Edición de bolsillo de ‘Die sterblich Verliebten’

LE Alemán moleskine
DIE STERBLICH VERLIEBTEN
JAVIER MARÍAS
Fischer Taschen Bibliothek
Fischer Verlag, Oktober 2013

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LA ZONA FANTASMA. 27 de octubre de 2013. El negocio de prohibir

Ya no se sabe si la avidez recaudatoria de las actuales autoridades españolas no conoce límites –bueno, saqueadora–, o si la vieja pasión prohibidora de este país emerge al menor pretexto, o si se trata de una mezcla de las dos, lo más probable. En poco tiempo nos han obsequiado con varias medidas, a cual más injusta, demente y desfachatada, todas dictadas por esos dos ánimos: prohibir por prohibir y estrujar aún más al ciudadano, como si no bastaran las enloquecidas subidas de impuestos de Rajoy y Montoro, en contra de sus promesas electorales y, según dijeron, “provisionales”, pero ya prorrogadas uno o dos años más, por lo menos hasta 2015. Como en esa fecha habrá elecciones, bajarán algo esos impuestos a ver si los votan los de su propio partido. Visto lo que podemos fiarnos de su palabra, y de la del PP en general, es seguro que, si redujeran la presión fiscal, sería para incrementarla en seguida en 2016, y de lo dicho nada, y además “no hay otra solución”.

Pero a lo de ahora. Primero se nos comunicó que a partir de pronto se harán pruebas de alcoholemia a los peatones infractores y se los multará. Es decir, si alguien lleva prisa y se salta un semáforo porque no se ve ni un coche en lontananza, habrá que comprobar si ha bebido un vaso de vino o dos, y, de ser así, se la cargará bien cargada. Otro tanto si un transeúnte desciende a la calzada y camina junto al borde, cosa que en Madrid, por ejemplo, nos vemos obligados a hacer todos a menudo porque las aceras están intransitables, llenas de obstáculos puestos por el Ayuntamiento: pivotes de piedra o de hierro, chirimbolos, motos y bicis a las que se permite aparcar, gigantescos contenedores, bandas de pseudojazz, vallas y zanjas de obras inútiles, papeleras desbordadas, andamios por doquier. Así, las autoridades ocupan las aceras hasta impedirnos ir por ellas, y a continuación deciden cobrarle al que las abandona para avanzar. Negocio redondo, el de forzarnos a infringir las reglas para luego multarnos por ello.

Al poco nos enteramos de que la alcaldesa de Fuengirola, del inevitable PP, ha prohibido que en la Feria de su localidad suene música en otra lengua que el español, y –ojo– español de aquí: no sólo no permite “géneros como funk, rap, reggaeton, electrónica, metal, alternativa, hip hop, reggae, heavy metal, country, punk y gótica”, sino tampoco “ritmos latinos en general”, aunque estén cantados en español. Asimismo ha dictaminado sobre la decoración de las casetas, que deberá basarse en “elementos relacionados con Andalucía, su cultura, arte y tradiciones”, y al que no cumpla lo visitará la policía. Que esta tal Doña Oña imponga a sus conciudadanos lo que han de oír y bailar, y hasta cómo deben engalanarse, es sin duda anecdótico, pero delata un espíritu totalitario que ríanse de Stalin. De hecho la aproxima mucho a Franco, que proscribió todos los nombres extranjeros, de cines, hoteles, cafeterías y demás. Oí contar que el cine Colón de mi infancia se había llamado Royalty, hasta que el dictador lo condenó por poco español.

A continuación nos anuncian una nueva ordenanza municipal para Madrid, y a raíz de eso se nos revela que está parcialmente inspirada en las ya vigentes en Sevilla, Barcelona, Málaga, Benidorm, Bilbao, Granada y otras ciudades. Al leer la lista de lo que prohibirá y multará esa ordenanza, uno se pregunta si queda algo que no sea una infracción, y si pronto no nos cobrarán por salir a la calle y transitar. Junto a algunas prohibiciones razonables y ya existentes, pero que no se suelen respetar (orinar en la vía pública, algo que uno ve hacer de continuo con total impunidad; no llevar perros peligrosos sin bozal; encender hogueras, etc.), nos encontramos con que habrá multas de hasta 750 euros por limosnear ante un centro comercial; de hasta 1.500 por intentar limpiar un parabrisas o vender kleenex en los semáforos, por “juegos o apuestas con dinero” (esto en una comunidad que ahora adora a la Virgen Tahúr de Eurovegas y a San Adelson el Turbio, será para que ningún trilero haga competencia a sus casinos), o por “promover la prostitución”. No se aclara qué cae bajo ese verbo ambiguo, guiñarle un ojo a un viandante debe de ser parte de ello. También se pregunta uno cómo pagarán 750 o 1.500 euros un mendigo, un vendedor de kleenex o un limpiador espontáneo, más aún cuando, gracias a la política de recortes y despidos fáciles del Gobierno y la CEOE, cada día más gente se ve empujada a tan miserables menesteres porque no le queda otro remedio. Y luego se pregunta uno qué se hará con los no pagadores, que serán todos: ¿se los meterá en la cárcel, estando todas ya saturadas? ¿Se los expulsará de la ciudad o del país? Todo da la impresión de ser un capítulo más en el proceso de eliminación de los pobres. A usted se lo multa y persigue sólo por eso, por ser pobre, hay que ver. Lo sangrante es que al mismo tiempo este Gobierno hace todo lo posible por incrementar su número, y por que pasen a serlo quienes no lo eran ni lo son. Entre eso y la nueva emigración forzosa de jóvenes y no tan jóvenes, uno empieza a sospechar que a lo que aspira el PP es a despoblar el país y a que en España no queden en libertad más que sus votantes y unos cuantos indiferentes. Sería la única manera de asegurarse la perpetua reelección. El único inconveniente es este: ¿quién quedaría para tributar a Hacienda, esto es, para pagar a sus miembros y “asesores” sus cuantiosos sueldos?

JAVIER MARÍAS

El País Semanal, 27 de octubre de 2013

Reseña de ‘The Infatuations’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edward Hooper

Edward Hooper

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

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

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

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

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

– and María’s thoughts about it –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LAURA K. WARRELL

Numéro Cinq Magazine, October 9, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NORMA L. VÁZQUEZ ALANÍS

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

LA ZONA FANTASMA. 20 de octubre de 2013. Suerte que no hay simios en Ohio

1382108523_322679_1382112485_miniatura_normalCreo que era el Estado de Ohio, pero ya no estoy seguro. De hecho ni siquiera lo estoy de haber oído bien en un telediario, de si fue un espejismo auditivo o lo he soñado. No he visto luego la noticia en prensa, ni he leído una línea al respecto. Lo que más me hace dudar, sin embargo, es mi resistencia a aceptar –y miren que estamos escarmentados– que los idiotas lo sean tanto y que además tengan poder y manden. Sobre la imbecilidad se vienen soltando sentencias desde la Antigüedad. Se atribuye a Plinio –o tal vez a Apuleyo, en todo caso a un romano– la frase “Si los tontos volaran no se vería el sol”, y a menudo es citada por mis colegas la irónica vacilación de Einstein: “Sólo hay dos cosas infinitas: el universo y la estupidez humana, y carezco de certeza acerca de la primera”. Bien es verdad que a veces hacen suyas estas citas individuos que yo considero memos completos. Cuando le leí a un articulista “Si hubiera un tonto más en España, no cabría, se caería al mar” (o algo por el estilo), recuerdo que pensé de inmediato: “Debería aplicarse el cuento y tirarse por la borda”. Así que, cuando uno habla de imbecilidad, debe hacerlo con precauciones, porque su percepción es subjetiva, y cualquier lector podría decirse ahora lo mismo: “Mira quién fue a hablar, el cretino de Javier Marías”.

Pues bien, admitiendo la posibilidad de que yo sea un cretino –nunca se sabe a quién se lo puede uno parecer, aunque me reconforta que me tengan por tal algunos escritores, columnistas y políticos, su aprobación me preocuparía–, soy incapaz de juzgar con ecuanimidad la decisión del Estado de Ohio, que además se aprestaban a imitar, en cuanto entrara en vigor, varios Estados más de los llamados Unidos, a saber: se ha sancionado como “discriminatorio” hacia los ciegos que, como sucedía hasta ahora, no se les permita tener licencia de armas, ni portarlas ni hacer uso de ellas, de modo que a partir de la nueva ley estarán autorizados a poseer arsenales y a pasearlos por las calles, ya que, como ustedes sabrán, los fanáticos de la NRA o Asociación Nacional del Rifle no se suelen contentar con guardar un Colt o una Glock en sus hogares, sino que se proveen con frecuencia de metralletas, granadas, fusiles de asalto y hasta bazookas o sus equivalentes más modernos. A partir de cierta edad los conductores de coches son sometidos a pruebas médicas periódicas para comprobar cómo andan de reflejos y de la vista, y el carnet no se renueva a los que no las pasan, por el peligro que suponen. Varios Estados americanos, en cambio, con el de Ohio a la cabeza, han dictaminado que privar del derecho a la tenencia y uso de armas a quienes no ven ni torta y podrían disparar “al bulto” y a voleo, no es una medida sensata y prudente, sino “discriminatoria” con los pobres e indefensos invidentes. Por si acaso, no pondré pie en Ohio, temeroso de encontrarme con tipos fieros que en una mano lleven bastón blanco y en la otra un Kalashnikov de gatillo paranoico y fácil, que apretarán “de oído”.

Estamos alcanzando un punto en el que no sé qué habrían dicho Plinio o Einstein de haber llegado hasta nuestros días. A este paso, habrá enfermos de Parkinson con temblorosas manos que verán “discriminatorio” que no se les permita ser cirujanos; mancos que protestarán porque no se los admite en concursos de halterofilia o en combates de boxeo; viejos decrépitos que reivindicarán su derecho a ser figuras del toreo; alfeñiques que recurrirán ante los tribunales por no haber sido aceptados en los cuerpos de policía o de bomberos “con menosprecio de su aspecto físico”; cojos que se enfurecerán porque el London Royal Ballet ha rehusado hacerles pruebas como bailarines; sordos que no se contentarán con componer, como Beethoven, sino que reclamarán su oportunidad de ser críticos musicales. Les ruego que no se tomen todo esto como exageración ni como broma, porque ya estamos en ello: hay montones de escritores incompetentes a los que se les publican sus libros (eso sí, después de que las editoriales hayan quitado las faltas de ortografía y adecentado el texto ilegible); traductores que desconocen las dos lenguas, la de origen y la de destino; las radios y las televisiones están llenas de individuos a los que Dios no había llamado por la senda de la comunicación, con desagradables voces –tipo Montoro– o con frenillo, con horribles dicciones e incapaces de completar una frase con sentido (¿qué es todo eso para “discriminarlos”?); hay cientos de actores mascullantes que requerirían subtítulos; y no son raros los casos de personas en sillas de ruedas que deciden escalar el Everest, lo cual me parece bien, allá ellas, pero no deberían esperar un rescate si el vehículo se les atora en un risco. (Quizá sí exagero en este ejemplo, pero no mucho.)

Dado que hoy hay numerosos “animalistas” (incluidos miembros del PSOE) que exigen que se conceda el estatuto de “personas” a todas las bestias, pero sobre todo a los grandes simios (Proyecto Gran Simio lo llaman, creo), supongo que no está lejos el día en que a los chimpancés y gorilas se les otorgue el permiso de tener, portar y usar armas, para no “discriminarlos”. Entonces nadie podrá hacer la vieja comparación castiza “Ese tío tiene más peligro que un mono con una ametralladora”, por racista e inadmisible. Menos mal que, de momento, y que yo sepa, en Ohio no hay grandes simios.

JAVIER MARÍAS

El País Semanal, 20 de octubre de 2013

Reseñas americanas

R Magritte

R Magritte

Epistemology Kills

A woman presses her ear to a door. On the other side, her lover and a strange man are talking. She has reason to suspect they’ve committed a murder, and realizes that it’s foolish to eavesdrop. What if she hears something conclusive, proof that her lover has killed someone? She’ll become a witness, responsible for what she knows. She’ll have to hide her knowledge from her lover. If he guesses that she knows, she may become a target. Yet she continues to listen, as any of us would. “The temptation,” she says, “is irresistible, even if we realize that it will do us no good. Especially when the process of knowing has already begun.”

The woman is María Dolz, the narrator of Javier Marías’s sprawling and spectacular new novel, The Infatuations. Marías is wildly successful in Spain, often called Spain’s greatest living writer, and critically venerated throughout Europe, but he remains relatively unknown to U.S. readers. Published in Spain in 2011, The Infatuations is a hefty and patience-requiring book that also seems capable of flying off the shelves. Marías has long been described as a cerebral writer, meaning that his prose showcases his intelligence, but also meaning that it satisfies a desire for sophistication thought to belong ­particularly to brainy readers. The opposite of cerebral, in this context, might be accessible, as we tend to call writing that aims for simplicity, which is a form of inclusiveness. This book, it turns out, is accessible. It hooks into a kind of desire that is all but ubiquitous. All men by nature desire to know, says Aristotle. To enjoy this book, and to get into trouble because of this book, all you have to be is curious.

This is in no small part because The Infatuations is a murder mystery. Who can resist a good one? We learn on the first page that a man has been stabbed to death. María Dolz happens to know this man. For years, she’s seen him and his wife at the café where they habitually breakfast. She admires their elegance and camaraderie and calls them, privately, the Perfect Couple. When she finds out that the man, Miguel Desvern, has been murdered, she approaches the woman to offer her condolences. Soon she’s invited to the couple’s home, where she meets the lush-lipped, enigmatic Javier Díaz-Varela, who was Desvern’s best friend. She becomes his lover, and their entanglement gradually sheds new light on the murder. The final plot twist begins by seeming so ludicrous as to be insulting and ends by being chillingly, thrillingly persuasive.

The image with which The Infatuations opens—a newspaper photo of Desvern “stabbed several times, with his shirt half off, and about to become a dead man”—is a glinting, unmistakable hook. Satisfying our curiosity about Desvern’s death—finding out how it was that his murderer attacked, how many times he was stabbed and in which parts of his body, how long he took to die—is a thoroughly pleasurable sensation. Of course, that’s the thing about murder mysteries: Unlike murders, they’re pleasurable, and they’re pleasurable because they’re safe. They provoke and then satisfy our desire to come face to face with the worst that could happen. At the same time, they reassure us that the only possible place for such an encounter is in a work of fiction. Close the book, and the danger goes away.

As we’re racing to find out the gory details of the stabbing, we are, of course, in the company of María Dolz, our narrator. It’s she who’s doing the investigating, Googling “Desvern murder” and scanning online newspapers. Dolz is in her late 30s and works at a publishing house in Madrid. She’s an acerbic, even supercilious narrator, prone to severe judgments of others, particularly of their sartorial choices. Good taste is the thing in the world that most impresses her. Whenever she thinks of the photo of the dying Desvern, “with his wounds on display …lying sprawled in the middle of the street in a pool of blood,” she’s disgusted and launches into a rant against people who enjoy consuming images of violence. Dolz takes a scalpel to these “disturbed individuals” fascinated by the tragedies of others and peels back their worldliness to expose their fear. She imagines their self-comforting thoughts: “The person I can see before me isn’t me, it’s someone else. It’s not me because I can see his face and it’s not mine. I can read his name in the papers and it’s not mine either, it’s not the same, not my name.” It’s hard to miss that the fear being exposed is our own.

Being dissected doesn’t feel safe, especially when the blade exposes something we didn’t know about ourselves. Late in the novel, we find Dolz listening to a story of someone’s horrendous misfortune. Her lover, Díaz-­Varela, is telling the story, and Dolz, good taste gone to hell, is fascinated by its gruesomeness. But she doesn’t believe the story. Neither do we. For one thing, the suffering of the stricken person is too monstrous to be believed. For another, Díaz-Varela simply isn’t to be trusted. Realizing that Dolz doesn’t believe the story, Díaz-Varela makes no effort to prove its factuality. Instead, he tells her condescendingly, “Don’t worry, that particular [awful tragedy] is, fortunately, very infrequent and very rare. Nothing like that will happen to you… [It] would be too much of a coincidence.” We understand that he’s speaking not to Dolz but to us. What’s astonishing is the effect his words have. Condescending as his tone is, and baseless as his prognostication is (he can’t know, after all, what will or won’t happen to us), we are helplessly relieved by his words. Thank goodness, says the gut, in the split second before consciousness steps in. Thank goodness I don’t have to worry about it happening to me. Instantly, the story of the tragedy seems more plausible. It turns out that our former disbelief didn’t have much to do with a concern for truth. It was merely selfish, self-protective. For a frightening instant, we glimpse the current of denial on which we float toward death.

If this book were only a murder mystery with a hidden agenda—namely, to expose the messy nature of our relationship to the suffering of others—its project would be interesting enough. In fact, the novel’s scope is more diffuse and surprising than that. One of Marías’s hallmarks is a provocative plot, but another is the way in which plot turns out to be only a hanger for the great, luxuriant garment of his digressions. In this book, the action, crucial as it is, accounts for perhaps 10 percent of the page count. Scenes are rare. Interactions between characters, as well as movements of characters through space, exist to provide triggers—occasions for one character or another to launch into a meditation on human experience, or a response to a work of literature (MacbethThe Three Musketeers), or a moral thought experiment.

While they’re discoursing, all the characters sound the same. It’s hard not to assume that the voice they share—sharp, erudite, capable of thinking in page-long sentences—is that of Marías himself. The tension of the narrative flags when plot falls away, and as we turn the pages, part of us is waiting for Marías to circle back to the action. Another part, though, forgets the action and becomes interested in the digression itself. We begin to wonder about our own thoughts on the topic Marías is exhausting. We want to know. This wanting to know isn’t curiosity, exactly, but a slower-burning interest; we can feed it as fuel to our patience. The real genius of this book is that it will make you shut the book, lean back in your chair, and consider an abstract and formidable question.

For example: the nature of time. Early in the book, Dolz attempts to console Desvern’s grieving widow, Luisa Alday, by reminding her that his suffering was very brief and is now over. Alday refuses to be comforted. “Yes, that’s what most people believe,” she says. “That what has happened should hurt us less than what is happening, or that things are somehow more bearable when they’re over… But that’s like believing that it’s less serious for someone to be dead than dying, which doesn’t really make much sense, does it? The most painful and irremediable thing is that the person has died; and the fact that the death is over and done with doesn’t mean that the person didn’t experience it.”

The metaphysical land mine here is the reminder that the past, like the present, is real. Think about this, and it will explode your notions of the passage of time. Day to day, we take for granted that we move forward. We’re preoccupied by the future, since we’re moving toward it, and we feel, or are told we should feel, the past drop away and recede behind us. But the past is still real, the way someone who’s far away is still real. It’s feasible that our sense of moving forward through time is only an illusion, attributable to the decay of our memories. If we cease to be haunted by our dead, it’s not because they are not real but because we have forgotten them.

Later in the book, Díaz-Varela contests what seems self-evident about our relationship to past events: that we are capable of regretting them. “What seems like a tragic anomaly today will be perceived as an inevitable and even desirable normality, given that it will have happened,” he says. “The force of events is so overwhelming that we all end up more or less accepting our story.” Surely we can all point to something in our past and say: This I have not accepted;this I regret. And yet it’s also true that everything that happens to us becomes part of our sense of ourselves.

Díaz-Varela invents an example, a man whose father was cruelly murdered in the Spanish Civil War. This imaginary man “is a victim of Spanish violence, a tragic orphan; that fact shapes and defines and determines him.” Had he not lost his father to violence, “he would be a different person, and he has no idea who that person would be. He can neither see nor imagine himself, he doesn’t know how he would have turned out, and how he would have got on with that living father, if he would have hated or loved him or felt quite indifferent, and, above all, he cannot imagine himself without that background of grief and rancor that has always accompanied him.” In a sense, we can’t wish that the past hadn’t happened, because if it hadn’t, a stranger would be standing in our shoes.

Díaz-Varela even claims we are incapable, after enough time has gone by, of missing our dead. “We can miss [them] safe in the knowledge that our proclaimed desires will never be granted,” he says, “and that there is no possible return, that [they] can no longer intervene in our existence.” Alday might counter that if missing a dead person feels safe, we are not actually missing them, but failing to confront the reality of their having died. Though her perceptions and Díaz-Varela’s seem opposed, they aren’t really incompatible. Each of them is arguing that the present is an overwhelming, all-consuming state. It’s simply that each of them is experiencing a different present. Alday is freshly bereaved, and it’s the nature of terrible grief that it feels as if it will last forever. Díaz-Varela’s cold peak of logic can only be reached in the absence of urgent emotion.

The title of this book suggests that urgent emotion is at its center—that the novel has something to teach us about what it’s like to be madly in love. In fact, the titular infatuations (“fallings-in-love” would be closer to the Spanish nounenamoramientos, but would make for an awkward title) are difficult to care about. Dolz is in love with Díaz-Varela; Díaz-Varela is in love with Alday. They exhibit warped behavior, as people in love do, but it’s hard to take their risk of pain seriously. Maybe it’s because infatuation is a physical crisis, and Marías does not trouble to locate the reader in an ardent body. Maybe it’s because he rarely allows his characters to experience conflict in scene.

Attempting to diagnose the problem, of course, implies that there is a problem—that the chief role of characters in fiction is to make us take their pain seriously. Marías wouldn’t agree. At one point in this book, Díaz-Varela claims that what actually happens in a novel “is the least of it … What matters are the possibilities and ideas.” Ideas are what Marías loves, what he works to make us take seriously. In a sense, his characters are themselves only digressions—subordinate to the idea at hand, a way of elaborating upon it.

Essayist Phillip Lopate has spoken eloquently of the digression as a formal prose technique. “The chief role of the digression,” he says (speaking of essays, not of fiction), “is to amass all the dimensions of understanding that the [writer] can accumulate by bringing in as many contexts as a problem or insight can sustain without overburdening it.” Marías’s characters serve exactly the same role. Perhaps The Infatuations is a novel that’s on the verge of being a personal essay. If there’s something unsatisfactory about the book, that’s it.

But forget the characters’ love affairs. The point of reading this book is to have a love affair with it, with the rambling, hubristic, magisterial project of it. If we think of prose itself as the surface of a book and of the ideas conveyed as its interior, then this book, like most infatuating things, possesses great surface beauty. Marías’s prose is graceful, rhythmic, and exact. His longtime translator, Margaret Jull Costa, does smart, elegant justice to his sentences. A description by Dolz of Díaz-Varela in mid-peroration perfectly describes how you’ll feel about Marías if this book succeeds in infatuating you. “While he continued to expatiate,” she says, “I couldn’t take my eyes off of him.”

NINA SCHOLOESSER TARANO

The New Inquiry, September 26, 2013

LE USThe Dead Should Not Return

Balzac’s Colonel Chabert serves as the back story for Javier Marías’ profoundly wrenching and philosophically complicated new novel, The Infatuations. In Balzac’s novella, published in 1832, a woman married to a military officer learns that he has been killed in battle. After ten years (because of numerous complications), during which time she has remarried, her first husband reappears, assuming that the passionate love he shared with his wife has remained intact. In Marías’ own novel, Javier Díaz-Varela refers to Balzac’s novel as he explains to Maria Dolz why he cannot marry her, “The worst thing that can happen to anyone, worse than death itself, and the worst thing one can make others do, is to return from the place from which no one returns, 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, leaving no room for you at all.”

The much larger context is that Díaz-Varela is waiting to marry a recently widowed woman, whose husband he is certain will not return from the dead.  Thus, María’s love for him cannot be reciprocated, as he patiently waits for Luisa to forget her recently deceased husband.  María knew Luisa and her husband (Miguel) as the “perfect couple.”  For several years she ate breakfast in the same café where they did every morning, observed their affections for one another without ever speaking a word to them.  “The sight of them…calmed me,” she observes.  They became her strength, as she began each day.  Then one day, she learned from the news that Miguel has been brutally murdered on the street, killed by multiple knife wounds from a deranged, homeless man.  When María puts the story together, she realizes that the last time she saw Miguel was the last time Luisa saw him, as they all departed from the café to go their separate ways on that fatal day.

María did not know the names of the couple from the café but learned them after the brutal murder.  She continued to return to the place for breakfast, as Luisa eventually did after a brief hiatus, prompting María to approach the other woman and offer her condolences.  María tells the widow that without knowing their names, she had though of them as “the perfect couple.”  Luisa says that she and her husband had a name for María also: “the prudent young woman.”  The conversation continues and Luisa invites María to visit her, which she does.  It is there that she meets Javier Díaz-Varela, who is referred to as Miguel’s best friend.  Somewhat later, María and Díaz-Varela meet accidentally and begin a rather casual sexual relationship.  It’s no more than that because Díaz-Varela confesses that he has been in love with Luisa for years and is waiting for the woman to forget her husband.  As he tells her, “Luisa’s present life has been destroyed, but not her future life.  Think how much time she has left in which to move forward, she isn’t going to stay trapped in the moment, no one ever is, still less in the very worst moments, from which we always emerge, unless we’re sick in the head and feel justified by and even protected by our comfortable misery.”

There are lengthy discussions about mourning and recovering from the death of a loved one between Díaz-Varela and María, particularly painful because María is so attracted to him (and willing to have a relationship with him until sufficient time has passed for Luisa to forget Miguel, or so Díaz-Varela believes).  The novel becomes more complicated when María fantasizes that perhaps Luisa will die one day soon and she’ll be able to marry Díaz-Varela.  And then what has already been a dark narrative becomes much darker when María overhears Diaz-Varela speaking to another man about the way the two of them set up Miguel’s murder.  Can she still be in love with him?  She confesses to feelings of “utter incredulity and basic, unreflecting repugnance.”  How can she love a murderer?  When she doesn’t hear from him for a couple of weeks, she is both relieved and frustrated by her conflicted love for him.  She is bothered by the possibility that her desire for him cancels out what she knows that he has done.

Then—in an absolutely brilliant series of revelations—Díaz-Varela calls her and asks her to come to his apartment, making the situation even more fraught with tension for María because she understands that her murderer/lover has figured out that she overheard the conversation about the murder.  Is she going to her own death?  If Díaz-Varela has been involved in a man’s death (his best friend’s no less), how easy is it to be involved in a second murder?   Will he murder her so he can eventually marry Luisa?  Miguel obviously cannot return from the dead as did Balzac’s Colonel Clabert.  Will Miguel’s widow want to marry Díaz-Varela?  What are María’s obligations to Luisa to prevent the woman from marrying her deceased husband’s murderer?  Do strong infatuations cancel our ethical beliefs?  At what stage do despicable acts cancel all feelings of love?

The discussions of love in The Infatuations (dazzlingly translated by Margaret Jull Costa) are riveting at the same time that they are horrifying, bordering on the grotesque.  Do extreme infatuations destroy one’s moral center?  Javier Marías keeps a few tricks up his sleeve for the last third of the novel, surprising both the reader as well as one of his main characters—but which one you will have to discover by reading this emotionally devastating account of crimes of passion.  Or maybe they are crimes of infatuation.

No surprise that the novel has been a huge international success.

CHARLES R. LARSON

Counter Pounch, September 27, 2013

javier-marias-port_2503061b‘The Calculation of Probabilities by Which We Live’: Javier Marías ‘The Infatuations’

Spanish writer Javier Marías’s newest novel, The Infatuations —wonderfully translated by Margaret Jull Costa—is a heady, noir-tinged trip deep inside the consciousness of María Dolz, a book editor who finds herself dragged into the dangerous drama of a couple she is obsessively observes from afar. When the novel begins, María describes how she has come into the habit of watching Miguel and Luisa, “The Perfect Couple,” as she terms them, while she eats breakfast near them in a café. She quickly finds herself dependent on the couple’s presence for her happiness; she needs their stability and the perfection of their distance in order to bear the repetition of her own mundane life. One day, though, Miguel (whose surname alternates between Desvern and Deverne, starting in the very first clause of the novel: “The last time I saw Miguel Desvern or Deverne was also the last time his wife, Luisa, saw him”) is violently and apparently randomly killed, stabbed in the back by a “gorrilla,” a homeless man who helps park cars for tips. Soon after, with the sole source of contentedness in her life stripped away, María decides to speak to Luisa. Thus, she enters into the lives of those who were previously held in the hermetic space of the observed, and slowly learns the secrets behind Miguel’s death.

Marías’s novels are usually narrated by men, if not thinly veiled representations of the author himself. So one of the first things veteran Marías readers may notice about The Infatuations is that its narrator is a woman. In a Marías novel, the narrator is not only a point of view from which “the world” of the text is seen; it is “the world.” While thingshappen to María, the vast majority of the novel “takes place” in her head. She is constantly conjecturing and theorizing about the world around her, taking in experience and transforming it into thought, digression, and invention. These thoughts often take the form of “we” statements, a syntactic mode that dominates many of Marías’ novels. As María tries to understand the world and her place in it, she inevitably extends her interpretations to the actions and motivations of others. It is when the author’s familiar “we” becomes “we women” that the text sometimes produces a certain discomfort—not so much a cringe (the prose remains so smooth, each sentence so well crafted) as a slightly raised eyebrow, as if one is expecting (or hoping for) a misstep. When Marías writes “when a woman is in love and in the early stages of an affair […] she is usually capable of taking an interest in anything the object of her love is interested in or speaks about,” one can’t help but feel a bit uneasy.

But the “we” for most of the novel remains an amorphous grouped subjectivity, shorthand adopted by Marías to note that he will be speaking on experience, abstractly. The narrator of The Infatuations—even though she is a singular person named “María Dolz,” who acts uniquely, and is physically distinguished from the environment around her—ends up appearing as an amalgamated, multiple consciousness. The Infatuations functions not so much as a meta-narrative work—as one that couches stories-within-stories—as a meta-conscious work: it is a novel in which the deepest recesses of the consciousness of individuals are imagined in detail by others. Gaps in conversation are often filled by María’s guesses about what her companion may say next, branching off into entire imagined conversations. Almost an entire chapter is devoted to a conversation that she imagines happening between her lover, Javier Díaz-Varela, and Miguel, at some unknown time before he is murdered. (María’s relationship with Díaz-Varela develops after she meets him at Luisa’s apartment, and she immediately fashions him as a potential usurper of Luisa’s love and suspects that he is behind Miguel’s death). But this chapter, despite its conditional tense, does not appear any less “real” than most of the novel: one must constantly remind himself that what he is reading is an invention. The Infatuations is a novel of minds-within-minds, in which a person’s consciousness is essentially located within others’.

Though this mode of being in the world—one in which conjecture is essential to the individual, and relationships are a kind of probability-informed betting—appears exaggerated in Marías’s fiction, it is perhaps only the awareness of living-as-guesswork that the author pushes past “realistic” levels. It is not that the ways that people act inThe Infatuations is somehow “unrealistic”; rather, it is their awareness of the subtleties, possibilities, and meaning of their action that seems otherworldly. When something like Miguel’s death happens, something that does not “even have a place in the calculation of probabilities by which we live in order to get up each morning without a sinister, leaden cloud urging us to close our eyes again,” one is forced to confront the reality that they do live by approximation, that one determines the course of their lives based on “decisions” that are essentially bets, that human agency does exist but only within a system of play.

It’s hard to pull quotes from The Infatuations. Each of its complex clauses, each of its somehow tight yet sprawling sentences, feed off of what has come before and what will come after, lending the text an incredible expectancy and momentum. One is held in suspense not by the movement of plot points but by the thoughts and theories of the agents involved. The Infatuations seems at times like a collection of aphorisms—produced by María and those around her—bound together into an inexplicably interconnected whole, each formerly atomized thought drawn into a relationship with the myriad thoughts around it, at once multiplying and nullifying its capacity for meaning in itself. Marías’s sentences can occasionally roll on for pages at a time, and discrete ideas are often stretched to a breaking point by unstoppably curious and observant characters.

But beneath all of the cognitive work and theorization, there lurks in The Infatuations a visceral sadness. After the death of her husband, Luisa remarks, “What sense does it make that each person should have to experience more or less the same griefs and make more or less the same discoveries, and so on for eternity?” No matter how powerful our minds are, no matter how keen our ability to intuit, interpret, and prognosticate, there is no end to that process, no stable point at which one must no longer wonder about the world around him. It is only when Marías’s characters—those thinking machines, who relentlessly pursue truth and understanding, searching for predictability above all else—bump up against the unthinkable that they are able to stop imagining, however momentarily.

WALTER GORDON

ZYZZYVA, September 9, 2013

The Infatuations recorte

The Infatuations 

In an interview with the Guardian earlier this year, the Spanish novelist Javier Marías objected to the rather well-worn idea of the novel as a vehicle for imparting knowledge. “For me,” he explained, “it is more a way of imparting recognition of things that you didn’t know you knew. You say ‘yes’. It feels true even though it might be uncomfortable.” The plots of his novels, insofar as they can be said to have any real plots at all, often hinge on the revelation of such truths. Someone hears something or learns something or is told something, and the knowledge they’ve acquired sets in motion what one character calls “the incessant beating of my thoughts.”

Rarely is this knowledge welcome. The opening words of Marías’s 1992 novel A Heart So White —“I did not want to know but I have since come to know”—betray a disposition shared by virtually all of his shadowy narrators. In the later Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me, a cheating husband away on a business trip in London with this lover learns twenty hours after the fact that his wife has died suddenly and unexpectedly. The thought torments him, and toward the end of the novel he unburdens himself to the narrator (who, as it happens, was with his wife when she died). As he listens, the narrator reflects:

telling a story is tantamount to persuading someone or making oneself clear or making someone see one’s point of view and, that way, everything is capable of being understood, even the most vile of acts … we have to find a place for it in our consciousness and in our memory where the fact that it happened and that we know about it will not prevent us from going on living.

This largely internal process of trying to assimilate an incident or situation propels each of Marías’s novels. He is unique in his focus, not on the external facts of plot (his plots, when summarized, can often sound preposterous), but on the internal action those plots set in motion. As a character in his latest novel, The Infatuations, likes to remind us, it is not the plot of a novel that is important—what happens is so easily forgotten—but rather the “possibilities and ideas that the novel’s imaginary plot communicates to us and infuses us with.” What happens in a Marías novel is less important than what doesn’t happen—or what happens only in the overburdened minds of his characters. Their looping thoughts and reflections, expressed in Marías’s long sentences with their deferrals and digressions, equivocations and inquiries, constitute the real drama of this preternaturally gifted writer’s urgent fiction.

The narrator of The Infatuations is María Dolz, a disenchanted editor at a publishing house who takes her breakfast at the same café every morning, a habit she shares with a married couple whose outward displays of love and affection have become, for María, a necessary antidote to the monotony of her daily grind. She observes this perfect couple from afar—“the nicest thing about them was seeing how much they enjoyed each other’s company”—and though she doesn’t speak to them or approach them (on a single occasion they exchange nods of familiarity), the life-affirming delight of seeing them has become a necessary part of María’s otherwise tedious day.

As the novel opens, however, the unthinkable has happened: the husband, Miguel Deverne, has been brutally murdered, stabbed to death in broad daylight by a crazed man in what appears to be a case of mistaken identity (noir-like murders and acts of violence abound in Marías’s fiction). María, shocked by this senseless, violent act, follows the story until, inevitably, “the item vanished from the papers completely, as tends to happen with all news nowadays: people don’t want to know why something happened, only what happened.”

Months go by before María sees Deverne’s wife, Luisa, again and when she does she offers her condolences and is invited to drop by Luisa’s apartment. The revelation of the widow’s hopeless grieving and unshakeable conviction that she will never recover is a poignant example of what Marías has elsewhere called “narrative horror”: the disruption of the imagined, expected story of one’s life. In the third and final volume of Marías’s opus, Your Face Tomorrow, the narrator reflects: “it’s understandable really that people should hate knowledge and deny what is there before their eyes and prefer to know nothing and to repudiate the facts, that they should avoid the inoculation and the poison and push it away as soon as they see or feel it near . . .”

Luisa, though she obviously cannot deny what has happened, finds the horror that her husband’s death has injected into her life almost impossible to bear:

‘People say: “Concentrate on the good memories and not on the final one, think about how much you loved each other, think about all the wonderful times you enjoyed that others never have.” They mean well, but they don’t understand that all my memories are now soiled by that sad and bloody ending. Each time I recall something good, that final image rises up before me, the image of his cruel, stupid gratuitous death, which could so easily have been avoided. Yes, that’s what I find hardest to bear, the sheer stupidity of it and the lack of someone to blame. And so every good memory grows murky and turns bad. I don’t really have any good memories left. They all seem false to me. They’ve all been contaminated.

At Luisa’s apartment María meets one Javier Díaz-Varela, Deverne’s charming, womanizing best friend who now helps take care of Luisa and her two young children. María embarks on a love affair with Díaz-Varela despite knowing that her infatuation with him is not reciprocated. In fact, she realizes Díaz-Varela is merely waiting for Luisa to move on so that he can take the irreplaceable Deverne’s place. María imagines that something of this sort might have suited Deverne: for his best friend to become a kind of “unhusbandly husband,” to serve as a back-up father figure to the children and offer Luisa the reliability and comfort of a life partner, without any actual consummation of the relationship.

This gentlemen’s agreement is, as far as the reader is concerned, entirely a product of María’s imagination. Like her, we cannot now whether such an agreement or exchange ever took place. But there it is in María’s mind and on the page. It is the seed from which the remainder of the novel—that is, the remaining two hundred and fifty pages—sprouts toward its chilling conclusion. This growth is minutely charted: the rest of the novel is taken up almost entirely with conversations between María and Díaz-Varela—conversations that are more like monologues or lectures, delivered with glacial aplomb by Díaz-Varela while his temporary lover, infatuated, listens and reflects.

In common with all Marías’s narrators, María is an unusually perceptive observer: she seems constantly to be getting at the people she is listening to, reflecting on their word choices, their expressions, and their movements, changing and molding her impression of them. She imagines conversations they may or may not have had, thoughts they may or may not have thought. She’s like a novelist. “I had never thought anyone else’s thoughts before,” Luisa tells María, “it’s not my style, I lack imagination.” María, on the other hand, immerses herself in the minds of others. While listening to Luisa in her apartment she realizes: “I was the one who had spent most time over those borrowed thoughts, albeit incited or infected by her; it’s very risky imagining yourself into someone else’s mind, it’s sometimes hard to leave.”

This clandestine aspect of the narrative give’s the novel an extra layer of fictionality: the reader participates in María’s perception of Luisa, Deverne, and—most importantly—Díaz-Varela, which is to say that the reader participates in the creation of the novel’s characters. Our perception of them, and of their actions, is constantly changed and complicated, sometimes even contradicted. This perception is never resolved, just as our perception of people in real life never is or can be. For María, there is the added issue of Deverne’s death, about which she learns something that contradicts the official account. “Far worse than my grave suspicions and my possibly hasty conjectures was the burden of having two versions of events and not knowing which to believe,” she tells us. The true account does not necessarily efface the false:

You still heard it and, although it might be momentarily refuted by what comes afterwards, which contradicts it and gives the lie to it, its memory endures, as does our own credulity while we were listening, when, not knowing that it would be followed by a denial, we mistook it for the truth. Everything that has been said to us resonates and lingers, if not when we’re awake, then as we drift off to sleep or in our dreams, where the order of things doesn’t matter, and it remains there tossing and turning and pulsating as if it were someone who had been buried alive or perhaps a dead man who reappears because he didn’t actually die, either in Eylau or on the road back or having been hanged from a tree or something else.

The reference to Eylau comes from a novella by Balzac that Díaz-Varela compels María to read, the story of a French officer who is mistakenly thought to have died during a battle only to return many years later to reclaim his old life. Díaz-Varela says to María of this novella: “Fiction has the ability to show us what we don’t know and what doesn’t happen […] it allows us to imagine the feelings of a dead man who finds himself obliged to come back, and shows us why the dead shouldn’t come back.”

María didn’t want to know but has since come to know something that may or may not be true. It doesn’t really matter, in the end, whether it is or isn’t—it has entered María’s consciousness and there it will remain in some form for good, true or false. “Anything anyone tells you becomes absorbed in you,” she says, “becomes part of your consciousness, even if you don’t believe it or know it never happened and that it’s pure invention, like novels and films.”

All of this is, of course, reflected in Marías’s prose, which curls toward and then away from certainties with a snakelike dexterity. His sentences, long and complex, are syntactically suspenseful; their meaning is deferred and complicated by the accumulation of clauses that qualify or contradict their predecessors. For Marías to write a short declarative sentence, one imagines, would be a violation of a style that, as the novelist Edward St. Aubyn wrote in his review of The Infatuations, is an embodiment of the author’s skeptical worldview. Of course, English-language readers are indebted to the great Margaret Jull Costa for her sublime rendering of this worldview. A serial translator of Marías’s fiction, Jull Costa must surely rank first and foremost among contemporary translators. As with W. G. Sebald, one is rarely conscious of reading a translation—such is the uncanny ability of Jull Costa to inhabit and transmit the author’s voice and style.

The Infatuations is on some level a murder mystery, but it is also, less obviously, an inquiry into the tenuousness of narrative and—even less obviously—a complex display of the inherent truthfulness of fiction. It shows us that fiction writing, consciously or not, is something we do out of necessity; we know so little and construct narratives in an attempt to make sense of our surroundings and our peers, all the while knowing that these narratives are, as María argues, full of “blind spots and contradictions and obscurities and mistakes, all surrounded and encircled by shadows or darkness, however hard they strive to be exhaustive and diaphanous, because they are incapable of achieving either of those qualities.”

Because fiction is, in this respect, so lifelike, it is the art form most ideally suited to capturing this facet of human existence and experience. Fiction eschews certainty and solidity just as human experience does—despite what we think and imagine and tell ourselves. “Everything becomes attenuated,” María says, “but it’s also true that nothing entirely disappears.” In other words even fiction, despite its being fiction, is not entirely false. Even a lie, if it is told, exists in the “hazy universe of narratives”—a universe in which Marías has created a world all his own. The Infatuations expands thematically and stylistically on the bold fictional project that began with the 1986 novella The Man of Feeling, but despite its continuity Marías continues to surprise and unsettle. Like his sentences, it is a project with no end in sight.

MORTEN HOI JENSEN

Music & Literature, September 3, 2013

 LEnamoramientos R H‘Infatuations’ a mystery with existential questions

‘Everything becomes a narrative and sounds fictitious, even if it’s true,” thinks María Dolz, the central character in superstar Spanish novelist Javier Marías’ “The Infatuations,” his first since completing the “Your Face Tomorrow” trilogy in 2007.

The opening pages of the novel are taken up with a narrative — a pleasing one — that María tells herself morning after morning, year after year. Before work each day, she sits in a cafe, across the room from “the Perfect Couple.”

“The world is raggedy,” María thinks, but the Perfect Couple’s “brief, modest spectacle” gives her daily hope. She confides, “You could say I wished them the best in the world, as if they were characters in a novel or a film for whom one is rooting from the start …” They arecharacters in a novel, and María has already undercut her well wishes by telling us in Paragraph One that the man was stabbed to death in the street.

How María moves from her friendly feeling and couple crush to imagining the garish street scene becomes the immediate subject of the novel. “The Infatuations” is a murder mystery, but Javier Marías shrugs off the who-did-what-to-whom format soon enough in favor of existential questions.

As in other Marías novels, the stock plot seems like an excuse to set in motion a line of thought. His endlessly twisting and equivocating sentences are the real treat, as María goes deeper into the psychic burden of knowledge and confronts the contingencies that attach to a crime and its exposure.

In Marías’s telling, the very categories of guilt and innocence, thought and action, intent and fulfillment become as mysterious as a bloody body in the street. What is one’s role in the story of one’s life? Narrator? Instigator? Plaything of a master planner? How does everything connect? Are these connections real, or only in our minds?

Death is the supreme question mark, a provocation to the living. From the moment Miguel Desvern, the dead man, leaves his body, his own story is over. He shrinks and fades, becoming a catalyst for others’ stories.

María, who was only an observer while Miguel was alive, visits Luisa (Miguel’s wife), and begins an affair with Javier (Miguel’s friend, who is in love with Luisa). While Miguel is frozen where he fell, the survivors continue on, suffering “the awful power of the present” to crush and falsify the past.

As dodgy motives and suspicions pile up, Marías’s characters turn where the literary always turn: to books. Three works especially accrue meaning through repetition. Javier introduces María to Honoré de Balzac’s “Colonel Chabert,” a novella about a man who is declared dead on the battlefield. When the man, Colonel Chabert, returns, not as a ghost but as a live man, no one is happy. By undoing what is done, he disturbs the universe.

Another response to death, Macbeth’s line, “She should have died hereafter,” when he’s told in Act V that Lady Macbeth is dead, captures a recurring sentiment in “The Infatuations”: that death is always untimely (Marías, by the way, is a Spanish translator of Shakespeare).

Marías’ third literary mascot is Alexandre Dumas, from “The Three Musketeers,” with the line, “A murder, nothing more.”

Marías so effectively honors his source materials that a crime of passion or calculation begins to seem like an act of chance. The instigator who causes “a murder, nothing more” might have won the action in a raffle.

By the end of “The Infatuations,” Marías has branched far from simple questions of cause and consequence. Instead, he traces the crude force of an action once it’s begun and brilliantly dramatizes moral confusion.

Who has clean hands? Who qualifies to judge? What does one death matter, when everyone dies sometime and no one is innocent ever?

Marías’ brainy detection leads us to a standoff, what he calls a “hazy universe of narratives, with their blind spots and obscurities and mistakes, all surrounded and encircled by shadows or darkness.”

CATHERINE HOLMES

The Post and Courier, September 15, 2013

ECCH PortadaSpanish novelist explores ambiguities of murder

One of Spain’s most widely known novelists, Javier Marías, has another international bestseller out in English for U.S. consumption, titled “The Infatuations.”

The story is told by a female editor at a Madrid publishing house, María, who has breakfast every morning at the same café where a couple is always seen. María fixates on their happiness as a sign of hope in relationships. The couple notices her interests, but nothing is said between them and María.

The husband, on his 50th birthday, suddenly is murdered in a stabbing by a crazed man on a Madrid street, an event María learns about belatedly. When the widow resumes visits to the café, María speaks to her to offer condolences. The widow invites María to her house for a visit, revealing that her husband and her thought of her as “the prudent woman.”

While at the widow’s residence, María meets a friend of the couple, Javier. María eventually falls in love with him, despite Javier’s reputation for having multiple girlfriends and knowing Javier is deeply infatuated with the widow, Luisa.

Nothing should be revealed about the plot after this point except that María learns surreptitiously that Javier knows more about the murder than a family friend should.

From there, ambiguity takes over. The truth becomes blurred in María’s mind. The problem tests María and her “prudence.” It’s a fabulous story, but is it well told?

Marías’ unusual narrative style is challenging at first. Characters speak in long, deeply philosophical soliloquies about the nature of death and grief. It is almost a stream of consciousness, with single sentences running for more than a page sometimes. It seems highly unnatural. When the plot does move, however, the dialogue becomes normal with characters speaking directly to the point.

Marías, to his credit, deepens the novel’s appeal by setting up parallels for the philosophical points of death and grieving to Shakespeare, namely “Macbeth,” and to a short novel by Honoré de Balzac. Marías also makes fun, through María’s job, of the pretentious literary and publishing scene in Spain, even though that seems outside the novel’s main plot.

The novel itself succeeds in its treatments of its themes even though some loose ends remain.

DAVID HENDRICKS

The San Antonio Express-News, September 19, 2013

LA ZONA FANTASMA. 13 de octubre de 2013. Y luego van y lo cuentan

No se ha visto en los últimos años mayor ejemplo de “Trágame, tierra” que el de los informativos de TVE y los diarios gubernamentales con la candidatura Madrid 2020. Esos informativos se volcaron, hicieron un monográfico permanente, enviaron a un montón de colaboradores hasta Buenos Aires en un momento en que esa institución sufre recortes sin cuento; emitieron desde allí sus telediarios y ofrecieron en directo las penosas intervenciones de las que hablé hace una semana, para que admiráramos bien el don de lenguas –incluido el español– de varios de nuestros representantes. Huelga recordar que el tono de los locutores era de lo más triunfalista, se ignora por qué motivo o hay que suponer que recibían órdenes. Parecía que se iba a asistir a la coronación de Madrid, y por ende de España, y por ende del PP y del Gobierno. En cuanto la ciudad quedó eliminada a las primeras de cambio, sin ni siquiera suspense, esos informativos se pusieron a silbar y a mirar hacia otro lado, como si lo que acababan de ofrecernos en programación machacona y única jamás hubiera acontecido o, en el mejor de los casos, les trajera sin cuidado. Se aproximaron en su reacción de despecho a la que padeció el jefe de Opinión –jefe de Opinión, santo cielo– de uno de esos diarios gubernamentales. Con una cursilería infinita, contó al día siguiente cómo, mientras aguardaba el resultado de la votación en ascuas, salió “a rezar un padrenuestro al cielo de Madrid”. “Un hombre pío”, pensé al leerlo, “que cree en la eficacia de las plegarias hasta para las mayores chorradas.” Pero en vista de que ni Dios ni los miembros del COI le hicieron caso, su espíritu cristiano se desvaneció al instante y concluyó su pieza con la misma maldición que eligió para titularla, “¡Que les parta un rayo!”, sin que sus lectores tengan claro a estas alturas si les deseó la muerte a esos ingratos miembros o a Dios y a sus cohortes de ángeles, por desoír su padrenuestro, los muy cabrones.

Algo se ha hablado, pero poco, de lo que le han costado al erario las tres tentativas fallidas y consecutivas de Madrid para ser sede olímpica. Dinero tirado, esquilmado a los ciudadanos. Tampoco se ha hablado lo bastante del masivo desembarco de individuos en Buenos Aires: unas 180 personas según unas fuentes, cerca del doble según otras. Mientras aún duraba la fiesta injustificada en los telediarios, los locutores no tenían reparo en anunciar: “Parece que por fin va a acudir Fulano, y Mengana, y Zutano”. La capital argentina se llenó de ministros, funcionarios, miembros olímpicos y deportistas. Con todo respeto, y sin desdeñar sus méritos, uno se preguntaba cómo podía influir la presencia allí de un campeón de taekwondo al que conocen seis, o de las medallistas de waterpolo a las que conocen doce… y desde luego ningún miembro del COI con derecho a voto. Toda esa gente hizo vuelos de ida y vuelta de unas doce o trece horas, se alojó una o dos noches (o más, no sé) en un hotel bueno; desayunó, almorzó y cenó, me imagino; fue llevada y traída y paseada inútilmente en tiempos en que se nos obliga a todos a no gastar, con la congelación o la bajada de salarios, la pérdida de poder adquisitivo de las pensiones, los brutales recortes y desmantelamiento de lo que nos importa (sanidad, educación, investigación, ciencia, cultura).

Resulta que, además, al individuo encargado de los discursitos, y de dar clases de interpretación (?) a los ponentes, se le pagaron 220.000 euros por tamaña porquería. Ni siquiera se entiende que hubiera que contratar a nadie para “crear” semejantes vulgaridades, se le habrían ocurrido sin ayuda al más ignaro concejal del Ayuntamiento o a la propia Botella. También se pagó a otra agencia 2,4 millones de euros por la “estrategia internacional de comunicación”. Es de esperar que tanto esta agencia británica como el “entrenador” y autor de los textos, Terrence Burns, se hundan en el descrédito profesional a partir de ahora. ¿A quién se le ocurre utilizar como reclamo la Plaza Mayor y el Madrid de los Austrias, tal como los han dejado los últimos alcaldes del PP y los tiene hoy Botella? La primera hace años que está decorada por pobres indigentes –filas enteras– que duermen bajo sus soportales; sus arcos de acceso se han convertido en los urinarios de borrachos y sobrios, con el inaguantable hedor consiguiente, y, como ya he contado aquí, las ratas corretean de noche entre las mesas de las terrazas, algo sin duda “relajante”. Los suelos de granito de todo el centro eternizan hasta la mancha de un chicle arrojado, luego están todos llenos de churretones repugnantes. Las papeleras se vacían poco y desbordan, Madrid es la ciudad más guarra que he visto, y he visto unas cuantas. Las plazas céntricas (Sol, Callao) también han sido granitizadas y ahora se cuentan entre las más feas del mundo: espacios sucios, desabridos, inhóspitos, con un solo arbolillo suelto o ninguno, sin un banco en el que tomar asiento, transformadas en contra de los ciudadanos. Hasta la secundaria Plaza de las Cortes se la ha cargado el célebre Siza, que continúa amenazando el Paseo del Prado: si ha sido tan buen arquitecto, parece como si el talento abandonase a todo el mundo en cuanto entra en contacto con nuestro Ayuntamiento contaminante. Mientras los turistas han aumentado este año en toda España, Madrid ha perdido un 22% sólo en agosto. A nadie se le ocurre pensar que tal vez sea porque a la mayoría les da por pasearse por nuestra deteriorada Plaza Mayor y nuestro inconcebible centro, y luego van y lo cuentan.

JAVIER MARÍAS

El País Semanal, 13 de octubre de 2013

Reseñas de ‘The Infatuations’

LE USObjects of desire

Widely regarded as one of Europe’s top authors and, it can be argued, the best novelist writing in Spanish today, Javier Marías has, in his latest work, written an arresting story of love and crime. The first-person narrator of “The Infatuations” is a young woman smitten with a man and his wife – the “perfect couple,” in her eyes – whom she routinely observes having breakfast at the same cafe she frequents in an upscale district of Madrid. A discreet voyeur, María Dolz develops fervent, if reserved, feelings for Miguel and Luisa even as she, imaginatively, makes up stories about them for her own private consumption. While she is away on vacation, an act of violence interrupts this placid order of things, and the novel turns into a slowly unfolding tale of perception and detection.

Not your typical mystery, “The Infatuations” features one protracted scene after another. Objects are described and events narrated in the utmost detail. Interspersed within these lengthy passages – brilliant, if at times slightly tedious – are sudden flashes of narrative exhilaration. The plot at times appears to come to a standstill, and the novel itself begins to morph into something else that invokes the meditative pauses of essays, as finely nuanced as anything by Montaigne. But then, unexpectedly, an incident will trigger as much excitement as can be had in the tensest of thrillers.

Indeed, María finds herself more than once in the middle of splendidly crafted episodes of Hitchcockian suspense. Dialogue unfolds intermittently. A passionate utterance is followed by long brooding paragraphs in which she, vividly and strangely, recalls the past in all its minutiae and speculates profusely about the future. Only after these memories and conjectures is the next line of dialogue allowed to be heard.

Likewise, she devotes numerous sentences to describing the lips of Javier Díaz-Varela, Miguel’s best friend, but says hardly anything about the rest of his body. In this tale of envy, “Macbeth” is invoked several times, while long citations from “The Three Musketeers” shed light on the act of murder. Oddly, these fragments and digressions, which in a lesser stylist might act as irritants, whet the readers’ appetite, as we eagerly follow María’s measured progress through a few cafes and apartments in Madrid.

Then again, much of the novel happens mainly in María’s mind – or, obsessively, in what she feels is occurring in the minds of others. After Luisa tells her what Miguel must have been thinking at a given moment, she dreams up her own version of Miguel’s thoughts. She also imagines what Miguel must have felt about Luisa on that same occasion, or what he might have told Díaz-Varela about it; or what Díaz-Varela must have thought that she, María, was thinking.

A literary person who works for a publishing house and believes in literature as a form of knowledge, she even mentally writes her own passages for a novella by Balzac so that it can fit her present circumstances. Almost imperceptibly at first, this relentless inner storytelling comes to occupy a substantial portion of the text. If María is Marías’ creature, one has the impression that she too has enough materials to create a novel of her own – a subjective psychological tale that, in fact, lives in the fabric of “The Infatuations” as dramatically as the actual events in the plot.

Following Spain’s long tradition of fiction about fiction from Miguel de Cervantes to Miguel de Unamuno, Marías introduces (as in some of his previous novels) a character named Francisco Rico, whose fictional persona neatly coincides with that of Francisco Rico, a famous scholar of Spanish literature known for a canonical edition of “Don Quixote.” Providing a rare moment of humor, Rico faults Luisa for having in her own library a lesser edition of the book.

But the self-reflexive workings of Cervantes’ work – what Borges called its partial magic – don’t end there. Like Don Quixote, María is fond of telling herself stories, some of which may not be true; like Cervantes’ proto-novel, Marías’ text bravely unfolds in the boundaries between fiction and reality, where truth and fantasy merge or collide. Uncannily, a cardiologist mentioned in passing happens to exist in real life, as does the “odd-sounding” Anglo-American Medical Unit on calle Conde de Aranda, where he works.

These ambiguous regions, where untruths may confuse readers and characters alike, are also propitious for subtle love stories. Yet the state of falling or being in love – the enamoramientos of the novel’s original title, a concept that according to Díaz-Varela exists as a noun only in Spanish and Italian – does not blind María, who learns the circumstances surrounding the murder and resolutely faces the truth.

But if conventional mysteries normally conclude with retribution and atonement, Marías’ storytelling in “The Infatuations” remains a far more ambivalent space, a narrative realm where a story of murder is not necessarily a tale of crime and punishment.

ROBERTO IGNACIO DÍAZ

San Francisco Chronicle, October 11, 2013

9780804169417Death in Madrid

A man is cut down in the street by a lunatic. His distraught widow sits in a café, awaiting his best friend. His best friend aspires to take his place as her husband. Translated from Javier Marías’s 2011 Spanish-language novel, “The Infatuations” presents this tangled web of human dealings from the perspective of María, a publisher’s assistant who frequents the same café as the ill-fated Miguel Deverne and Luisa, his widow, and who is slowly drawn into this web.

“The Infatuations” is a profoundly engaging work, although not for the reasons one might think. American press for the book has tended to emphasize the fact that it is nominally a murder mystery. This emphasis is misleading. The plot is so predictable as to be archetypal; one is reminded not of the sharp twists and turns of American or British mystery novels so much as the ritualized forms of Attic tragedy or commedia dell’ arte. In short, there is very little “mystery” to this mystery. Nevertheless, “The Infatuations” is still well worth reading, just as tragedies and commedie are still worth watching—the devil, as always, is in the details.

Marías has not given us a wholly original set of events to ponder; rather, he has given us a reflection on the transience of love and the ultimate insurmountability of death, a rumination of great tranquility reflected in his long, aperiodic sentences, which recall the peacefulness of Camus’s “The Stranger” without that work’s predominant haziness of detail. There are many extended passages on the final quietude of death, none perhaps so clear as an imagined speech that María attributes to the dead Deverne. Speaking of the dead’s indifference toward the activities of the living—specifically his own indifference to the marriage of his best friend and his widow—he says:  “You know that everything will carry on without you, that nothing stops because you have disappeared. But that ‘afterwards’ doesn’t concern you.”

There are many such passages, particularly in the first half of the book. In them one finds a Lucretian sensibility of death as final, for the best, and not to be feared. Like Lucretius in “De Rerum Natura,” however, Marías’s persistent dwelling on the theme of mortality to the exclusion of other concerns—including getting the novel’s action off the ground—seems to belie this message; whether this is the intention of the author or rather a flaw is up to the reader. It seems to be his intention, for Marías knows well the ways in which people think, and accordingly the attribution of a flawed rhetoric should be reserved. It must nevertheless be noted that the novel’s constant digressions occasionally flirt with the trite: “There was still the possibility that it wasn’t, according to him, of course (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).” This observation is true, but is so commonplace as to be of questionable value even in a parenthetical statement.

Regardless of any imperfections in execution, “The Infatuations” is a remarkable book, not least in that it accomplishes the very difficult task of holding a reader for half its length before introducing any sort of dramatic conflict. Its ambition of scope is admirable, directly addressing as it does the two most looming themes of human thought, love and death; and yet it still manages to avoid entirely the overwrought tone that almost inevitably plagues such books. Indeed, here perhaps we find the greatest virtue of “The Infatuations”: it brings a peaceful reflection on mortality to our daily lives.

JUDE D. RUSSO

The Harvard Crimson, October 6, 2013

Reseñas de ‘Comme les amours’

Javier Marías: ce qui se passe après la mort

A13873Javier Marías ne fait partie de ces écrivains prolixes qui publient un livre par an avec la régularité d’un métronome. Plus de trois ans se sont écoulés depuis le dernier volume de sa trilogie, Ton visage demain, dont la publication s’était étalée sur sept années. Mais chacun de ses ouvrages compte, et ce n’est pas sans raison qu’il est considéré comme une figure majeure de la littérature espagnole et européenne, déjà plusieurs fois cité sur la liste des nobélisables.

Fait rare, la narratrice de son dernier ouvrage est une femme. Chaque matin, l’éditrice María Dolz prend son petit déjeuner dans le même café, et chaque matin, elle observe à la dérobée un couple qui irradie de gaité, de complicité et de tendresse. Ce rendez-vous matinal avec des inconnus se met à prendre de plus en plus de place, non pas dans sa vie puisque la “rencontre” ne dure que quelques brefs instants, mais dans sa tête ; le couple représente en effet pour elle comme une promesse de bonheur, comme la confirmation que la félicité à deux, pour rare qu’elle soit, est néanmoins possible. María attend donc avec impatience de les retrouver à la même table, à la même heure, et elle puise dans le spectacle de leurs échanges du réconfort et de la quiétude. Jusqu’au jour où la femme attend son époux pendant vingt minutes, étonnée mais sans crainte ; puis son téléphone sonne et le monde s’écroule. María apprendra plus tard – car jusqu’à cet instant elle ne sait rien de l’identité des deux personnages – que son mari, Miguel Desvern, riche héritier d’une compagnie de production cinématographique, a été sauvagement assassiné par un déséquilibré sur un parking. Bouleversée, elle décide de prendre contact avec sa veuve, dévastée par la tragédie stupide qui a détruit son monde de façon accidentelle, puisqu’à l’évidence, il n’y avait aucune raison particulière que l’homme s’en prenne à Miguel Desvern, et que seul un funeste hasard a voulu que ce soit sur lui que le fou s’acharne avec son couteau. Dans l’entourage de Luisa – l’épouse éplorée – il y a le meilleur ami de Desvern, Javier Díaz-Varela, dont María tombe amoureuse, bien qu’elle se soit rapidement aperçue que les liens de ce dernier avec la jeune veuve sont des plus ambigus. María va progressivement être amenée à envisager différemment le passé du couple idéal et à remettre en cause le rôle du hasard dans la mort de Desvern.

Comme souvent dans l’univers romanesque de Marías, on retrouve les thèmes qui lui sont chers : la fonction du secret, le doute comme moteur narratif, le mariage et la mise en tension de l’amour qui en résulte, le rôle central de la trahison, la tromperie et la lâcheté dans les rapports humains. On retrouve aussi sa phrase ample et complexe – fréquemment rapprochée de celle de Proust – avec sa qualité particulière, à la fois introspective et digressive, qui a pour fonction de sonder les infinies nuances des mouvements de l’âme à la manière d’un sismographe ultra-sensible. Le roman avance par vagues d’hypothèses successives, et chaque étape dévoile un peu davantage les ressorts de l’histoire racontée, tout en jetant de nouvelles ombres sur les personnages et leurs motivations. C’est cela qui, après un début un peu lent, et par moments trop bavard, finit par accrocher le lecteur et le tenir en haleine jusqu’au dénouement final. Dénouement qui toutefois ne lève pas complètement les incertitudes, puisqu’à l’évidence, comme il arrive souvent dans la vie, il faut que le lecteur choisisse entre plusieurs interprétations possibles des événements.

ECCH PortadaDans ses romans, Marías dialogue fréquemment avec Shakespeare et certains de ses ouvrages sont comme des hommages à l’immense écrivain. Ici, c’est avec un autre géant de la littérature qu’il instaure le dialogue, puisque Le colonel Chabert de Balzac tient une place de choix dans Comme les amours. La figure du disparu exemplaire que l’on pleure longtemps, mais dont l’absence finit par être si bien comblée que sa réapparition devient terriblement encombrante pour les siens, est ici le fil conducteur du récit. “Les morts ont donc bien tort de revenir”, écrit Balzac, et Marías déploie avec brio tous les plis contenus dans cette affirmation pour en offrir une relecture moderne. “Ce qui se passe 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, on s’en souvient plus nettement que des événements réels et on en tient compte” dit Díaz-Varela à María au cours de l’une de leurs rencontres. On restera longuement imprégné par les possibilités et les idées que nous a inoculées Marías dans ce roman dense et troublant, qui aborde la mort par son versant sud.

GEORGIA MAKHLOUF

Le Huffington Post/Le Monde, 11 octobre 2013

Reseñas en papel:

Le temps retrouvé selon Javier Marías
ERIC NEUHOFF
Le Figaro Littéraire, 18 septembre 2013

Mentir de bonne foi
FLORENCE NOIVILLE
Le Monde, 4 octobre 2013

Avec de faiblesse
ARIANE SENGER
Transfuge, 13 octobre 2013

Romance madrilène
ANDRÉ CLAVEL
Lire, 13 octobre 2013

Alice Munro, Premio Nobel de Literatura

Alice+Munro+Photo_credit+to+Derek+Shapton_international+rights+cleared2-e1349861573238Alice Munro, Duchess of Ontario del Reino de Redonda desde mayo del 2005 en que ganó el Premio que concede la editorial Reino de Redonda, ha sido galardonada con el Premio Nobel de Literatura.

Javier Marías: Munro alcanza grandes cotas de hondura y de emotividad

El escritor español Javier Marías considera “muy justo” el Nobel de Literatura que ha ganado hoy la canadiense Alice Munro, y se alegra en particular de que la Academia Sueca haya reconocido a una autora que, sobre todo, escribe cuentos, un género que “desde hace varias décadas está muy dejado de lado”.

“Munro ha alcanzado en su obra, de una manera muy sobria, grandes cotas de hondura y de emotividad. Sus cuentos son emocionantes”, aseguraba hoy en declaraciones a Efe Javier Marías, que en más de una ocasión había dicho que “si algún escritor vivo merecía el Nobel por encima de cualquier otro era ella”. “Es una escritora excepcional”.

El novelista español no sabe “cómo lo logra Munro”, pero cree que también “es muy destacable” que sus relatos “consigan unas dosis de profundidad y de emoción sorprendentes” y lo hacen “con una considerable economía de medios, con sobriedad, sin casi nunca acentuar nada ni subrayar nada, hablando de personas más bien normales”.

Y en una época, subraya Marías, en la que se da tanto “la literatura de buenos sentimientos, que suele ser empalagosa, como la de malos sentimientos, llena de psicópatas y de estudios sobre la maldad, como si eso en sí mismo tuviera interés”, Munro ha hecho su obra sobre personas normales, “con sus ambigüedades, con sus partes oscuras”.

Al autor de “Corazón tan blanco”, entre otras obras, le alegra en particular que se haya premiado a una autora de cuentos, un género, asegura, que en otros tiempos “tuvo mucho predicamento, pero que desde hace varias décadas está muy dejado de lado y está considerado una especie de hermano menor de la novela, lo cual es totalmente erróneo”. “Hay poco interés en general en publicar cuentos”, asegura.

Munro es una autora que está, “en cuanto a calidad, a la altura de los mejores, de Chéjov, de Kipling o de Maupassant, incluso de Borges, aunque su mundo no tenga mucho que ver con algunos de ellos. Sí con el de Chéjov”, especifica.

Marías no sabe hasta qué punto hay elementos autobiográficos en la obra de Munro -“la procedencia del material de los escritores es indiferente. Lo que cuenta es el resultado”, subraya-, pero está claro que la autora canadiense “tiene una gran capacidad de observación” para la vida de las mujeres y las dificultades con las que se han encontrado a lo largo de la historia, “incluso en el mundo occidental”.

Desde el punto de vista personal, Marías está también contento porque Munro ganó en 2005 el Premio Reino de Redonda, que organiza y financia el propio novelista español.

Con ocasión de ese premio, se puso en contacto con ella “a través de correo ordinario” y le pareció “una mujer muy reservada, pero con mucho sentido del humor y muy simpática”.

“En una ocasión me mandó una foto de ella y de su marido disfrazados con unas túnicas y una especie de casco alado, como si fuera de Mercurio. Y ella está con un cartel en el que pone: ‘el fin se acerca”, recordaba hoy Javier Marías antes de comentar que Munro es el segundo premiado con el Reino de Redonda que luego ha obtenido el Nobel. “El primero fue Coetze”.

EFE, 10 de octubre de 2013

Alice Munro, una Nobel a la altura de los grandes cuentistas universales

Javier Marías recuerda que más de una vez ha declarado que es uno de los escritores vivos que más merecía el Nobel: “Me alegro que se haya destacado a una autora de cuentos, un género que gozó en su momento de gran prestigio pero que en las últimas décadas se le ha considerado algo secundario o como preparación para una novela, y no es así”. El autor y académico español no duda en afirmar que Munro está al nivel de los mejores como Chéjov, Maupassant o Borges. Y da claves de parte de su secreto: “Consigue transmitir una profunda emoción con personas fundamentalmente normales en una época en la cual se privilegia tanto los buenos y malos sentimientos de una manera que rozan la cursilería. Escribe sobre gente normal sin cargar las tintas y consiguiendo unos niveles de emoción y profundidad con poco parangón en la literatura actual”.

El País, 10 de octubre de 2013

Mañana se falla el Premio Nobel de Literatura

JM AlfagMunro, Murakami, Oates, Roth y Nooteboom suenan para el Nobel

Puede ser el año de Roth u Oates, EE UU no lo recibe hace 20 años. Más allá de las quinielas, otros nombres que son conocidos y de gran calidad son Nooteboom, Oz, Marías, Lobo Antunes y Adonis

De Japón, de Canadá, de Estados Unidos, de Holanda o incluso de Bielorrusia o de Corea del Sur podría ser este año el nuevo premio Nobel de Literatura que se anunciará mañana en Estocolmo. Claro, según las quinielas en las casas de apuestas y entre los especialistas, porque la Academia del Nobel nunca oficializa candidatos. Este años los escritores que más suenan son Haruki Murakami, Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, Cees Nooteboom, Svetlana Aleksijevitj y Ko Un. ¿Estará entre ellos el nombre que siga en la lista al chino Mo Yan, elegido el año pasado?

La Academia insiste siempre en que solo premia a escritores y no a literaturas ni países; aunque, a veces, sus elecciones parecen tener más en cuenta cuestiones políticas o el criterio de rotación geográfica que la calidad literaria.

Según la casa de apuestas londinense Ladbrokes, los favoritos son Murakami (5-2, uno de los preferidos en las quinielas desde hace varios años), Munro (4-1) Aleksijevitj (6-1) y Oates (8-1). Este año ha desaparecido de los primeros lugares en las casas de apuestas Roth. Pero 2013 podría ser su año, no solo por su calidad literaria sino también porque sería un perfecto premiado de Estados Unidos teniendo en cuenta que ningún autor de allí lo recibe desde hace 20 años, cuando se lo concedieron a Toni Morrison, en 1993. En cambio suena con fuerza, en las apuestas, la gran y prolífica Joyce Carol Oates, sin que eso signifique que haya que olvidar a otros como Cormac McCarthy y Thomas Pynchon.

Canadá tamién suena, y por partida doble. Si la cuentista canadiense Alice Munro, es uno de los nombres fijos desde hace varios años, parte de la crítica también tiene como una posible merecedora del galardón a su compatriota Margaret Atwood.

Si bien es verdad que las casas de apuestas no han acertado mucho con el Nobel de Literatura, sí suelen aportar nombres no tan populares ni conocidos y hacer que editoriales y lectores se fijen en ellos. Este año han vuelto a salir los nombres de la narradora y ensayista bielorrusa Svetlana Aleksijevitj, el poeta coreano Ko Un, el ensayista húngaro Peter Nadas, el dramaturgo noruego Jon Fosse, la novelista argelina Assia Djebar (seudónimo de Fatema Zohra Imalaye) o el narrador y ensayista keniano Ngugiwa Thiong’o.

También están los que lo merecerían sin necesidad de estar entre los favoritos de las apuestas. Entre ellos, el holandés Cees Nooteboom, el israelí Amos Oz, la italiana Dacia Maraini, el poeta sirio Adonis, el polaco Adam Zagajewski, el austriaco Peter Handke, el checo Milan Kundera o el albanés Ismail Kadaré.

En lo que concierne a la lengua castellana —cuyo último ganador fue el peruano Mario Vargas Llosa en 2010— aparecen Javier Marías, Eduardo Mendoza y Enrique Vila-Matas. ¿Y en lengua portuguesa? Pues podrían ser António Lobo Antunes (Portugal) y Rubem Fonseca (Brasil), cuyo país es el invitado a la Feria del Libro de Fráncfort.

WINSTON MANRIQUE SABOGAL

El País, 9 de octubre de 2013

Abc

LA ZONA FANTASMA. 6 de octubre de 2013. Para entendernos por ahí perfectamente

Como a los columnistas del dominical nos toca entregar las piezas dos semanas antes de su publicación, rara vez debemos ocuparnos de los asuntos más llamativos. Para cuando nuestros textos vean la luz, habrán ustedes leído docenas de artículos al respecto y se habrá dicho cuanto cabía decir sobre ellos. Si a eso añadimos los instantáneos e incontables tuits planetarios, carece de sentido que ahora agregue yo una sola palabra sobre la infausta presentación de la candidatura olímpica de Madrid 2020, en Buenos Aires. Pero compréndanme: soy madrileño de Chamberí y vivo cerca de la Plaza Mayor, y creo que mi conocimiento de la lengua inglesa me autoriza a emitir juicios sobre el dominio que de ella poseen los españoles “importantes” que se atreven a hablarla: he vivido en Inglaterra y algo en los Estados Unidos, he traducido obras difíciles de los siglos XVII, XVIII, XIX y XX, he dado clases, conferencias, lecturas y entrevistas en ese idioma. Y precisamente por eso sé que hoy, y desde hace tiempo, ir por el mundo sin desenvolverse en inglés es como caminar con una pierna, ver sin gafas cuando uno padece un montón de dioptrías o –más ajustada la comparación– mostrarse como un imbécil completo sin capacidad de intelección ni entendimiento.

El inglés es una lengua endiablada, y lo sabemos quienes llevamos toda la vida manejándonos con ella, siempre de manera imperfecta: está llena de excepciones a las reglas y de excepciones a las excepciones; la distancia entre la ortografía y la fonética es enorme; las construcciones sintácticas pocas veces son sencillas. Pero también es cierto que el mundo está lleno de gente extranjera que consigue expresarse en ella decentemente, incluidos futbolistas, por mencionar un gremio sin mucho motivo para aplicarse en su estudio. Y si hay futbolistas que la dominan, no hay excusa para que no lo hagan nuestros presidentes de Gobierno ni nuestros ministros, o la alcaldesa de Madrid y el presidente de nuestro Comité Olímpico, Alejandro Blanco, que se supone que llevan años viajando por ahí, “haciendo lobby” –como se dice en pseudoespañol últimamente– y recabando votos para lograr algo difícil, todo a cargo –en parte– de los contribuyentes. A Ana Botella, como a su marido, Aznar, hace tiempo que los engaña alguien que les ha hecho creer que hablan y entienden el inglés, cuando es un idioma apenas comprensible a sus oídos y estropajoso y casi ininteligible en sus bocas. Como el matrimonio parece soberbio, mujer y marido se han apresurado a creerse el engaño, y a hacer el ridículo por tanto. Uno se pregunta en cuántas más cosas –de mayor importancia– son engañados los políticos por sus infinitos consejeros aduladores, y cómo es que aquéllos están siempre dispuestos a tragarse las trolas que los halagan. ¿Son todos tan jactanciosos y fatuos como parecen? Aparte de eso, hubo por lo visto un “autor” del discursillo memorizado de Botella, un tal Burns, responsable de una empresa que ha cobrado no sé si uno o dos millones de euros por prestarle semejante plática y servicios similares. No se sabía si Botella estaba en la teletienda, soltando un anuncio de agencia de viajes o –su donairosa entonación y su gesticulación “pícara” inducían a pensarlo– invitando a los miembros del COI a echar una cana al aire: “Madrid is fun! A quaint romantic dinner in el Madrid de los Austrias! The magic of Madrid is real!” Todo pronunciado macarrónicamente e incluso con los acentos cambiados: “Friend-shíp”,dijo, como si fuera vocablo agudo … El rubor arrasó mis blancas mejillas.

Pero aún más sonrojante y grave fue el caso del señor Blanco, adalid de nuestro proyecto. Se le oyó menos, pero lo suficiente. “No listen the ask”, respondió una vez, alegando que no había oído una pregunta. Pocos días más tarde lo vi en televisión: “Bueno, hablamos inglés como la mayoría de los españoles, pero vamos, le aseguro que lo bastante bien para entendernos por ahí perfectamente”, algo así dijo, con suficiencia. Pues no. Les juro que alguien capaz de contestar “No listen the ask” (pongamos “Escuchar no lo cuestionar”, y soy benévolo con la equivalencia) no puede entenderse en inglés con nadie, ni en lo más elemental. Y ese señor no es “la mayoría de los españoles”, que ya tienen bastante con hablar su lengua, sino un individuo que lleva años pagado por el Estado –en parte–, efectuando una tarea para la que no es competente, y él ha de ser el primero en saberlo.

Cuando pasaron al español tras la eliminación de Madrid, no fue mejor la cosa. Veamos. Ese señor Blanco declaró con pompa: “La derrota supone también una victoria” (???). Y no contento con la sandez y la contradicción en los términos, insistió: “Nos podrán derrotar, pero nunca seremos vencidos” (???). A Botella le gustó la imbecilidad o sinsentido, porque se apuntó de inmediato: “Un proyecto lo podremos perder, pero nunca nos podrán derrotar” (???). Bueno, ya saben que en el PP todos son ecos de ecos. Otro día volveré sobre las favelas, la asquerosa mugre y las ratas a la carrera “in Plaza Mayor” e “in el Madrid de los Austrias”, que la alcaldesa tuvo la desfachatez de vender como lugares “románticos y relajantes”. Habrá habido otras razones de peso para que Madrid haya perdido, pero habría bastado con escuchar a esos dos representantes, en cualquier lengua, para colegir que el proyecto estaba en manos de ineptos. ¿Cómo se le iba a confiar a gente así la organización de unos Juegos? El pobre Príncipe Felipe, él sí con su inglés excelente, quedó sin duda barrido por los tópicos bochornosos, los balbuceos ininteligibles y las necedades.

JAVIER MARÍAS

El País Semanal, 6 de octubre de 2013

‘Ciclo de Oxford’, de Javier Marías

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

Las huellas dispersas
JAVIER MARÍAS
Edición de Inés Blanca
Debols!llo, 3 de octubre de 2013

EL narrador anónimo de Todas las almas (1989), que muchos confundieron con el autor incitándolo a escribir Negra espalda del tiempo (1998), hallará un nombre variable –Jaime, Jacobo, Jacques, Jack Deza, muchos años más tarde en Tu rostro mañana (2002-2007). Las tres novelas componen un ciclo claramente distinguible en la obra de Marías, unidas no sólo por personajes recurrentes y Oxford como uno de sus escenarios, sino por algunas de las inquietudes que recorren toda la obra de Javier Marías: el revés del tiempo como ese lugar donde se ocultan las vidas que no hemos vivido y las consecuencias de lo que decimos y quizá deberíamos callar. Esta es la razón de que hayamos querido reunirlas por primera vez, acompañadas por una antología inédita de textos del autor relacionados con este mundo, de diversa índole y procedencia, para que los lectores puedan recorrer largamente ese Oxford ensimismado, un lugar extraño hecho de «otro elemento, el agua»; una ciudad «conservada en almíbar» cuyos habitantes «no están en el mundo» porque ni siquiera «están en el tiempo».

Reseña francesa

Javier-Marias.-Comme-les-amours_int_carrousel_newsLe crime était presque parfait

Chaque matin, assise à une terrasse de café à Madrid, Maria Dolz, une jeune éditrice, regarde avec admiration un couple assis à une table voisine. Miguel Devern est un quinquagénaire élégant. Avec sa femme Luisa, ils forment un couple resplendissant. Ils rient, sourient, murmurent et affichent leur complicité. Leur seule vision réjouit la narratrice pour la journée. Mais, un matin, Marie lit dans les journaux que Miguel Devern a été assassiné, le jour de ses cinquante ans, par un fou errant. Le couple idéal s’effondre alors du paysage fantasmagorique de Maria. Le poison mortel du désespoir s’infiltre dans les veines de Luisa et Maria cherche alors, parfois malgré elle, à découvrir les dessous de cette histoire.

Une plume précise et drôle

Javier Marias, auteur espagnol né en 1951, livre après sa trilogie « Ton visage demain » qui connut le succès entre 2004 et 2010, son nouveau roman, « Comme les amours ». Sa plume précise, perspicace, drôle et spirituelle décrit la relation de Maria, la narratrice, avec Luisa Devern et Javier Diaz-Varela, le meilleur ami de Miguel.

Après la mort de Miguel, le ton du roman change. Maria Dolz tombe dans les griffes du séduisant Javier Diaz Varela. avant de découvrir la face cachée de son amoureux et les liens diaboliques qu’il entretient avec les autres. « Par moments, je pensais ne pas avoir entendu ce que j’avais entendu, ou bien me revenant l’idée fragile qu’il devait y avoir une erreur, un malentendu, voire une explication acceptable », écrit-elle.

Javier Diaz Varela crée une sorte de monologue avec Maria pendant une grande partie du roman. Il parle comme un acteur de théâtre, avec une certaine pédanterie par de grandes joutes verbales en citant Balzac, Dumas et Shakespeare pour illustrer ses théories. Maria est subjuguée par son élocution et par cette bouche voluptueuse d’où sort toute cette littérature. Plus placide et sans grande envergure romanesque, elle continue à vivre sa vie normalement et à travailler dans l’édition alors qu’elle déteste ce milieu. Elle n’est pas la dernière à critiquer ces écrivains autoritaires et orgueilleux, qui imaginent recevoir le prix Nobel et écrivent déjà leur discours de remise du prix à Stockholm. Ce qui n’est pas dénué de drôlerie, sachant que Javier Marias lui-même figure souvent sur la liste des prétendants.

Après avoir tourné avec délectation les pages du livre de Javier Marias, la substance du roman s’infiltre doucement dans les tréfonds de la conscience en laissant retomber petit à petit une particule de vérité.

GAËTANE DE FRAMOND

Les Échos, 1 octobre, 2013