Translated by Margaret Jull Costa
Vintage, April 22, 2014
«This is writing at its purest: elegant, stylish and subtle. The work of Javier Marías transcends such bromides as: «I couldn’t put it down!» It insists that you savor every word; that you stop and reflect on what you have just read; that you parse the sinuously snaking sentences for every nuance they reveal. It is a virtuosic performance that makes it obvious why such literary giants as Bolaño, Sebald, Coetze and Pamuk have lavishly sung his praises. You will understand why he is a shoe-in for the Nobel Prize. And, you will scratch your head in utter befuddlement at the lack of a wider audience for his work in America. Read it and be amazed.» —Conrad Silverberg
“Whatever else we may think is going on when we read, we are choosing to spend time in an author’s company. In Javier Marías’s case this is a good decision; his mind is insightful, witty, sometimes startling, sometimes hilarious, and always intelligent . . . The masterly Spanish novelist [has] a penetrating empathy.” —Edward St. Aubyn, on the cover of The New York Times Book Review
“The Infatuations is mysterious and seductive; it’s got deception, it’s got love affairs, it’s got murder—the book is the most sheerly addictive thing Marías has ever written . . . Marías is a star writer in Europe, where his best-sellers collect prizes the way Kardashians collect paparazzi. He’s been hailed in America, too, yet he’s never broken through like Haruki Murakami or Roberto Bolaño. This should change with his new novel, The Infatuations, which is the ideal introduction to his work.” —Fresh Air/NPR
“The work of a master in his prime, this is a murder story that becomes an enthralling vehicle for all the big questions about life, love, fate, and death.” —The Guardian
“Blindingly intelligent, engagingly accessible—it seems there’s nothing Marías can’t make fiction do . . . Marías’s rare gift is his ability to make intellectual jousting as suspenseful as the chase scenes in a commercial thriller.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A haunting masterpiece . . . The lasting challenge to literature is to achieve a satisfying marriage between high art and the low drives of a simple plot. The Infatuations is just such a novel . . . Just as Macbeth is a thriller that’s also a great tragedy, The Infatuations is a murder story that’s also a profound story of fatal obsession . . . Don Quixote was first published as long ago as 1620. I wouldn’t be surprised if The Infatuations soon acquired an equally devoted following.” —The Observer
“Extraordinary . . . Marías has defined the ethos of our time.” —Alberto Manguel, The Guardian
“Marías [is] a consummate stylist . . . Magic, stupendous.” —Booklist
“Absorbing and unnerving . . . A labyrinthine exploration, at once thrilling and melancholy, of the meanings of one man’s death—and a vivid testimony to the power of stories, for good or ill, to weave the world into our thoughts and our thoughts into the world.” —The Sunday Times (London)
“A novel that further secures Marías’s position as one of contemporary fiction’s most relevant voices.” —Publishers Weekly
“Hypnotic . . . The Infatuations plays off Marías’s enchantingly sinuous sentences. They suck you in and lull you along with their rhythm, which gives the unusual and palpable awareness of how masterfully Marías has made time itself his peculiar object of investigation . . . Powerful.” —Bookforum
“A masterpiece . . . Here, great literature once again shows its true face.” —ABC Cultural (Spain)
“Keeps us guessing until almost the last page. Yet what lingers in the reader’s mind is not the murder mystery, compelling though it is. Rather, it is the author’s examination of the ebb and flow of flawed relationships; the chances that bring us together and the fates (in this case, murderous intent) that pull us apart.” —Financial Times
“I ended up getting angry with myself for not having rationed the reading so it would last longer.” —El País
“Uniquely luminous . . . Like Beethoven, Marías is a brilliant escape artist . . . But Marías is original; he cannot help it.” —Times Literary Supplement (London)
“The Infatuations is a metaphysical exploration masquerading as a murder mystery . . . Quietly addictive.” —Spectator
“Smart, thoughtful, morally challenging, and consistently surprising in its tense twists.”—Scotland on Sunday
“Haunting. . . . Evokes verbal puzzle-makers like Borges, and Marías’s ingenious chessboard plots bring to mind the 20th century’s grand-master strategist, Vladimir Nabokov.”—Los Angeles Times
“An arresting story of love and crime.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“The unspoken romance at the heart of Marías’s work is the recuperation of old-fashioned adventure within perfectly serious, cerebral contemporary fiction.”—The Daily Beast
“Great art often emerges from breaking, or at least tweaking, rules. A work that transcends its conventions can produce special results. Here’s such a book . . . The Infatuations takes you where very few novels do.”—Paste magazine
“A masterly novel . . . The classical themes of love, death, and fate are explored with elegant intelligence by Marías in what is perhaps his best novel so far . . . Extraordinary . . . Marías has defined the ethos of our time.”—The Guardian (UK)
“Marías has created a splendid tour de force of narrative voice. . . . A luminous performance.”—Wichita Eagle
“Javier Marías is a master of first lines. He’s a master of other things as well . . . All Marías books feel like chapters in one much longer book. And it’s one you should start reading, if you haven’t already.”—Slate
“Beyond the interesting ideas his work draws on, Marías’s novels are simply a pleasure to read . . . The Infatuations, containing the qualities of Marías’s best work, is an important addition to his oeuvre.”—The Millions
“Marías’s novel operates on so many levels simultaneously, it becomes a piece of evidence itself, an artifact that proves its own argument.”—The Onion, A. V. Club
“Marías’s novel weaves an intricate web, but its triumph is in the power of its narrator. Marías has found the ideal voice—detached, inquisitive, and vigilant—for one of his finest novels.”—Los Angeles Review of Books
Everyone needs something to get through the day. For some, it’s faith. For others, drugs, shopping, sex, or love. Reserved, thirty-something María Dolz relies on a man and a woman she sees almost every morning in the café where she has breakfast. Still laughing and joking like the best of friends after years of domestic union, they are, she thinks, the Perfect Couple: a vision of marital bliss. “It was the sight of them together that calmed and contented me before my working day began,” María tells us. Without them, she felt depressed. Then one afternoon the husband is stabbed to death by a homeless man. A tragic accident? Or the perfect crime?
From this scenario and three books (Balzac’s Colonel Chabert, Dumas’s The Three Musketeers, and Shakespeare’s MacBeth), the acclaimed Spanish novelist Javier Marías spins an exquisite web of confessions, lies, and sticky half-truths. That’s only the beginning. For The Infatuations is not merely a tale of love gone wrong, it’s also an evocation of modern sexual manners, a meditation on the relationship between the living and the dead, and a dazzling portrait of the master criminal as a kind of gorgeous spider: careful, patient, venomous. Not since Tom Ripley have I met such a cunning, and envious, creature.
Marías himself likes to work in delicate circles. His sentences are long, conversational, circuitous, their tension constantly redirected by his characters’s shifting doubts, evasions, and desires. More than anything, his prose reflects the brooding tenor of María’s cautious, intelligent mind — a mind agitated by her contact with a widow’s desperate grief and a womanizer’s deft manipulations. For after the Perfect Husband dies, María Dolz falls in love with his best friend: a man she meets only in his apartment, only when he calls her. Thus does one infatuation pave the way for another.
Javier Marías’s has long been acclaimed as one of Spain’s most exceptional writers: an author who builds intoxicating cocktails of philosophy and noir. His masterful murder story culminates in an scene of unforgettable ethical ambiguity. The most sinister thread his novel, however, is the silken connection that Marías traces between crime and confusion. For when the killer is finally cornered, a smokescreen of doubt is enough to enable the unrepentant to escape:
“When you don’t know what to believe,” Marías writes, “when you’re not prepared to play the amateur detective, then you get tired and dismiss the entire business, you let it go, you stop thinking and wash you hands of the truth or of the whole tangled mess—which comes to the same thing.” 
In other words, hidden crimes go unpunished not because criminals can’t be caught, but because of our own unwillingness to undertake the burden of sifting truth from deception, crime from camouflage. Thus our apathy abets the spiders of this world.
Critical Mass, March 11, 2014
THE INFATUATIONS – WHY THIS BOOK SHOULD WIN
The Infatuations by Javier Marías rolled into its publication date with more baggage than the Coast Starlight, more anticipation than the Wells Fargo wagon in The Music Man.
Immediately, the griping and whining started. “It isn’t his best book.” “It isn’t as good as (fill in the blank with any of his previous books).” “I really loved the trilogy, but this…” “Knopf paid serious money for the book, did they know what they were getting?” I even heard someone suggest the book was slighted because of readership loyalty to New Directions, Marías’ previous publisher.
However, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, NPR, and Slate all made it through their reviews without an audible groan – and for good reason. This is a really good book.
Marías is writing in genre, and he appears to be having a hell of a good time doing it. It’s cerebral in ways similar to Frederick Knott’s Dial M for Murder. It’s less about the crime, less action, and more about the paths and perception – more philosophic than forensic.
I’ve read a boatload of mysteries, but I can’t remember one that does exactly what The Infatuations does. Not going to outline the plot, but the ending, no spoiler alert here, is dropped in your lap.
I love Marías. I don’t care if what he writes is High Fecking Art or not. And you shouldn’t either.
This book should win The Best Translated Book Award.
Three Percent, March 12, 2014