrastra al lector, acuciado por el deseo de saber y a la vez por el miedo a saber, en espejo con lo que les ocurre a los protagonistas de sus historias. En Los enamoramientos, el autor elige un punto de vista femenino para contar el azaroso descubrimiento de un crimen y la lucha por desvelar la identidad del asesino, por medio de un proceso en que novela y conocimiento corren parejos. La clásica fórmula trágica según la cual la pesquisa contaminará inevitablemente al detective, que arriesga el derrumbe de su mundo, desmadejando un ovillo guiado por la duda, siguiendo la intuición de que el asesino pueda ser alguien cercano y querido, adquiere nuevo vigor en manos de Marías. La exploración del amor parte de la premisa de éste como un obstáculo en la búsqueda de la verdad, un juego de espejos que sólo puede engendrar ilusión y engaño, puesto que enamorarse es caer en una trampa que tarde o temprano revelará a otro dispuesto a traicionar, a mostrar su doblez. Si la deriva detectivesca agudiza el rigor lógico, la excesiva especulación discursiva -tendencia que le ha valido al autor el calificativo de cerebral-, ésta se complementa con una exploración despiadada de las emociones y los fraudes de los sentimientos. El enamoramiento se ve como un veneno que contamina el criterio y que se decanta en la construcción del otro evasivo que esconde y manipula, que siempre sabe más. Enamorarse lleva a la debilidad de creer o justificar, a la pérdida del control y de la seguridad en la interpretación del mundo. Indagar, escribir la novela supone la lucha por el control, de modo que conocer es desenamorarse. Aun así, no se llega a ninguna conclusión reparadora, porque la verdad se despliega en posibilidades, a partir de lo cual el conocimiento (de otro, de los hechos tal como ocurrieron) resulta imposible y lo único seguro es la duda, el repliegue y el cierre. Triángulos amorosos, asesinatos, culpabilidades e inocencias colaboran a poner en juego otras obsesiones del autor: la delación como crimen, la decisión entre decir y callar, los efectos del tiempo en el recuerdo y en el olvido.

La novela -como el amor- se presenta, además, como construcción adormecedora, que induce el deseo de escuchar mentiras, de seguir indagando a pesar de intuir el engaño: «Mientras uno escucha o lee algo tiende a creerlo. Otra cosa es después, cuando el libro ya está cerrado o la voz no habla más». Narrar es ejercitar una estrategia de seducción, que operará en el lector como el atontamiento del amor, suspenderá el juicio, mantendrá en vilo, correrá por el borde sinuoso entre el miedo y la entrega. En una serie de gestos que también inventó Cervantes, la voz narrativa reflexiona sobre su propio método, ya cuestionando la verosimilitud -«porque en la vida real casi nadie necesita averiguar ni se dedica a investigar nada, eso sólo pasa en las novelas pueriles»-, ya poniendo al descubierto las estrategias -«había observado el viejo precepto de relatar en último lugar lo que debía figurar como verdadero»-, desapegándose de la materia narrada con el mismo escalpelo analítico con el que el enamorado emprende el análisis del proceso amoroso, para librarse de él.

Mª ÁNGELES GONZÁLEZ

El País (Edición de Uruguay), 30 de agosto de 2013

Más reseñas americanas

Elliot Erwitt

Elliot Erwitt

Death Becomes Her

«Of all the several ways of beginning a book which are now in practice throughout the known world,» Laurence Sterne writes in Tristram Shandy, «I am confident my own way of doing it is the best — I’m sure it is the most religious — for I begin with writing the first sentence — and trusting to Almighty God for the second.»

Javier Marías, whose Spanish translation of Tristram Shandy won Spain’s Luis de León Award in Translation in 1979, likewise entrusts the creation of his novels to something higher. «I work without a map,» he has said. «I work only with a compass.” Trusting his imagination, Marías seems less to invent than to discover each page’s potential. «The blank page is best of all,» he has written, «the most eternally believable and the most revealing, precisely because it is never finished, on it there is eternally room for everything.” This belief not only distinguishes Marías’s style (digression is his progression) but it is also evident in the fact that, while he favors certain themes — history and language, truth and violence — he just as gladly lets his mind play over the mundane. Such intellectual excess lends his novels their often overlooked humor: «[I]t was as I realized at once,Babe […] the little pig was a great actor, I wondered if perhaps he had been nominated for an Oscar that year, but I doubt he would have won […]”

Born in 1951 to Julián Marías, a renowned philosopher persecuted by the Franco regime, Javier Marías has sold millions of books and been translated into more than 40 languages, yet North American popularity has proved elusive. Since the English translation of 1992’s A Heart So White won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 1997, each new release has been hyped as his potential North American hit, with adulating critics routinely asserting that the given volume serves as the best introduction to his work. But until The Infatuations, the new novel expertly translated by Margaret Jull Costa, readers have lacked a convenient approach to an otherwise sprawling and self-referential corpus. Novels such as All Souls(1992), A Heart So White, and the three-volume opus Your Face Tomorrow(2004, 2006, and 2009) share characters and plot-lines, not to mention what Marías terms the «system of echoes and resonances» which truly comprise his aesthetic. The Infatuations, however, which won Spain’s National Novel Prize (a prize Marías declined), is his first to be published by a major American house (Knopf), and may just be the stand-alone exemplary work critics have long prophesied.

María, the novel’s narrator, works for a Madrid publishing house, where she services the egos and absurd requests of its vaunted authors, and takes her breakfast each morning at the same café. There, she regularly observes an ideal married couple:

At an hour when almost no one is in the mood for anything, still less for fun and games, they talked non-stop, laughing and joking, as if they had only just met or met for the very first time, and not as if they had left the house together, dropped the kids off at school, having first got washed and dressed at the same time — perhaps in the same bathroom — and woken up in the same bed, nor as if the first thing they’d seen had been the inevitable face of their spouse, and so on and on, day after day, for a fair number of years […]

But the occasion of María’s narration is a murder. After all, the man and woman are characters, both in her life and in our novel: «You could say that I wished them all the best in the world, as if they were characters in a novel or a film for whom one is rooting right from the start, knowing that something bad is going to happen to them, that at some point, things will go horribly wrong, otherwise there would be no novel or film.» It is typical of Marías to dispense with any fact/fiction distinction: as he wrote in All Souls, «When true knowledge proves irrelevant, one is free to invent,» and in any case, as Your Face Tomorrow suggests, «our infinite imaginings belong to life too.»

When María learns that the husband has been gruesomely stabbed to death by a misguided, insane man — «a cruel, stupid, gratuitous death» — she decides to approach the woman, Luisa, and learn about the couple. «[S]o often we only find out that someone has existed once they have ceased to do so, in fact, because they have ceased to exist,” María muses. Through Luisa, María is introduced to Javier (the names, both Javier’s and María’s, are surely no coincidence), one of the murdered man’s closest friends. María embarks on an affair with Javier though she suspects he is ultimately in love with the now-widowed Luisa.

The first half of The Infatuations comprises the most mature meditation on death and dying in Marías’s corpus, perhaps a result of Julián Marías’s passing in 2005. Like the speaker of Auden’s «Musée des Beaux Arts,» Marías is unusually sensitive to the «human position» of suffering: «[H]ow it takes place / While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along.” Although even to a stranger Luisa was clearly in love, María realizes «she’ll get over this.” As Javier theorizes,

[T]he despair will become less intense, the sense of shock will diminish and, above all, she will get used to the idea: ‘I’m a widow’ […] That will be the fact, the piece of information […]And when Luisa marries again […] that fact, that piece of information, will have changed, while remaining the same as before, and she will no longer say of herself: ‘I’ve been widowed’ or ‘I’m a widow,’ because she won’t be, and will say instead ‘I lost my first husband, and he’s moving further away from me all the time.’

These words are part of a remarkable monologue which confirms Marías as Thomas Bernhard’s successor in the form. Marías goes on: «[U]ltimately, life prevails over us, so much so that, in the long run, it’s almost impossible for us to imagine ourselves without the sorrows life brings […]» Disturbingly but perhaps consolingly, the survivor may even find herself happier in the outcome:

There is no death that is not also, in some way, a relief, that does not offer some advantage […] We might mourn a wife or a husband, but sometimes we discover, although this may take a while, that we live more happily and more comfortably without them.

Indeed, María has become Javier’s lover, and we’ve become readers of this novel, as a result of murder. The Infatuations invites us to acknowledge injustice, from private accidents to national catastrophes, as ultimately vital to our pleasure and peace. While there is something almost ruthless in such a nuanced outlook, its opposite is equally true (the blank page has room for everything): Marías alerts us to the corpse by the wayside of every happy plot; he sees the grinning skull in the easy smile.

In an interview with The Paris Review in 2006, Marías said:

The idea of a male writing a female narrator and a female writing a male seems absurd […] I find books like that a little unbelievable. Only once have I written from a female perspective and that was in a short story. I would not be able to sustain it for a whole novel.

This was only a handful of years before he commenced work on The Infatuations. Whatever the reason for his change of heart, the shift is a happy one, with several bright advantages. For one, it has seemingly freed him to lampoon men in the novel’s most acerbically comic sections, as when María catches an acquaintance of Javier’s glimpsing her partially nude body:

[…] I saw only surprise and a flicker of male appreciation, which is easy enough to spot and which he doubtless made no effort to conceal, for some men’s eyes are very quick to make such evaluations, a reflex action they can’t avoid, they’re even capable of ogling the bare thighs of a woman who has been involved in a car accident and is still lying, all bloody, on the road, or of staring at the hint of cleavage revealed by the woman who crouches down to help them if they happen to be the injured party, it’s beyond their will to control or perhaps it has nothing to do with will at all, it’s a way of being in the world that will last until the day they die, and before closing their eyes for ever, their gaze will linger appreciatively on the nurse’s knee, even if she’s wearing lumpy white tights.

Elsewhere in that same interview, Marías argued,

One of the best possible perspectives from which to tell a story is that of a ghost […] someone who still cares about what he left behind, so much so that he comes back. You could say that my narrators are ghosts in that particular sense. They are passive, but they are still curious, they are observant.

When he went on to state, self-critically, «my female characters are a bit in the shade,» he may not yet have realized that therein lay the female voice’s advantage. María is the most ghostly narrator in an oeuvre populated by eavesdroppers, stalkers, and lingerers.

Like the ghosts of the dead, «which exercise a powerful attraction when they are still recent, as if they wanted to drag us after them,» María phases in and then out of the lives of Javier and Luisa. At the outset of the novel, she is «unnoticed,» «mingling with — but invisible to» the action, only to become entangled via her affair with Javier, and her final dematerialization begins after first overhearing and then learning Javier’s terrible secret. Burdened by his confession —»He […] has passed a weight on to me» — María faces a new dilemma: Is it her responsibility to act? «It sounds strange and even wrong,” she says, “and yet it can happen: [we] would sometimes prefer to act unjustly and for someone to go unpunished than see ourselves as betrayers, we can’t bear it — when all’s said and done, justice simply isn’t our thing, it’s not our job.» No, she decides, she will not play the role of revenging ghost: «The worst thing . . . [is] to come back to life at the wrong time, when you are no longer expected, when it’s too late and inappropriate, when the living have assumed you are over and done with and have continued or taken up their lives again.» Marías’s novel weaves an intricate web, but its triumph is in the power of its narrator. By transforming a female into a kind of shade, Marías found the ideal voice — detached, inquisitive, and vigilant — for one of his finest novels.

The Franco regime casts a long shadow over the work of Javier Marías (whose full name is Javier Marías Franco), but in The Infatuations, Javier’s crime, and María’s reaction to it, lays to rest a conversation about the dictator’s legacy heretofore most powerfully treated in Your Face Tomorrow 2: Dance and Dream. «Keeping a distance from actual events and being privileged enough not to have to witness them,” says Javier,

all provide scope for a high degree of autosuggestion […] You manage to convince yourself that you have nothing to do with what is happening on the ground, or in the head-on confrontation, even if you provoked or unleashed it […]

Surely this was Franco’s method, as well, enabling him to «[die] happy — if such a thing is possible — believing that everything would continue as he had ordained.»

But while «it’s clear who pulled the strings and who wrote the plot and who gave the order,» in the case of both the husband’s fate and Spain’s, María’s subsequent inaction points to a new urge toward restitution in Marías’s work. In Your Face Tomorrow, letting the past recede in favor of the present was seen as «another symptom of the infantilization of the world,» but now we sense moral resilience in María as she decides,

I [do not] want to be like the wretched books among which I spend my life, whose time stands still and waits inside, trapped and watching, begging to be opened so that it can flow freely again and retell its old and oft-repeated story.

Where has the imaginative compass of this novel delivered us? Through all the cruel, stupid, gratuitous crimes of history, we end serenely in the shade, oriented toward tomorrow with renewed generosity, curiosity, and humanity. In this powerful, morally nebulous space, the likes of which only Marías’s fiction can conjure, we are unafraid, even invincible: «Nothing more can die on us if we are already dead.»

MICHAEL LA POINTE

Los Angeles Review of Books, August 6, 2013

descargaA great Spanish novel for our time by Javier Marias

Renowned Spanish writer Javier Marías has written an exquisite novel, his 13th and perhaps his best, “The Infatuations.” It contains the classical themes of love, death and fate – as the Argentine-born writer Alberto Manguel puts it – inextricably mixed.

Some critics say it is the best Spanish novel since “Don Quixote.” It reads so beautifully that I had trouble not making note of remarkable phrases on every page.

There is a linguistic habit embedded in it, however, to which American readers will have to adjust. Instead of terse sentences in the novel, there are long colloquial elocutions, artfully set out, of pro and con arguments, without too brusque a change of direction; perhaps a European or Middle Eastern practice or both, in origin.

Here is how “The Infatuations” begins: A young woman, María Dolz, works in the publishing business in Madrid. She stops at a café each morning where she is drawn to a couple who appear to live an “unblemished” existence, one perhaps she dearly wishes she could emulate. María observed the couple carefully each day.

“The man is less than 50 and dressed with an old-fashioned elegance and seemed genuinely amused by life. He addresses the waiters formally as usted and treats them with a kindness that never topples over into cloying familiarity.” His name, María learned later: Miguel Desvern.

The woman, Luisa, Miguel’s wife, closer to 40, wears clothes by Céline. She was “as tall as him, olive-skinned, with shoulder-length, dark, almost black hair and very little make-up … She was clearly as pleasant and cheerful as he was, although her laugh wasn’t quite as loud.”

When the couple fail to show up for a number of days, María wonders, “How fragile they are, these connections with people one only knows by sight.” They have brought a ray of sun to her own life, a depressing existence she admits, spent catering to the whims of spoiled writers.

María thinks to herself, “You could say that I wished them all the best in the world, as if they were characters in a novel or a film for whom one is rooting from the start, knowing that something bad is going to happen to them, that at some point, things will go horribly wrong, otherwise there would be no film.”

Something has gone awry in the lives of Miguel and Luisa Desvern; otherwise there would be no novel. What can it be? A note of premonition is introduced when María indicates that Luisa “… waited 20 minutes for him at a restaurant table, puzzled but not overly unconcerned, until the phone rang and her world ended, and she never waited for him again.”

A few days earlier María had her stomach turned by a picture in the newspaper of the murder of a Madrid businessman, stabbed to death. She didn’t make any connection with Miguel Desvern at the time. The photo was so different from her recollection of Miguel in the café: a man, “lying on the ground … in the street itself, without a jacket or tie … with his shirt unbuttoned and the tails hanging out … with a pool of blood all about …”

María didn’t know, until she was later told by her colleague Beatriz, who also breakfasted at the café, that the poor devil pictured in the news was the cheerful man she watched every day and who earlier had the “infinite kindness” to raise her spirits.

María gets up enough nerve some time later to approach Luisa, whom she sees with her children about to leave for school at the café. “Forgive the intrusion,” Maria says, “…You don’t know me, but my name is María Dolz…”

“Yes, of course, we know you by sight as well … We used to call you the Prudent Young Woman,” Luisa smiles in return.

Thus begins a friendship between the two women. It also signals María’s falling in love with a man she meets at Luisa’s house, Javier Díaz-Varela, and his role in the mystery.

“The Infatuations” is a stunning novel, complicatedly told as a Spanish morality play. It is, in the end, a “metaphysical enquiry” involving questions of “love and death, guilt and obsession, chance and coincidence” and how they relate to telling the truth.

The import of this is relayed to us by María, who listens raptly to Javier, who tells a story about a novella by Balzac. When she asks about the specifics of the book, Javier says, “What happened is the least of it. It’s a novel, and once you’ve finished a novel, what happened in it is of little importance and soon forgotten. What matters are the possibilities and ideas that the novel’s imaginary plot communicates to us and infuses us with, a plot that we recall far more vividly than real events to which we pay far more attention.”

A word about the title translated into English. Alberto Manguel observes that “Infatuations” is the only possible English translation for the “enamoramientos” of the original title. Margaret Jull Costa (the translator), with her habitual skill, has rendered Marías’s precise, somewhat laconic Spanish into graceful and equally laconic English, but the title necessarily defeats her. “ ‘Enamoramiento’ is the act of falling in love, briefly but not less passionately; ‘infatuation’ (the dictionary tells us) is to become inspired with intense fondness, admiration, even folly; unfortunately, in the English term, love is absent.”

An example of “enamoramiento”? Consider María’s falling in love with Javier. At first she believes that Javier is only biding his time, postponable and provisional, waiting to take Luisa as his latest conquest.

As a result María thinks to herself, “We cannot pretend to be the first or the favourite, we are merely what is available, the leftovers, the leavings, the survivors, the remnants, the remaindered goods, … we manage to believe in these chance falls in love, and many think they can see the hand of destiny in what is really nothing more than a village raffle at the fag-end of summer … When we get caught in the spider’s web, we fantasize endlessly, and at the same time, make do with the tiniest crumb … knowing that he is still on our horizon, from which he has not entirely vanished, and that we cannot yet see, in the distance, the dust from his fleeing feet.” This is folly fully realized, yet acted upon: “enamoramiento.”

Later María comes to grasp that the random killing of Miguel Desvern on the street is not what it appears. It is a homicide that she has become privy to, making her an accomplice to murder, giving her a bad conscience and, as a result of her infatuation, and perhaps repugnance or fear of Javier Diaz-Varela, who may or may not have been complicit.

Marías turns the plot of “The Infatuations” on its head more often than one can count. He justifies his tergiversations by saying, “… the horrors that novelists think they invent are as nothing compared to the truth.”

I’m not so sure. As María says, “‘drip-feeding us with horror”: “It’s all a matter of time, infuriating time, but our time is over, time, as far as we are concerned, has run out, time, which consolidates and prolongs even while, without our noticing, it is simultaneously rotting and ruining us and turning the tables on us … Everything becomes a narrative and sounds fictitious even if it’s true …nothing is incompatible in the land of memory … No one is going to judge me, there are no witnesses to my thoughts.”

Is this so? I don’t think so. We are witnesses. It is this sensibility – that everything tends toward attenuation – that a superior novel like “The Infatuations” brings to judging life.

An important footnote: All too often the skill of a translator of novels is overlooked. This shouldn’t be so with Margaret Jull Costa, who renders Portuguese and Spanish literature so effortlessly into English. She is a longtime translator of Javier Marías and of Jose Saramago.

MICHAEL D. LANGAN

The Buffalo News, August 18, 2013

LE USThe Infatuations

“What happened is the least of it. It’s a novel, and once you’ve finished a novel, what happened in it is of little importance and soon forgotten. What matters are the possibilities and ideas that the novel’s imaginary plot communicates to us and infuses us with, a plot that we recall far more vividly than real events and to which we pay far more attention.”

Being that there are so many ways in which one might consider a book’s overall effect (to say nothing of how certain elements may appeal to one reader over another), it can be rather arduous to convey what it is about a particular work that makes it resonate as it does. To some, prose is paramount. to others, believable characters and their development, with whom a reader can identify or at least empathize. Faithful dialogue, compelling plot, philosophical asides, broad scope, cross-cultural relevance, clever construction, unique narrative stylings, memorable voice, a timeless quality—all these and more are reasons often given when discussing what it is about a work of fiction that makes it so distinguished or outstanding. The one commonality shared by all the world’s great novels, however, be they past or present, is their remarkable ability to stay with us long after we’ve set the story aside. So it is with Javier Marías’s latest novel, The Infatuations (Los enamoramientos).

Published to wide acclaim in his native spain in 2011, the disputed king of Redonda’s most recent offering is a murder mystery par excellence. no mere formulaic thriller, Marías’s tale is one of perception, memory, grief, love, death, complicity, circumstance, doubt, chance, delusion, the multiplicity of motivation, and, of course, the nature of infatuation. Set within the capital city of Madrid and using a violent (and seemingly senseless) murder as its catalyst, the story follows María Dolz, a publishing house employee who entangles herself, however inadvertently at the onset, in the heinous crime’s aftermath.

All this information was published over a period of two days, the two days following the murder. Then the item vanished from the press completely, as tends to happen with all news nowadays: people don’t want to know why something happened, only what happened, and to know that the world is full of reckless acts, of dangers, threats and bad luck that only brush past us, but touch and kill our careless fellow human beings, or perhaps they were simply not among the chosen. We live quite happily with a thousand unresolved mysteries that occupy our minds for ten minutes in the morning and are then forgotten without leaving so much as a tremor of grief, not a trace. We don’t want to go too deeply into anything or linger too long over any event or story, we need to have our attention shifted from one thing to another, to be given a constantly renewed supply of other people’s misfortunes, as if, after each one, we thought: “How dreadful. But what’s next? What other horrors have we avoided? We need to feel that we, by contrast, are survivors, immortals, so feed us some new atrocities, we’ve worn out yesterday’s already.

Once morbid curiosity, fascination, and, perhaps, schadenfreude no longer fuel our fertile imaginations, a murder (nothing more) becomes as disposable as any of the myriad news stories that we’ve somehow indulged as being momentarily relevant to our lives. Marías works this pervasive and perverse social peculiarity to great effect—intriguing us enough to concern ourselves with the fate of his characters (with ever the freedom to simply turn or walk away), yet forever eroding the space around them from which we can watch safely from the periphery. It’s a deliriously intoxicating technique, one evinced by our daily obsession with celebrity scandal, political malfeasance, far-off disaster, or nearby crimes of passion. These truncated news stories and soundbites, in reality, often have not the slightest thing to do with our own lives, but end up somehow consuming us (however briefly) all the same—as if they were somehow vested with the weight of our own personal stake. María is unable to turn away and neither are we.

Whereas so many whodunnits content themselves with little more than revealing the perpetrator and their hackneyed impulses, The Infatuations seeks to explore and confront a much broader purview. with perceptive observations and often tender insights into thought, reason, emotion, judgment, and the murky fringes of reality, Marías draws us into an almost inescapable role of accomplice and witness. He is able to do this so effectively by extracting the reader from the mystery of the murder itself (with which so few of us can identify) and repositioning one within the more familiar confines of love lost, relationships torn asunder, and the inevitable self-doubt which follows.

We tend to hope that, of the people and habits we cherish, no one will die and none will end, not realizing that the only thing that maintains those habits intact is their sudden withdrawal, with no possible alteration or evolution, before they can can abandon us or we abandon them. Anything that lasts goes bad and putrefies, it bores us, turns against us, saturates and wearies us. How many people who once seemed vital to us are left by the wayside, how many relationships wear thin, become diluted for no apparent reason or certainly none of any weight. The only people who do not fail or let us down are those who are snatched from us, the only ones we don’t drop are those who abruptly disappear and so have no time to cause us pain or disappointment. When that happens, we despair momentarily, because we believe we could have continued with them for much longer, with no foreseeable expiry date. That’s a mistake, albeit understandable. continuity changes everything, and something we thought wonderful yesterday would have become a torment tomorrow.

Is the author manipulating us? Are we willing participants? Are we rendered prostrate simply because the story evokes the universal feeling of unrequited desire and heartbreak? What about the abhorrent murder? Is all grief transmutable and therefore inexorable? Are we failing to see beyond all that is shown?

I would never know more than what he told me, and so i would never know anything for sure; yes, it’s ridiculous, isn’t it, that after all these centuries of practice, after so many incredible advances and inventions, we still have no way of knowing when someone is lying; naturally, this both benefits and prejudices all of us equally, and may be our one remaining redoubt of freedom.

Marías’s thirteenth novel (and the tenth to be translated into english), achingly beautiful and seemingly effortless like so much of his writing, could only have been carefully constructed by one possessed of a compassion and discernment alien to lesser writers. The Infatuations is not a flawless outing, but a remarkable and impressive one nonetheless. Marías’s exploration of doubt, truth, life, love, and violence does not answer any of the age-old questions of morality and mortality, but leaves us with the sense that there is much veracity and wisdom to be found within the shadows and gradations. A master of contemporary fiction (and regularly mentioned as a perennial candidate for world literature’s highest honor), Marías is among the finest european writers at work today.

The passing of time exacerbates and intensifies any storm, even though there wasn’t the tiniest cloud on the horizon at the beginning. We cannot know what time will do to us with its fine, indistinguishable layers upon layers, we cannot know what it might make of us. it advances stealthily, day by day and hour by hour and step by poisoned step, never drawing attention to its surreptitious labors, so respectful and considerate that it never once gives us a sudden prod or a nasty fright. Each morning, it turns up with its soothing, invariable face and tells us exactly the opposite of what is actually happening: that everything is fine and nothing has changed, that everything is just as it was yesterday—the balance of power—that nothing has been gained and nothing lost, that our face is the same, as is our hair and our shape, that the person who hated us continues to hate us and the person who loved us continues to love us. And yet quite the opposite is true, but time conceals this from us with is treacherous minutes and sly seconds, until a strange, unthinkable day arrives, when nothing is as it always was . . .

JEREMY GARBER

Three Percent, August 21, 2013

Marias01_bodyAN INTRIGUING INTERNATIONAL STORY

A celebrity in his native Spain, Javier Marías is puzzlingly unknown in the U.S. His novels are considered modern classics. He’s often tipped for the Nobel Prize. And his works have been translated into 42 languages in 52 countries. His latest prize-winning bestseller, The Infatuations, comes to America this month, and those who like their lit cerebral would do well to see what the fuss is about. Philosophical and provoking, a paradox of coolheaded intensity, this novel is, above all, addictive.

María Dolz, frustrated with her job in publishing, finds a small joy each morning in the café where she breakfasts, observing a beautiful couple who seem very much in love. One day they stop appearing, and María learns to her horror that the husband has been murdered. When the wife returns to the café, María offers her condolences—it is the first time she has ever spoken to the woman. The widow invites her to her home, and there she meets Javier Diaz-Varela, the husband’s best friend. María can see that the handsome Diaz-Varela is infatuated with the widow, and yet she becomes infatuated with him herself. They begin an affair. And from there, María finds herself embroiled in a murder mystery she would rather know nothing about—and must try to separate truth from fiction.

Marías’ style is distinctive: The story is told primarily through long internal monologues in which the narrator reflects on what has been said in conversation and even imagines whole conversations between others. Marías does this through long, drawn-out sentences, a sort of hybrid of Italo Calvino and Henry James. This description might horrify some and intrigue others, but the horrified shouldn’t turn away too quickly; somehow, this style manages to compel. Examining what underlies (and undermines) love, truth and justice, the prose never rambles but zeroes in on some of humanity’s most discomfiting characteristics, all of which relate to death and romantic love.

And uncertainty, perhaps the most uncomfortable element of human life, takes center stage. Marías keeps us guessing from beginning to end: about the crime, about the motivations, about what María is hearing from the other characters and what we can believe. A trip through the mind and heart that is somehow both quiet and edge-of-your-seat, The Infatuations fascinates as a whole new breed of psychological thriller.

SHERI BODOH

Book Page, August, 2013

ECCH PortadaReaders will fall in love with ‘Infatuations’

Every morning María Dolz, the main character in Javier Marías’ latest novel “The Infatuations,” eats breakfast in the same small cafe on her way to work. And every day she observes “The Perfect Couple”: a long-term married pair eagerly sharing breakfast as though on a first date.

But one day Miguel, the man, is brutally murdered on the way to his car. María comforts the widow and becomes involved in their world, first by falling for Miguel’s best friend and then by discovering, through a series of observations and overheard conversations, that Miguel’s murder is not as it seems.

Reminiscent of the writings of Albert Camus, “The Infatuations” (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 352 pages, $26.95) is equal parts mystery and metaphysical mediation on envy, influence, and the danger that comes when the dead come back to us — either literally (such as in the case of Colonel Chabert by Honoré de Balzac, which is heavily referenced) or figuratively.

“Yes, the dead are quite wrong to come back, and yet almost all of them do, they won’t give up, and they strive to become a burden to the living until the living shake them off in order to move on.”

But who is responsible for the dead? If a man is murdered, who must be held accountable — only the man who pulls the trigger, or also the man who plants the seed of murder in his mind and encourages its growth?

It’s clear to see why Javier Marías’ name is often mentioned in discussions of potential recipients of the Nobel Prize in Literature, as “The Infatuations” beautifully tackles themes that strike at the heart of the human condition. Marías meticulously weaves philosophical arguments, classic literature, and real and imagined conversations together, resulting in a kaleidoscopic masterpiece.

This is by no means a quick read, and classic literature shouldn’t be: this is a book to be savored, discussed and read again.

LAURA FARMER

The Gazette, August 4, 2013

Javier Marías recibirá el Premio Formentor de las Letras 2013 este sábado

JM con MV

El escritor Javier Marías recibirá el próximo sábado el Premio Formentor de las Letras 2013 en reconocimiento al conjunto de su obra literaria.

Según un comunicado, el acto de entrega tendrá lugar a las 19.30 horas en el Hotel Barceló Formentor, situado en la Playa de Formentor, al que seguirá un cóctel, aunque el encuentro del escritor con la prensa se producirá antes del evento, a las 17.00 horas.

El jurado de este año, presidido por Basilio Baltasar, está formado por Félix de Azúa, Manuel Rodríguez Rivero, Juan Antonio Masoliver Ródenas y Berta Vías Mahou, quienes también estarán presentes en la entrega del premio.

Cabe recordar que el Premio Formentor, que se recuperó en 2011 con motivo de su 50 aniversario, ha premiado en estas dos recientes ediciones a los escritores Carlos Fuentes (2011) y Juan Goytisolo (2012) y está dotado con 50.000 euros gracias al patrocinio de los propietarios del Hotel Barceló Formentor, la familia Barceló, y la familia Buadas.

El premio se convoca para reconocer el conjunto de la obra narrativa de aquellos escritores cuya trayectoria prolonga la tradición literaria europea, siendo su principal objetivo contribuir a consolidar la posición de los autores que han sabido mantener su esencia literaria.

El Día/Europa Press, 27 de agosto de 2013

 

Reseña americana

LEnamoramientos R HThe Darkness is Deep Indeed:  On Javier Marías’s  The Infatuations

Maria Dolz sees the same couple at the same café in the same city, Madrid, nearly every morning. “[T]he sight of them together” calmed her, and provided her “with a vision of an orderly or, if you prefer, harmonious world.” Maria works for a book publisher, where she often must deal with vain and pretentious authors — including one who is so infatuated with the Nobel Prize that he has already prepared an acceptance speech in Swedish. She is somewhere just south of 40, and has not married. To her, the couple was the ideal form of love, a couple who unselfconsciously enjoyed every second in each other’s presence. “[I] didn’t regard them with envy, not at all,” Maria says, “but with a feeling of relief that in the real world there could exist what I believed to be a perfect couple.”

But then the husband, Miguel Desvern, is murdered violently by a deranged homeless man, who raves about his daughters’ forced prostitution and wildly accuses Desvern of taking his inheritance. Thus ends the tranquil preprandial café moments — although the murder is less jarring (for Maria) than its aftermath. After another encounter with Miguel’s wife, Luisa, Maria strikes up a small friendship. Maria also begins seeing Javier Diaz-Verela, a friend of the couple’s; their relationship forms the core of Spanish author Javier Marías’s 12th novel, The Infatuations.

If you have been paying attention, you have noticed this is a book by a man named Javier Marías that features a complicated story of Javier and Maria. And if you knew Javier Marías’s work, this type of tongue-in-cheek wordplay would not be surprising: While The Infatuations contains strong elements of its author’s biography — Marías’s own life is often a motif in his fiction — it is not autobiographical. His novels “dare us — subtly here, grandly there — to mistake the narrator for the author himself,” Wyatt Mason has written. “Marías seems to be saying, what we believe — and what is believed about us — is where the trouble begins.”

As The Infatuations opens, Maria Dolz believes, it seems, in love — or “true love,” as the way we often refer to it — of a “perfect couple.” And that was precisely the start of a catastrophe.

article-0-0C19D1F5000005DC-23_224x423Javier Marías may be the only significant working writer to also be a king. As the sovereign of Redonda (a small, rocky island north of Montserrat and west of Antigua), Marías is the honorary (“void of content,” in his words) monarch. His two-decade reign has nearly entirely consisted of bestowing titles on various artists — John Ashbery is the Duke of Convexo, for example — as part of an effort at tongue-in-cheek recognition.

Marías does not take it seriously, but the title of “king,” in some ways, feels apt. The cover of The Infatuations notes striking praise for the author from heavyweights J.M. Coetzee (“one of the best contemporary European writers”), Roberto Bolaño (“By far Spain’s best writer today”) and Orhan Pamuk (Marías “should get the Nobel Prize”). His books have sold more than 6.5 million copies throughout the world, and have been translated into 42 languages, yet neither my local libraries nor any hometown shop — independent bookstore or Barnes & Noble — carried any of his titles, and even the state university’s large library only had a handful of his books, mostly in Spanish. Marías may be royalty, but in the United States he remains nearly as obscure as Redonda.

NET Vintage

Nearly the moment after Marías’s birth, his father, Julián, a philosopher, moved from Madrid to Massachusetts for a teaching job at Wellesley, while Marías, his mother, and his older brothers moved shortly thereafter. Marías would spend chunks of his childhood in the United States, where his first novel, completed before he turned 21, was set; but he eventually went on to study English at Complutense University in Madrid. After two novels, he turned to translation for a half-dozen years. His work — Spanish versions of Sir Thomas Browne, Laurence Sterne, and William Faulkner, for example — seems to be a guide to his subsequent fiction. For a period he taught translation theory at Oxford, where his novel All Souls takes place. It is difficult to understate how fundamental translation (as a concept) is to reading Marías, and that is perhaps one reason why reading him in English seems almost as fitting as the original Spanish; indeed, his work, in its original language, has been criticized as “sound[ing] like translations,” because, among other things, it lacks much distinct Spanish-ness, no (in Marias’s words) “bullfighting, no passionate women.” To Marias, sounding like a translation was praise, even if it was meant as an insult. “One of the things I didn’t want to be was what they call a ‘real Spanish writer.’”

TLA Vintage

A translator is a “privileged reader and a privileged writer,” Marías has said. “[I]f I ever had my own creative writing school I would only admit people who could translate, and I would make them do it over and over again.” The narrator of A Heart So White is a translator, for example; the narrator of Marías’s Your Face Tomorrow trilogy is an “interpreter of people,” who is asked to establish if a person would lie or kill in the future. Translation is, in typical Marías fashion, an allusion to his biography: the author’s own mother, in fact, was also a translator.

Marías’s other narrators are frequently interpreters by another name, who occupy themselves interpreting and translating, from Juan’s obsessive interpretations of his wife’s small gestures in A Heart So White, to Victor’s ghostwriting in Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me, to Maria’s attempts at deciphering words not being said by feminine lips of Javier Diaz-Verela in The Infatuations. It is a fundamental human occupation, Marías seems to be conveying, prone to gaps and misses. “[A]ll the valuable information to which people imagine we translators and interpreters working in international organizations are privy,” Juan says, “in fact, escapes us completely, from beginning to end, from top to bottom, we haven’t a clue about what’s brewing or being plotted and planned in the world, not the slightest glimmer.”

MBPM VintageAs a regular columnist for El Pais, Marías has opined on a huge range of topics. Perhaps having to produce so much copy, and so often, has rendered him to strikingly straightforward and eloquent — in virtually any interview — about his process and his books, although one suspects that Marías possesses such grace naturally. He seems to understand his own writing — which often seems effortless, and never showy — better than anyone. He is a retort to Barthes: the author, in other words, is not dead, but a key to the entire process. “A novel is a more savage and wild thing in the sense that you can say anything, and your narrators or characters can say anything,” Marías has said. “Yet it still arrives at a kind of truth.”

The truth that The Infatuations arrives at, if it does, is a most uncomfortable and perplexing one.

Perhaps the only thing wrong with The Infatuations is its title. In Spanish, it is Los Enamoramientos, which could also be translated as “crushes,” but which is defined in the novel — in a long speech of Javier Diaz-Varela — as the “state of falling or being in love.” Of course, the title is one of the vagaries of translation — how fitting for a Marías novel — since “enamoramiento” cannot be easily translated into English. If, in English, there had been a noun form for “to be enamored with,” perhaps that would have worked best; still, “infatuation” manages well enough.

The book probes what defines the boundary between love and infatuation, and how often both can be on shaky ground. Our lives are “very limited in our choices of partner by location, class, history and who is willing to accept our advances,” Marías said, talking about the novel. “How many times are we not the first choice? Or even the second, or the third?”

CFM VintageThis is rather a disturbing notion, after all; many hardened atheists still believe in love or perhaps a version of a soulmate, and most often it seems it’s the religiously devout who remain unmarried. The Infatuations purposefully attempts to suggest imperfect, impure love is more common than is ever spoken. Javier tells Maria that she is not in love with him, as she claims, and that “even the most transient and trivial of infatuations lack any real cause, and that’s even truer of feelings that go far deeper, infinitely deeper than that.” In this way, human affection seems tantamount to human hatred, such as the homeless man’s killing of Miguel: causeless, random, the product of inward self-obsessions instead of the outward direction of the self. (Perhaps that was hinted by “Maria” falling for “Javier,” as they are both just the creations of Javier Marías.)

But maybe this depressing suggestion is just Marias speaking out of both sides of his mouth — what he has called *pensamiento literario*, or “literary thinking,” a way of thinking that lets the writer contradict himself. In The Infatuations, we have the possibility that perhaps life, unlike the novel, is quite a different, more complicated thing, and the jaded notions of manipulations and cynicism apparent to Maria are simply products of her bitter worldview: “…no novel would ever dare give houseroom to the infinite number of chances and coincidences that can occur in a single lifetime,” Maria thinks at one point, “let alone those that have already occurred and continue to occur. It’s quite shameful the way reality imposes no limits on itself.” It’s shameful to Maria, but perhaps it is hopeful for the rest of us.

CTB VintageBeyond the interesting ideas his work draws on, Marías’s novels are simply a pleasure to read — they possess the sort of flat, hypnotic quality of the prose of W.G. Sebald, who, along with Marías, can make anything seem interesting. Marias’s sentences — like Sebald’s — are long, and feature lots of commas, where thoughts appear and pop up and then disappear, building and strengthening, and often the sentences contains strings of complex and compound ideas, much like this sentence, as the author burrows further and further into particular moments, stretching them out for pages. His novels contain what Marías calls “a system of echoes or resonances,” or ideas, motifs, details, which the story keeps revisiting. Sometimes these are literary touchstones — in The Infatuations, Maria keeps coming back to bits of Balzac and Dumas, while in A Heart So White it is Macbeth — and other times they are bits of distinct dialogue or details (such as Diaz-Verela’s feminine lips). Perhaps because Marias does not outline his novels, these important “reoccurrences” feel organic. If there is a Chekhov’s gun, it was in the first draft.

Throughout the course of The Infatuations, Maria learns too much about Javier Diaz-Verela, too much about Luisa, too much about Miguel. The love of Luisa and Miguel, that perfect couple, is replaced with another kind of love — to say more would spoil it — that seems no less dedicated, if significantly less pure. There hardly exists, at the end of the novel, a “perfect couple,” but perhaps that feels more real. It is precisely these quandaries, contradictions, and realities that makes Marías’s fiction so good; The Infatuations, containing the qualities of Marías’s best work, is an important addition to his oeuvre.

Literature, Marías has said, “doesn’t properly illuminate things, but like the match it lets you see how much darkness there is.” The Infatuations leaves us with the unsettling possibility that the darkness is deep indeed.

GREG WALKLIN

The Millions, August 15, 2013

‘The Infatuations’ en la National Public Radio de EE UU

T I doble

Listen to the Story

Addictive ‘Infatuations’ Takes A Metaphysical Look At Crime

If you’re like me, you probably feel exhausted just thinking about how much cultural stuff is out there. A friend recently told me he was reading an acclaimed Hungarian novelist whose books I’ve never opened. «Please tell me he stinks,» I begged, «so I don’t have to read him.»

«Actually, he’s great,» came the reply, and I groaned. This was something I didn’t want to know.

No writer has written more about the burdens, even dangers, of unwanted knowledge than Javier Marías, the hyperliterate, 62-year-old Spanish novelist whom I’m about to tell you — please don’t groan — that you should read. Of course, I’m hardly the first to say this. 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. Translated by Margaret Jull Costa, 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. It hooks you from its very first lines.

The narrator is María Dolz, a book editor who has spent years observing Miguel and Luisa Deverne, whom she watches every morning at the Madrid hotel café where they all have breakfast. In her fantasies, the Devernes are an ideal couple: witty, urbane, happily infatuated with each other — I kept picturing a Spanish Nick and Nora Charles. Then one day, to María’s dismay, the two stop showing up. She discovers that Miguel has been murdered by a homeless guy on the street — the newspaper even carries a photo of his stabbed body.

The story appears to be over until she unexpectedly meets Luisa and expresses her condolences. Their encounter sends off ripples, although it would spoil things to tell you exactly where they go. Suffice it to say that María begins an affair with a man who’s infatuated with someone else, and she stumbles across information that forces her to rethink what happened to Miguel. A seemingly senseless crime begins making sense.

Now, I don’t want you to think that The Infatuations is a routine mystery novel. It’s more of a metaphysical thriller — closer in spirit to the Michelangelo Antonioni film Blow-Up than to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Marías uses his crime plot to explore the elusiveness of perception, the fragility of memory and the violence lurking within ordinary life, including supposedly «happy» feelings like being in love.

Marías’ trademark is to obsessively go over and over the significance of every word and every gesture. This strategy reaches its peak in his extraordinary set pieces, like the one in volume two of his novel Your Face Tomorrow, in which he takes what might be a scene from Quentin Tarantino — in a nightclub bathroom, the hero watches his boss attack a man with a sword — and spins it out over dozens of transfixing pages. The Infatuations pivots on the long, riveting scene when María overhears a conversation she wishes she hadn’t. Not only does what she hear put her in harm’s way, but it also forces her to make a choice about how to act on this guilty knowledge.

Like all of all of Marías’ work, The Infatuations is unsettling, even slightly sinister, because it confronts us with thoughts we’d rather not hear: that morality is provisional and can be corrupted by many things, including love; that to survive, we invariably start forgetting the lost loved ones whose memory we once clung to — if the murdered Miguel returned, Luisa might actually find his presence inconvenient. Most unsettling of all, Marías suggests that our self, this thing we call «I,» is not something solid and immutable. Like our narrator, we cobble ourselves together from moment to moment out of malleable memories, stories we’ve heard and fictions we tell ourselves to impose meaning on what’s going on around us.

In short, Marías calls into question the certainties that most of us — including most other novelists — take for granted. As his heroine puts it late in this great novel, «The truth is never clear, it’s always a tangled mess. Even when you get to the bottom of it.»

JOHN POWERS

NPR, August 12, 2013

Críticas americanas

T I camisa

NYT. Editor’s Choice

In Javier Marias’ The Infatuations, all is not what it seems

Is adultery a kind of murder that causes ex-spouses and old lovers to be expunged from our lives, as if they’d never existed? Are novelists akin to rogue detectives or perhaps morticians, possessed with godlike powers: creating make-believe people, killing them off, then exhuming their corpses for clues about their character?

These unsettling thoughts may creep up on you as you read «The Infatuations»,  the precise, haunting new novel by Spanish author Javier Marías.

Asymmetrical love affairs, sudden (often violent) death, the wobbly nature of identity and the curious link between the fictions we read (or write) and the shaky narratives we fabricate from our own lives are the recurrent fixations of this witty, urbane and acutely perceptive writer. Superficially, «The Infatuations» is a romantic fable inside a crime story, focused on a thirtysomething Madrid single, Maria, who may be a namesake for the author. (Or is it, with a nod to Borges and Cervantes, the other way around?)

For reasons she herself never wholly fathoms, Maria becomes obsessed with a seemingly blissful wife and husband, Luisa and Miguel. Initially, she knows them only as the mysterious Perfect Couple — affluent, attractive, manifestly in love — who breakfast every morning at her favorite cafe.

But Maria, who works in book publishing and possesses an exceptionally active imagination, embroiders elaborate mental fictions about Luisa and Miguel. (She reads people like books, almost literally.) The couple, in turn, are making playful conjectures about Maria, whom they’d dubbed the Prudent Young Woman.

Yet the novel’s strategy is to reveal these roiling thoughts for what they mostly are: stories we invent to snatch at what Melville called «the ungraspable phantom of life.» Through interlacing internal monologues, the novel switches seamlessly between the minimal action that occurs, which may or may not jibe with its characters’ fantasies, projections and rationalizations about what occurs.

«When someone tells us something, it always seems like a fiction, because we don’t know the story at first hand and can’t be sure it happened,» goes one such musing of Maria’s. «… It forms part of the hazy universe of narratives, with their blind spots and contradictions and obscurities and mistakes.»

Maria’s psychological stalking takes a shocking turn when Miguel is brutally murdered. In the tragedy’s aftermath, Maria and Luisa become acquainted. Maria also gets introduced to a previously off-stage character hovering in the shadows of Miguel and Luisa’s picture-perfect life: Miguel’s best friend, Javier Díaz-Varela, described in Maria’s shrewdly ironic first-person voice as «a very calm fellow … virile and handsome» and clean-shaven but with «a hint of beard, a slight bluish shadow … like that of a comic-book hero.»

As Maria’s involvement with Javier deepens, Marías draws his readers into a labyrinth of tenuous beliefs and tantalizing speculations, threaded with resonant literary allusions («Macbeth», «The Three Musketeers», Balzac’s «Le Colonel Chabert»). Dialogue and plot frequently pause for paragraphs, even pages, to make way for the characters’ inner soliloquies.

These digressions, despite their occasional  longueurs, are an essential component of Marías’ self-consciously literary sensibility, well-rendered in Margaret Jull Costa’s excellent translation (although her handful of British-isms — «wide boy» for wheeler-dealer, «grassing» for snitching — may land flat on some North American ears).

But Marías also undercuts the idea that literature can serve as a conduit to enlightenment rather than as merely another veil of uncertainty. One of the novel’s secondary characters is a pompous author, so vain that he has already written out his Nobel Prize acceptance speech — in Swedish.

Masquerading as melodrama, «The Infatuations» gradually unmasks itself as a philosophical crime-scene investigation, in which Marías’ scalpel-like prose and microscopic observations lay bare the fragmented, indeterminate nature not only of our most intimate relationships but of everything we think we know about why we behave as we do.

All is contingency in Marías’ cool, clear-eyed worldview. By savoring obscure motives and absurd turns of fate, he dispels facile explanations of why people commit extreme acts of love, anger, mercy, betrayal. His slippery prose keeps his readers struggling for mental traction.

The author’s work, including «All Souls» (1989), «A Heart So White» (1992) and «Dark Back of Time» (1998), has been compared with Paul Auster’s existential whodunits. His literary gamesmanship evokes verbal puzzle-makers like Borges, and his ingenious chessboard plots bring to mind the 20th century’s grand-master strategist, Vladimir Nabokov.

Yet his style is uniquely his own as are the discoveries he makes while rummaging around in the basement of the human heart. His readers needn’t shun the dark corners: Marías’ trembling lantern is at hand.

REED JOHNSON

Los Angeles Times, August 16, 2013

A tinge of blood
1308_SBR_INFATUATIONS_AUTHOR.jpg.CROP.article250-medium

Reading Javier Marías is like a conversation that you didn’t want to have. But the speaker is so elegant, so puissant beneath his Old World clothes, so innocently macho with all his philosophical conundrums, that you let him talk. You let him tell you things you wish you’d never heard. He could be the devil himself but for something generous in his address, a focus outside himself. He is not dangerous. And yet his sobriety—a sobriety that sits unmoved amid endlessly unfurling sentences, sentences that in any other writer’s hands might foam into frantic sub-Dostoevskian ranting—betrays lethal knowledge. Or lethal tastes, at least, an aficionado’s relish for gore, for poise, for heroism. Beneath the dilating, open-ended, inquisitive, and self-contradicting sentences there may even be a boyish eagerness.

It is characteristic that in the perennial Nobel candidate’s latest novel, The Infatuations, the three works constantly alluded to are The Three MusketeersMacbeth, and Balzac’s Colonel Chabert. These three works are chosen for precise thematic reasons, but if you are new to Marías, pause just for a moment to consider how dashing these works are, how prone to mustaches and passementerie, how almost camp their idea of evil is.

The unspoken romance at the heart of Marías’s work is the recuperation of old-fashioned adventure within perfectly serious, cerebral contemporary fiction. This has been true since the Spanish author’s breakthrough novel, A Heart So White (1992), and certainly applies to the monumentally satisfying Your Face Tomorrow trilogy (2002–07), a combination spy thriller–modernist masterpiece. As Marías himself has admitted, the action in his books often comes to a complete stop, and whole chapters are filled up with nothing but what he calls “literary thinking.” A character ruminates, turns a problem over and over, comes like a mesmerized tourist onto unanticipated vistas, or, just as frequently, pauses where he is and considers the forking paths before him.

And yet the new book, like many of his best, begins with action. A Madrid man, innocent and well liked, is stabbed to death by a homeless man in an apparently random act of violence. The book’s first sentence, though ripe with the questions and qualifications that fill out Marías’s books, has a hook worthy of an airport crime novel.

“The last time I saw Miguel Desvern or Deverne was also the last time that his wife, Luisa, saw him, 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.”

María, the book’s scrupulous narrator, works at a Madrid publishing house and every morning at the neighborhood café observes Miguel with his wife, Luisa, both known to her at first only as “a perfect couple.” She reads of Miguel’s death in the papers. When Luisa finally makes a reappearance at the café, the narrator approaches and offers her condolences—and learns that the perfect couple had a name for her, too: “the Prudent Young Woman.”

She will, by book’s end, know far more about Miguel’s death than the widowed Luisa—and will keep it to herself less out of prudence than out of some deeper, darker, more profoundly Marías-esque ambivalence. Who am I, she asks, “to impose a revelation on someone”?

Considering the revelations that have been imposed on her, this is an understandable scruple. First, Luisa sets her down and talks for a few hours. Since her husband’s death, she tells María, she has acquired “an unfamiliar, alien mentality,” and can’t stop reimagining the murder. She offers a pages-long transcript of what her husband might have been thinking as he died.

She complains that people too often discount the past: “Yes, that’s what most people believe. That what has ceased to happen is not as bad as what is happening, and that we should find relief in that cessation.” But for her the past is on repeat, like an animated GIF. “They mean well, but they don’t understand that all my memories are now soiled by that sad and bloody ending … I don’t really have any good memories left. They all seem false to me. They’ve all been contaminated.” In María’s mind, the cud-chewing mind of the quintessentially ruminative Marías narrator, this line of thought reaches a pitch of existential keening:

“What’s the point of this and why bother with that, what’s the point of money or a business and all its complications, why a house and a library, why go out to work and make plans, why have children, why anything? Nothing lasts long enough because everything ends and, once it’s over, it was never enough, even if it lasted a hundred years.”

Against this astonishing logic, Miguel’s best friend Díaz-Varela speaks up for being realistic. He wants Luisa to get over her loss—indeed, as he lets María know, he wants to marry the widowed Luisa himself, once she is ready. Yet his philosophy of life is the opposite of the widow’s. “That’s the mistake most people make,” he tells the narrator.

“The mistake of believing that the present is forever, that what happens in each moment is definitive, when we should all know that as long as we still have a little time left, nothing is definitive. We have all experienced enough twists and turns, not just in terms of luck but as regards our state of mind. We gradually learn that what seems really important now will one day seem a mere fact, a neutral piece of information.”

The consolations of this philosophy begin to feel a little sinister after María begins to suspect that Díaz-Varela may have arranged Miguel’s murder. He may be not only asking Luisa to forget her husband, but he may also be asking María to forget certain suspicious facts. It won’t be giving too much of the plot away to say that there is even a moment when the reader is allowed to imagine that Miguel himself, perhaps terminally ill, had asked to be assassinated, that his final thoughts might not, as his widow imagines, have been directed toward her but toward the absurd gratification of a favor done him in the form of multiple stab wounds, delivered him by his best friend through the medium of a homeless man’s butterfly knife.

All of this will sound constructed, too full of symmetries and plot twists and staged confessions. What makes The Infatuationsmore than a thought experiment dressed up with daggers and wicked liaisons is its irresolution. Díaz-Varela, who steals the book much as the Grand Inquisitor steals The Brothers Karamazov, puts it this way when discussing Balzac:

“It’s a novel, and once you’ve finished a novel, what happened in it is of little importance and soon forgotten. What matters are the possibilities and ideas that the novel’s imaginary plot communicates to us and infuses us with.”

So if, at the novel’s end, the widowed Luisa were to forget Miguel and happily remarry, it might theoretically prove Díaz-Varela right. But such a tiny scene, at the end of such a deep, thoroughgoing novel, would hardly replace or supplant the many vistas on life and death opened during the (hopefully unhurried) experience of reading it.

The Infatuations may not have the grandiosity of his preceding book, the three-volume Your Face Tomorrow. That book, in its first and second volumes, felt grandly like it would never end. The Infatuationsis more formally balanced. It feels like Marías is headed toward a late style, brainy and lean and a little dry. The tinge of blood that flavors all of Marías’s novels is here, but the use of a female narrator slightly inhibits Marías’s boyish relish. Perhaps that is for the best. The book teaches us to somehow dread the idea that life belongs to the living—that transcendental moments do not exist, that time is on the side of murderers.

BENJAMIN LYTAL

The Daily Beast, August 16, 2013

el-coronel-chabert-seguido-de-el-verdugo-el-elixir-de-larga-vida-y-la-obra-maestra-desconocida-9788490322352The Infatuations

Everyone’s done it: looked across a room, noticed a particular couple, imagined their lives, and created a fiction out of the pair of lovers that—depending on mood or particular circumstance—might quickly devolve into an ugly sort of envy. Despite the fact that little to nothing is actually known about the couple, a summation is derived from a glance that says more about the onlooker than the looked-upon. Those familiar with the work of Spanish writer Javier Marías might recognize how such a commonplace occurrence can become the stuff of entire novels (or trilogies, as was the case with his epic series Your Face Tomorrow), and so it is with his latest, The Infatuations.

The novel’s narrator/inveterate-gazer, María Dolz, visits the same Madrid café each morning, where she has given the focus of her eavesdropping the honorific “Perfect Couple.” Though she has “only ever caught fragments of their conversation, or just the odd word or two,” Dolz is compelled enough by their presence and manner to wish them “all the best in the world, as if they were characters in a novel or film for whom one is rooting right from the start, knowing that something bad is going to happen to them.”

Her mornings spent watching them, before heading to work as a literary agent—by now, the reader can smell the fresh fertilizer for metafiction in the air—become increasingly important to María. Any feelings of inadequacy in their presence (“They didn’t need me or, perhaps, anyone: I was almost invisible, erased by their contentment.”) are remedied when that inevitable “something bad” happens.

She learns the husband’s name (Miguel Desvern) from a newspaper photo, after the couple fails to show one morning, and discovers he has been randomly stabbed to death by a transient on the afternoon of his birthday. Gradually she comes to know the widow, Luisa, after approaching her months later, at the same café, to offer condolences, albeit as a stranger. As it turns out, the “Perfect Couple” were watching too, perhaps less obsessively, as Luisa welcomes her back to her apartment and reveals they had both referred to the solitary Dolz as the “Prudent Young Woman.”

Marías reveals all of this efficiently, then sets it aside in the early pages of his four-part Infatuations. Death is not the spoiler here. Anyone equipped solely with the curiosity of a whodunit aficionado will be sorely disappointed, probably bored, and likely frustrated by the novel’s remaining three acts. Similar to Marías’ earlier novel, Tomorrow In The Battle Think On Me, the dead body is often theleast interesting element. What follows are signature Marías digressions, with ruminations on death, time, truth, memory, envy, and infatuation—the great themes get turned over again and again, like soil in a graveyard.

There are long expository passages devoted to Balzac’s novella Colonel Chabert, whose plot commands almost as much detective work as Miguel’s murder. There are recurring passages from Macbeth, Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers, and some Keats for good measure. There is also a tendency for María offer up pages-long scenarios only to yank them away (after the reader’s imagination has been fully invested) with a dismissive, “Not that any of those things would happen,” or, “I didn’t actually think all this.” In fact, for much of The Infatuations,the action doesn’t so muchhappen as get discussed.

This is not to say there is no satisfactory payoff. It is a novel that can tug conventionally with the promise of revelation and deliver on the most obvious questions: What happened? Who did it? Why? But as one character contends, during a discussion of Balzac’s Chabert: “What happened is the least of it… What matters are the possibilities and ideas that the novel’s imaginary plot communicates to us and infuses us with, a plot we recall more vividly than real events and to which we pay far more attention.”

Marías’ noveloperates on so many levels simultaneously, it becomes a piece of evidence itself, an artifact that proves its own argument. It is a dizzying feat that relegates “metafiction” to that dreary province literary terms go should they fail to articulate, as The Infatuations does so artfully, that life and fiction are inventions often made from the same materials.

GREGG LAGAMBINA

A.V. Club, August 12, 2013

Edición americana de ‘The Infatuations’

T I camisa
THE INFATUATIONS
JAVIER MARÍAS

Translated by Margaret Jull Costa
Knopf, August 13, 2013

“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 (Summer Reading Issue)

“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 (starred)

“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 (starred)

“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

‘The Infatuations’ en The New York Times

Ilustración. Emiliano Ponzi

Ilustración. Emiliano Ponzi

Taken to Heart

When a writer chooses to express something in a particular way, all the other approaches he might have chosen are usually encouraged to disappear in the hope of creating an atmosphere of authority and precision. Javier Marías, the masterly Spanish novelist, follows the opposite policy and, even after he has filled a descriptive vacancy, continues to interview other candidates for the job. The rival formulations turn up one after another, in sub-clauses that offer everything from subtle qualification to flat contradiction. Here is the narrator of “The Infatuations,” Marías’s new novel, contemplating the memory of Miguel and Luisa, the husband and wife she grew to think of as the Perfect Couple, if only on the thin basis of observing them have breakfast each morning in the same cafe:

“They became almost obligatory. No, that’s the wrong word for something that gives one pleasure and a sense of peace. Perhaps they became a superstition; but, no, that’s not it either. . . . ”

Marías has pointed out that the Latin root of the verb “to invent,” invenire, means to discover or find out. His special gift is to bring these two processes, inquiry and narration, into a conjunction, making things up as he discovers them and discovering them as he makes them up. He never works to a plan, and so his prose stays close to the thought processes of a writer working out what to say next and responding to what he has, perhaps mistakenly, just said. “The Infatuations” goes on to explore the narrator’s relationship with the widow and with the best friend of the murdered Miguel. At first he appears to have been killed by a stray madman. The plot, several times changing our perspective on the murder, works very well as a thriller, but it is essentially a pretext for advancing the skeptical worldview embodied by the style.

The very first sentence of “The Infatuations” is provisional, offering alternative versions of a central character’s name: “The last time I saw Miguel Desvern or Deverne was also the last time that his wife, Luisa, saw him. . . . ” Death is certain, but identity is not; even after it appears to have been sealed by death it continues to mutate in the treacherous memories of the living. People are not only made up of what they are, but also of what they are not, what they lack, what they might have been, wished they had been, are uncomfortable with having been, and so on; Marías invites all the ghosts to the table. His sentences often contain a tangle, or an explosion of tenses that do everything to undermine the majestic simplicity of the past, present and future in favor of remembered anticipation or fevered speculation. Here is the narrator imagining the calculations of a usurper:

“There’s still time for him to die tomorrow, which will be the yesterday of the day after tomorrow, assuming I’m alive then.”

This is of course not quite true: it will still be the yesterday of the day after tomorrow whether the person having this thought is alive or not — but it is typical of Marías’s method that bare facts are instantly colonized by subjectivity. In “Your Face Tomorrow,” the monumental trilogy that preceded “The Infatuations,” the narrator puts it this way: “Consciousness knows nothing of the law, and common sense neither interests nor concerns it, each consciousness has its own sense, and that very thin line is, in my experience, often blurred and, once it has disappeared, separates nothing.”

Marías’s punctuation tells the same story as his arguments: his long sentences, full of thoughts that other writers might separate with a paragraph break or a full stop, often run on, punctuated only by flimsy commas. Chapter breaks, conversely, appear to create a large gap between sentences that could have followed each other without a break. Both approaches play with the sense that the categories we take for granted have fragile or nonexistent borders. Marías also puts the thoughts of his characters in quotation marks, blurring the distinction between what is said and what is only thought. The main impact of this technique is to emphasize that thoughts are stories we are telling ourselves. Identity rests on the continuity provided by memory, and memory depends on turning experience into narrative. We remember our stories long after our sensations have disappeared. These stories are highly problematic in themselves, and even if we manage to make sense of anything, which is not very likely, our understanding takes place in the context of “the darkness that surrounds and encircles any narrative.”

Given his fascination with uncertainty — inherent uncertainty as well as copiously manufactured doubt — it is no surprise that Marías, after saying in The Paris Review that he could not countenance the radical inauthenticity of narrating one of his novels from a woman’s point of view, has a female narrator in “The Infatuations,” his next project. She is, thank God, called María: sharing the first five letters of the author’s last name may do something to muffle the scandal of the gender gap. Marías can say of María, without the affirmative baldness of Flaubert’s claim about Madame Bovary, “María, c’est ­presquemoi.” The narrator is almost the author, but not quite; just as her sentences have a stab at telling the truth but often, like Miguel’s murderer, have to strike again and again to achieve their objective. Precision is elusive and so is love. All the characters in “The Infatuations” are in a chain of romantic frustration, sleeping with substitutes for the person they really love, sketching relationships they hope to improve later on, if only by disposing of the person they imagine stands in their way. It’s true that there was once a Perfect Couple, but the narrator could observe them only from an idealizing distance, and the story begins only after one of them has been murdered.

Few things attract evil’s indignation more than a Perfect Couple, whether it’s Adam and Eve or Miguel and Luisa. The particular form of evil that preoccupies Marías in “The Infatuations” (as it did in “Your Face Tomorrow”) is envy turning into betrayal. The definition of “envidia,” or “envy,” in Covarrubias’s dictionary of 1611 is quoted three times in “The Infatuations” (the reappearance of the same blocks of prose is another signature effect of Marías’s novels: prose aspiring to the condition of music, bringing back a theme, not in a vague or allusive sense, but in exactly its original form): “Unfortunately, this poison is often engendered in the breasts of those who are and who we believe to be our closest friends, in whom we trust; they are far more dangerous than our declared enemies.”

“Macbeth,” Shakespeare’s most horrifying play, which provided the title for Marías’s earlier novel “A Heart So White,” also haunts his new one. Although “The Infatuations” is based on a murder and “A Heart So White” begins with the daughter of the house committing suicide during an elaborate lunch party, it is not that the atmosphere of Marías’s books is horrific, but rather that horror is their premise: in the beginning there was horror, now let’s think about it. “Macbeth” reminds us that Shakespeare did not draw fastidious distinctions between murder mysteries and high literature, and there is no reason for Marías to do so either. Murder turns narrators into detectives, and since novelists are essentially spies, why not have novels with spies in them?

As a meditation on crime and punishment, “The Infatuations” takes up a shifting position somewhere between leniency and despair. So many crimes go unpunished, it would be unjust to punish any particular one; on the other hand, so many minor crimes go punished even as murderous dictators like Franco die peacefully in their beds, it’s enough to make you despair; on the other hand — when it comes to “other hands,” in Marías’s case it is best to visualize a Hindu deity. The son of a philosopher, he shows a philosopher’s desire to clarify the way we think about things; he wants to communicate a mentality, not just a story:

“Once you’ve finished a novel, what happened in it is of little importance and soon forgotten. What matters are the possibilities and ideas that the novel’s imaginary plot communicates to us and infuses us with.”

Such a high level of reflection and digression (let’s not even get into the amount of literary allusion) might easily become too cerebral, but Marías’s powerful awareness of indecisiveness and delusion is born not only of a speculative frame of mind but of a penetrating empathy. At one point the narrator gives voice to Miguel’s bereaved possessions, the clothes hanging in his cupboard and the novel with the page turned down and the unfinished medication in the bathroom cabinet, to consider what they might make of his death. This feeling of emotional generosity tempers the literary thinking, as do the scenes of pure comedy, like the Oxford high-table dinner in Marías’s novel “All Souls,” with its Buñuel-like degeneration of absurd formality into violence and contempt. The narrator of “The Infatuations” works in publishing, and so most of the comedy in this novel is generated by her contact with vain, self-serving writers, especially the preposterous Garay Fontina, who is used to successfully extorting favors from María’s boss on the basis of the self-propagated rumor that he is about to win the Nobel Prize. One day he confidently asks María to send round two grams of cocaine so he can describe its color in his forthcoming novel. When she tells him that cocaine is white and that there’s no point in describing it because everyone knows what it looks like, he is withering:

“Are you telling me how I should write, María? Whether I should or should not use adjectives? What I should describe and what is superfluous? Are you trying to give lessons to Garay Fontina?”

Javier Marías himself is frequently mentioned as a potential winner of the ­Nobel Prize, and creating this caricature of an expectant laureate may have eased the boredom and the tension of the waiting room. Garay Fontina, at any rate, is well prepared for his summons to Stockholm: “I’ve memorized the speech I’m going to give to Carl Gustaf at the ceremony — in Swedish! He’ll be flabbergasted, it will be the most extraordinary thing he’s ever heard, and in his own language too, a language no one ever learns.”

Marías discovered his analytical and digressive style with his 1986 novel “The Man of Feeling.” The consistency of the style in the novels he has written since then, as well as the similarity of tone between his first-person narrators, and the countless connections between those books, means there is a high degree of unity to his later work. For established fans, “The Infatuations” will be another welcome shipment of Marías; for new readers it is as good a place to start as any. 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.

EDWARD ST. AUBYN

The New York Times, Sunday Book Review, August 8, 2013

Reseña americana de ‘The Infatuations’

Ilustración. Nate Powell

Ilustración. Nate Powell

Plots

Javier Marías is a master of first lines. He’s a master of other things as well, I think, but definitely of first lines. Here, for instance, is the first line by Marías I ever read, after finding a copy of his novel A Heart So White in a bookstore bearing the “staff pick” honorific:

“I did not want to know but I have since come to know that one of the girls, when she wasn’t a girl anymore and hadn’t long been back from her honeymoon, went into the bathroom, stood in front of the mirror, unbuttoned her blouse, took off her bra and aimed her own father’s gun at her heart, her father at the time was in the dining room with other members of the family and three guests.”

What is brilliant about this first line—and I suspect it’s obvious, but bear with me—is the way that it raises in such a small space so many provocative questions that you, the reader, immediately want the answers to. Why did this young woman kill herself, assuming she was successful? (She was.) Did her father do something to her? (He’s already been mentioned twice—and she used his gun, which seems like a kind of revenge.) Most provocatively, why did this narrator, whoever he or she is, not want to know that this happened, this thing that we, the readers, now want to know so much about? (And yes, the unbuttoning of the blouse and the taking off of the bra—and that little phrase, “she wasn’t a girl anymore”—also work to seduce the reader. Some readers, anyway.)

Marías likes to begin his novels “with the explosion of a narrative bomb,” as the critic Wyatt Mason put it in a 2005 New Yorker essay, citing A Heart So White as the exemplar. The Infatuations, the newest Marías novel to be translated into English by the extremely able Margaret Jull Costa, qualifies as well. Here’s how it opens:

“The last time I saw Miguel Desvern or Deverne was also the last time that his wife, Luisa, saw him, 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.”

Again with the questions we must have answered. Why was it the last time she saw him? Why did she never speak to him? How does she know this couple? Why doesn’t she know how to spell his last name? Marías answers these questions in the end. (Well, all but one, I think.) As a general rule he does not tease his readers with pulpy narrative hooks only to deny them the pleasures such stories provide: His books have satisfying plots, even though he and his narrators frequently insist that plot doesn’t really matter.

“Once you’ve finished a novel, what happened in it is of little importance and soon forgotten,” María, the narrator ofThe Infatuations, thinks. “What matters are the possibilities and ideas that the novel’s imaginary plot communicates to us and infuses us with, a plot that we recall far more vividly than real events and to which we pay far more attention.” With that philosophy in mind, Marías takes slightly trashy, eye-catching plots, then winds long, philosophical digressions around them like so many knotty, twisty pieces of string. These digressions consist of what Marías calls pensamiento literario, “literary thinking,” which is different from philosophical thinking because it “allows you to contradict yourself. A character within a book can say two totally contradictory things, yet both can be true.”

Before we get to those digressions, a brief word about the eye-catching plot: María knew the couple mentioned in the novel’s opening line because she used to habitually sit near them at a café, admiring their picture-perfectness from a short distance. She never spoke to them—not while Miguel, the husband, was alive. But after Miguel was murdered by an indigent stranger, she introduced herself to his wife, Luisa, who continued to come to the café, alone. Luisa in turn introduced María to one of Miguel’s close friends, Javier. Soon Javier and María began an affair, María succumbing to el enamoramiento, an infatuation. And before long María learns that Miguel’s seemingly random murder was not so random after all.

Around this plot Marías winds long meditations about murder, secrets, love, lies, and so on. “We do tend to believe things while we are hearing or reading them,” María reflects, while listening to a dubious story about what really happened to Miguel. This just nine pages after she has the thought, while listening to an earlier part of the same story, “Everything becomes a narrative and sounds fictitious even if it’s true.”

As those lines suggest, much “literary thinking” is, unsurprisingly, about literature, or storytelling. Often it is about other books: One way to understand Marías’ writing is to think of it as literary criticism written in the form of crime novels. With The Infatuations, he has produced an imaginative gloss on specific passages in The Three Musketeers and Macbeth and on the whole of Balzac’s 1832 novella Colonel Chabert. In Musketeers, Athos discovers that a woman bears a mark branding her a convict, and so he ties her hands behind her back and hangs her from a tree. The Macbeth bit that keeps coming back to María throughout The Infatuations is Macbeth’s reaction on learning that his wife is dead: “She should have died hereafter.” (Marías is an acclaimed translator of English literature, and a particular fan of the Scottish play: “a heart so white” is a line of Lady Macbeth’s.) The Balzac book is about a soldier who is mistakenly buried with, and listed among, the war dead, and who then tries to return to his old life. How do we really feel about the dead, after they’re gone? Is murder truly always as revolting to us as it seems in the abstract? The characters in The Infatuations think about these questions through the works of old masters.

And as the novel glosses older texts, it also glosses Marías’ own work. About halfway through, a disreputable character named Ruibérriz de Torres shows up—disreputable, I say, because faithful Marías readers recognize his unwelcome presence from Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me and, if they’re completists, from the novella Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico. Another familiar Marías character, Professor Rico, also shows up. This is typically playful: Throughout Marías’ books, names and characters recur. Perhaps you noticed already that the main characters in this new novel by Javier Marías are Javier and María. And perhaps you’re wondering when I’m going to explain the one unanswered question in the book’s first line: Why does she call him “Desvern or Deverne”? Why can’t she spell his surname?

I never figured that out. Maybe it’s a Spanish thing? Or maybe it’s a little game that Marías is playing. Perhaps we’ll learn the answer in some later novel or novella. All Marías books feel like chapters in one much longer book. And it’s one you should start reading, if you haven’t already. I recommend picking up A Heart So White first. Just read that opening sentence again. Don’t you want to know what happens?

DAVID HAGLUND

The Slate, August 9, 2013

Stevenson, Marías y Villena: ‘De vuelta del mar’ desde el reino de Redonda

DVDM

Los libros de la editorial Reino de Redonda son un regalo para cualquier lector curioso. De Robert Louis Stevenson conocemos bien algunas de sus novelas más célebres: La isla del tesoroLa flecha negraDr Jekyll and Mr Hyde o, los más avezados, sus cuentos y diarios de viaje. Sin embargo, había quedado durmiendo en el olvido su poesía, pese a que escribió muchos poemas a lo largo de su vida. De vuelta del mar (Reino de Redonda) es una edición espléndida en hechuras y en contenido, que reúne lo mejor de su obra poética y nos recuerda que Stevenson fue, en prosa o verso, un poeta. Lo subraya Luis Antonio de Villena en su brillante prólogo. Vale la pena el libro sólo para leer las introducciones de Villena y del editor/traductor, Javier Marías. Villena –más bonancible- suaviza al temperamental Marías cuando éste califica (sin remilgos) las famosas rimas infantiles de Stevenson de “estomagantes”. Y por eso no las ha incluido en el volumen. Impagable, por ejemplo, la reflexión de Marías sobre la inutilidad de los prólogos: “el lector estulto o malintencionado nunca tiene remedio, por mucho que se le prevenga y se le brinden perspectivas ajenas; el lector inteligente o bien dispuesto siempre sabe apreciar lo de apreciable que haya en una obra sin necesidad de que antes se le avise o el vanidoso de turno se lo señale”. En sus libros de Reino de Redonda, naturalmente, siempre hay prólogo y, como en este caso , por partida doble, aunque Marías firme el suyo como Nota sobre el texto. Notas excelentes, que enriquecen la edición.

Versos con mucho mar, y mucha tierra. Poemas sensoriales empapados de esa pasión por la vida que, pese a sus achaques, o precisamente por ellos, siempre tuvo Stevenson. Su poesía (Villena lo califica como “buen poeta menor”) tiene una musicalidad que Marías se ha esforzado en mantener. E incluso la traducción de Marías da la impresión de que incluso la mejora a veces y le da todo el brillo a sus frases a veces dejadas a medias en el aire. Un trabajo espléndido de fundido entre el exuberante Stevenson y el reflexivo Marías, que dan como resultado una lectura evocadora, que nos trae el aliento de ese hombre extraordinario que fue Stevenson, que yace (en Samoa) donde quiso yacer.

“Dadme la vida que amo,
Que el resto pase a mi lado.”

ANTONIO G. ITURBE

Qué Leer, agosto de 2013

‘De verliefden’ candidata al Premio de Literatura Europea

De verliefden HolandaDe verliefden van Javier Marías staat op de shortlist voor de Europese Literatuurprijs.

De shortlist voor de Europese Literatuurprijs 2013 is in Amsterdam bekendgemaakt. De jury selecteerde, uit de longlist van 21 vertalingen, vijf titels die in aanmerking komen voor de prijs. De prijsuitreiking zal op 31 augustus plaatsvinden, tijdens de Uitmarkt in Amsterdam.

De volgende vijf titels zijn genomineerd (in alfabetische volgorde op naam van de auteur):

Mr Gwyn van Alessandro Baricco, vertaald uit het Italiaans door Manon Smits (De Bezige Bij)

Limonov van Emmanuel Carrère, vertaald uit het Frans door Katelijne De Vuyst en Katrien Vandenberghe (De Bezige Bij Antwerpen)

Liefde van Karl Ove Knausgård, vertaald uit het Noors door Marianne Molenaar (De Geus)

Coupé No6 van Rosa Liksom, vertaald uit het Fins door Annemarie Raas (Podium)

De verliefden van Javier Marías vertaald uit het Spaans door Aline Glastra van Loon (J.M. Meulenhoff)

www.meulenhoff.nl, 14 juni 2013

‘Una celebración de la lectura de Javier Marías’

Cervantes 4

VÍDEO DEL COLOQUIO

Presentación de Julio Ortega

El coloquio «Una celebración de la lectura de Javier Marías» ha estado organizado en colaboración por el Instituto Cervantes y la Universidad de Brown; lo ha moderado Julio Ortega, de la Universidad de Brown, y diversos autores han participado exponiendo sus aproximaciones a la obra del escritor madrileño: Elide Pittarello —de la Universidad Ca’ Foscari de Venezia—, Jordi Gracia —de la Universidad de Barcelona—, Heike Scharm —de la Universidad de South Florida— y Juan Luis Cebrián —de la Real Academia Española—. El propio Marías interviene tras ellos para hablar sobre su reacción ante las palabras que le han dirigido y sobre su proceso de escritura.