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Los enamoramientos I was moving this week so I'm farther away from this than I wanted to be when I wrote this but I can assure you that the strongest of my impressions have lasted enough to give you the gist of why I was so disappointed in thisMy major issue is overall that this is the sort of book that gives literary fiction a bad name This is exactly the sort of thing that is the basis for pretension puncturing parodies with melodramatic lighting and unnecessarily florid language that people point to when you ask them why they don't want to read This is that book where people sit around in half lit rooms and have silent weirdly distant sex in between pontificating to each other unbearably about philosophy Moreover it is the sort of dated philosophy where women still have lives that artfully revolve around men and men have the sort of Freudian idea driven obsessions that were fashionable to write about in the middle of the last century The sort surrounded by cigarettes and brandy and intense gazes and five o'clock shadows You know what I meanYou know that's it That's what bothers me This book seems like such a pose Sure there are a few things in here that rang true I've had some thoughts in here almost verbatim that he writes down But they are so banal it's like going to a fortune teller and being totally amazed when she tells you that she can feel that you had trouble in your adolescence or made some bad choices with alcohol in college So I don't know how much credit you can give it for that It all felt like such a sham like a set that Marias threw down that he felt was appropriate for some things he thought he wanted to sayI mean the thoughts he expressed went from banal to disturbing eventually but that was okay because there was no suspense involved The narrator guessed everything involved with the turn to the disturbing long before it came true and seriously everything she guessed about a situation she knew nothing about involving people she knew nothing about was correct And if she didn't guess it don't worry it was condescendingly described to her in detail later In case you needed help still no worries again if the author thought the point was particularly important or just had a nice ring to it you can be sure that it will be repeated both verbatim and paraphrased just so we Get It As for the characters I didn't care for anyone involved except for the monumentally screwed over Luisa who doesn't get enough screen time for me to form the connection I wanted with her The others are unremarkable monsters or overdone archetypes The narrator was especially tiresome So many of the emotional edges are blunted by the subdued manner of expression taken on here The whole story is made into an almost theoretical discussion like it is a parlor game that is happening to somebody else I use almost advisedly because of course it is not and that is supposed to be part of the disturbing thing about it But it wasn't Marias was so much interested in writing pages of rambling discourse about his ideas about the way the people experience grief loss and obsession that he made his characters mouthpieces rather than people If you stepped back and away from the substance of their discourse the defining characteristic of the narrator is passive aggression and timidity The defining characteristic of the villain is sadly misguided self delusion The major secondary character is simply a self aggrandizing fool of a stereotype They are mere chess pieces placed at a certain vantage point and then given the thoughts that are most appropriate for them divided up among them And many of those thoughts do not sound natural to the characters if they were actual people Luckily they are not They are statues experiencing a Major Life Moment that Marias has Thoughts on who speak for him in an omniscient narrator voice that sounds the same no matter who is speakingHe might just as well have written a short essay On Grief and Obsession and been done with it The plot was close enough to a ripped from the headlines sort of thing that he could have done this as an examination of the motives of a real person Did he need the cover of fiction so that the thoughts couldn't be mistaken for his own? Even though obviously if they have occurred to him they are? That's a weird sort of thought policing Maybe it's a sin of the genre boxing thing we do with authors if you're famous as a novelist then you should only write novels that is the only structure through which you can express your thoughts and have people be interested in buying them So you bend and twist the thing you really want to do into the novel form however ill it fits Maybe that's what was going on here I wonder if some of the pseudo intellectual banal thoughts would have seem fresh if they were examined in a True Crime sort of spirit There were certainly some unsympathetic but I would imagine fairly common thoughts about what happens to the memory of people after they die as well as the thought process of people who want something so badly they are willing to justify it however they can It's interesting that in order to express them he put them in the mouth of a sociopathic monster and a person out of her mind with grief so she can't be held responsible for what she's saying again it feels like he was disclaiming responsibility for unattractive thoughts I don't think you can really argue that he was doing careful character building not with what he spent the majority of his page allocation on So that must be it? What other excuse is there for a character focused novel with a mission statement at the top of it basically declaring that it is a character study to be so poor at building characters?I am trying to be generous here in my thoughts about his motives or what went wrong Too many people have told me too many excellent things about him for him to really write like this all the time I have already been told that he has at least two books that are better than this Can anyone back that up for me? It would be a shame if this was really the best he had to offer Does he write like this all the time? Please say no With a delicately eerie depth of intelligence and using a hypnotic style Javier Marías weaves a skillful and deceiving story set in the heart of modern Madrid involving a murder the reasons for and the aftermath But for anyone hoping for a thrilling crime mystery you will end up disappointed and I feel some negative reviews are not wholly the fault of the book itself but rather people are to believe it's something along those lines when clearly it is not This is not a thriller no where near it yes there are some taut moments here and there but generally speaking it's built on the personal themes of love fate our human nature for desire and real life fantasy's and there conseuences Could it be just a tale of love then? yes and no would be the answer although it sits far better in this corner than that of any murder mysteryIn terms of characters there really are only a few giving it a intimate and closed in dimension where everything takes place either in the confinements of bedrooms living area's or to start off with a café which is the point we see through the eyes of María Dolz who freuents here on a daily basis before going to work and comes to notice the same attractive couple Miguel Luisa who appear at the same café everyday She starts to become transfixed with them visualizing what their lives must be like she sees this as part of her daily routine until one day they fail to appear and the following days after María would learn that the man was murdered in the street in an apparent knife attack by a crazed homeless man After seeing Luisa in the café again one day she approaches to offer her condolences strangely she opens up to María and they almost immediately seem like friendsI say there were only a few characters and that would soon be whittled down to just two for the most part María Dolz and the shady but desirable Díaz Varela who was a very close friend of Luisa's murdered husband Both become attracted after a chance meeting and the desire for each other takes hold for a while But when she secretly overhears a conversation between Díaz Varela and an unknown figure at his home María's cozy world would chillingly become lost in a battle of wits and deception could she have been imagining things? if not just what on earth has Díaz Varela been up to? how can she suddenly change her feeling for him in the blink of an eye? and importantly is she safe in his presence? In a mesmerizing final third things do borderline with suspense at least to some degree where what is to be believed or not believed for Maria takes center stage and the fact of an open ended finale leaves you pondering But as stated before this is an exploration of the desirable psyche and depths of love and mortality An impressive piece of writing indeed A murderer nothing Truth is not always an easy thing to come by Any event that occurs reaches our ears and eyes from a vast assortment of new media eyewitnesses and other second hand accounts each with their own uniue perspectives and agendas that all encode the same message into infinitely variable packages of information We all become amateur detectives sifting through the various accounts to decipher what we choose to believe and thus creating our own uniue perspectives of an event that we will inevitably pass along through our interactions and conversations with others Javier Marías’ 2013 novel Los Enamoramientos—re dressed as The Infatuations to best accommodate the English language—is an incredible exploration of the detective work we all must undergo when attempting to deduct any semblance of truth about even the most seemingly common of tragedies that cross our paths What is truly astounding is Marías' ability to create a novel with the exciting two faced dealings and baffling plot twists typically found in fast action blood soaked thrillers out of a collaboration of scenes mainly comprised of late night dialogues over a glass of wine in a uiet living room Through a re examination of Marías' standard themes of mortality and language The Infatuations explores with prodigious depth the effects of death on the surrounding survivors lives as well as the labyrinthine complexities of trying to understand material reality through the fallible and distorted words of othersIrreversible unpredictable death casts its grim shadow across every page of the novel Maria the young female narrator working for a modern publishing house learns that the husband of a loving and attractive couple whom she has studied and admired from afar for years during her daily breakfast at a Madrid café has been brutally stabbed to death by a homeless man in a vacant street beneath the indifferent night sky The reader follows Maria as the lives of the friends and family to the deceased Miguel enfolding around her while she plunges inwards towards the murder each bestowing upon her their uniue attitudes regarding death Through the widow we see experience the loneliness and the shock of having an essential extension of their livelihoods stricken from existence while through Javier—the deceased’s closest friend—we are treated to a seemingly calloused yet realistic perspective that those left alive must soldier forth and not bemoan past sorrows that inevitably shape us into the person we are at present We mourn our father for example but we are left with a legacy his house his money and his worldly goods which we would have to give back to him were he to return which would put us in a very awkward position and cause us great distress We might mourn a wife or a husband but sometimes we discover although this may take a while that we live happily and comfortably without them or if we are not too advanced in years that we can begin anew with the whole of humanity at our disposal as it was when we were young; the possibility of choosing without making the old mistakes; the relief of not having to put up with certain annoying habits because there is always something that annoys us about the person who is always there at our side or in front or behind or ahead because marriage surrounds and encircles We mourn a great writer or a great artist when he or she dies but there is a certain joy to be had from knowing that the world has become a little vulgar and a little poorer and that our own vulgarity and poverty will thus be better hidden or disguised; that he or she is no longer there to underline our own relative mediocrity; that talent in general has taken another step towards disappearing from the face of the earth or slipping further back into the past from which it should never emerge where it should remain imprisoned so as not to affront us except perhaps retrospectively which is less wounding and bearable I am speaking of the majority of course not everyone While we mourn the lives that have been snuffed out Javier posits that we must look to the future the future left to those still retaining a pulse and make the best of what we have Our lives are a culmination of each event we experience and our lives are fragile and ephemeral we should not waste the opportunities we have before the great mystery of death closes it’s inevitable curtains on our story This viewpoint is initially jarring however as light is shed on the motives and character of Javier we see that the opinions one holds reflect those that are in the best interest of the beholder—we rationalize our reality to accommodate our actions What is aesthetically pleasing of this European edition of the novel is the thick black pages that precede and follow the novel as well as the black hardback which seem to reflect Javier’s presumed belief of death as being a void like eternity mirroring the time we spend before birth The novel itself then becomes the interactions of life between the bookends of eternityWhile we miss and long for those gone before us the return of a person thought deceased may not be the happy reunion we all would fantasize it to be Through a dissection of Balzac’s Le Colonel Chabert Javier expounds the disastrous implications of such a from the grave return to Maria The worst thing that can happen to anyone worse than death itself and the worst thing one can make others dois 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 is 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 Our deaths become just another event and life is made for moving on Maria also offers her own dissertation into the return of one thought dead reciting passages form The Three Musketeers when Athos’ fleur de lys adorned wife returns seemingly from the grave in which he thought he had put her as a sinful murderous villain aligned with the enemy We all play our part in the human comedy but sometimes when our role has been written out of the lives of others it is best to remain in the wings and not to reemerge for our return brining with it a heavy weight of former selves no longer has a place in their lives now altered and reshaped by the hands of time What is important to note is that these are truths held by the characters and for reasons held hidden in their hearts but offer glimpses into their true motivations Maria knows her affair with Javier has an expiration date and that his real aim is with Luisa the widow for why else would he preach the importance of putting the dead behind us? I would never know than what he told me and so I would never know anything for sure Language is central to any work of Marías and the plot is a convenient vessel in which he can explore the intricacies of words Jorge Luis Borges once said that ‘language is an artificial system which has nothing to do with reality’ ¹ Borges often examined the dualities of existence the universe of physical material and action and the universe of words the latter being the method in which we attempts to convey the former However language can only probe essence of physical reality can only build a model or imperfect mirror of it and can never accurately reconstruct reality aside from giving a cathartic experience With The Infatuations Marías explores such imperfections and their effect on our attempts to reach any sort of truth When someone speaks they encode their message their beliefs and intentions into words which are they decoded by the receiver Each party exists in their own realm of perspectives built from preconceived opinions agendas and experiences that must inevitably interact with their packaging and unpacking of any message refurbishing it to our particular and often subconscious needs Each message we receive shapes our opinions from framing a new idea in our mid reinforcing a previous belief to offering contradictory or supplemental information that will alter our previous opinions Marías delivers his novel in a method that takes the reader on a turbulent ride of altering opinions all filtered through the mind of the narrator Long ‘what if’ scenarios play out in her mind lengthy and engrossing enough for the reader to lower their guard and allow the information to shape their opinions and the opinions formed then meet with actual interactions of the character The preconceived notions constructed towards characters like Javier latch on to anything congruous and gives the reader a sense that they understand his motives and intentions However once new information accrues we must reassess what we know or think we know as the truth wiggles and suirms just beyond our outstretched fingertips Everything becomes a story and ends up drifting about in the same sphere and then it’s hard to differentiate between what really happened and what is pure invention Everything becomes a narrative and sounds fictitious even if it’s true As soon as we attempt to place material reality into words we create a story a uniue perspective on an event tainted by our words and opinions Even recounting mundane events forms a narrative of events that give a spin on reality Truth is an unobtainable purity like an asymptote it is something that we can reach for but never truly touch; the closest we can come to it through all our reshaping of opinions with each new version we encounter is simply our own perspective of truth which due to language can never fully be the ideal 'truth' of events Maria and the reader must uestion any new information that is told to them or heard in fragments through a closed bedroom door What becomes particularly perplexing is realizing that everything the reader receives only occurs through the mind of Maria and the reader must then not only run through the possible motives of those speaking to Maria but also assess the motives and perspectives of Maria herselfEl enamoramiento the state of falling or being in love or perhaps infatuation I’m referring to the noun the concept it’s very rare to have a weakness a genuine weakness for someone and for that someone to provoke in us that feeling of weakness That’s the determining factor they break down our objectivity and disarm us in perpetuity so that we can in over every dispute Who can be sure that any character is acting rationally speaking truthfully assessing any situation accurately when their eyes are clouded by infatuation? While a murder and the mystery of why it occurred is central to the plot the answers are superfluous; it is the examination of the attempt towards the answers the probing of truth that Marías parades in elouent speech and ponderous musings for the reader to satisfy themselves upon It is the deduction of each jigsaw piece the faith in our ability to read others the emotion of the chase and the game that shines in incredible glory from each page of the novel The reader is constantly met with discussions of perspectives and different ‘versions’ of truth from varying translations and editions of Don uixote contradictory eyewitness testimonies of Miguel’s murder to interesting artistic interpretations of Adam And EveAs in each Marías novel the narrator and those around them are compelled to spill their stories; there is an utter compulsion to speak and let their version of the truth be heard In Marías ‘ phenomenal novel Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me he highlights this desire to step out of the shadows and share what lurks within the dark recesses of the mind and heart They have merely been overcome or motivated by weariness and a desire to be whole by their inability to continue lying or keeping silent to go on remembering what they experienced and did as well as what they imagined to go on remembering their transformed or invented lives as well as those they actually lived to forget what really happened and to replace it with a fiction These truths or half truths are itching to come to life and once they are spoken they become the property of all those who have heard them free to be reshaped by perspectives and passed along through endless permutations of fact and fiction As Maria recounts her journey inward she tells of characters as they attempt to distance themselves from the murder However can putting versions of the truth between oneself and an event truly remove them from the violence? Does distancing oneself through chance remove responsibility? What is especially interesting to examine is that each opinion expressed is a reflection of the Teller Maria a character of Javier Marias often paints in broad strokes while describing the motives and inner workings of women This is initially troublesome especially as women are depicted as subservient beings that pine after men and hang on their every action giving the book a bit of a sexist taste However when remembering that these opinions belong to those of Maria a character that just so happens to be rather submissive and infatuated as best serves the nature of the novel it becomes understandable that she would assume that her feelings and actions are a generic representation of other women As expressed in Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me ‘ our idea of justice changes according to our needs and we always think that what we need is euivalent to what is just’ ² Maria’s opinions on women serve to support her own needs justifying her actions by believing that it is just the way people actWhile the journey is a bit rocky and certain aspects seem distasteful or cumbersome when they first occur this is a novel that rewards the patient as everything is eventually weaved together to form an impressively poignant final amalgamation of the individual parts Marías once again proves himself a master of language with fantastic flowing discussions of death and carefully crafted sentences that ensure their linguistic subtleties will survive the repacking of translation There are a few comical moments discussing authors and a few vitriolic stabs at pretentious contemporary writing trends that bring Marías’ own job as a translator at a publishing house to mind and wonder where his inspirations came from there are a few jabs seemingly directed at himself as well that are sure to bring a smile Despite having a slow burning story packed with philosophical reflections this novel is full of incredible twists and turns that will keep the reader feverishly flipping the pages This is a fantastic novel but is best suited to those who are already familiar with Javier Marías45‘ There’s nothing like sharing round the guilt if you want to emerge from a murky situation smelling of roses’¹ A translation of this clip The following discussion on Borges in this review relies heavily on ideas expressed in stories such as Tlön Ubar Orbis Tertius ² As well as re examining several themes from TitBToM fans of the author will be glad to see the return of Ruibérriz de Torres also spotlighted in Bad Nature or With Elvis in Mexico Marias seemingly makes Madrid his own Yoknapatawpha through his reoccurring characters and themes that bring the streets and underworld of his fictional Madrid to life and allow the reader repeat visitsI highly recommend reading Mike's who first introduced me to this wonderful author as well as Garima's fantastic reviews It was a pleasure reading and discussing this book together The Infatuations written by Spanish writer Javier Marias begins with a murder It's brilliantly and seductively written with mesmerizing passages on every page There was even a very powerful passage about a mother who clearly loves her children but just can't cope with them at the moment wishes she didn't have to as they weighed too much on her Her husband was dead with two small children this passage went on powerfully for pages I thought about my mother when I too was 4 years old and her husband my dad was dead The writing was so 'all knowing' that I got inside my mother's head getting inside my 4 year old head It was spooky truthfulThis is very first sentence of The Infatuations captured my attention immediately The last time I saw Miguel Desvern or Deverne was also the last time his wifeLuisa saw him which seemed strange perhaps unfair given that she was his wife while I on the other hand was a person he had never met a woman with whom he had never exchanged so much a single word The aura is eeriewith a slow unraveling suspense Themes'layers deep' about love life envy morality with penetrating long reflective paragraphs Maria Dolz flawless narrator for this story is a publishers editor She is fascinated by a 'perfect couple' she observes daily in a cafe every morning over breakfast She enjoys watching how happy they look together She idolizes them both One day they don't show up Later she learns the husband was murdered Later she becomes friends with the wifeIt's not a long book no reason to spell out the detailsbut it's the WRITING THE FEW CHARACTERS and the entire TONE of this novel that had me FULLY INTRIGUEDCaptivating I liked this book VERY MUCH They sat here before The Chambers Awash in the overheated humidity pomade the dense artificial freshening scent Moments before an objection had been raised out thereSo Sam whatwhat can you give me?Gruesome over here objected to my objectionYou know he's right Ned You can't object to an objection If I were to allow that then one of you would object to that and the objections would go on until we could no see them I'm still not sure what your case is Sam He rolled out his arms beneath the flowing robe caring for the creases He was on his Throne behind the polished mahogany desk his chambers brightly litYour HonorJimmyJimYour Honor will doMy clients haslet's simplify itincurred an injuryDefine the injury Sam better than you tried out thereOK My client is a slow reader call it cautiousHe looks like a slow readerNed that's enough out of you Act like a Prosecuting AttorneyI am Act like a defense Attorney then He looked at the clock on the desk It could not be heard No tick Only numbers No evidence time passed or moved Less than thirty minutes gentleman before court is back in session and I expect we will come to a compromise before then Sam your defense if we are going to call it such is based on your client having suffered through the first one hundred and eighty pages of this novel First Sam the judge folded his hands and cast his famous thin grin what kind of suffering? Was he flayed? Bodily scars to show the assault? It is a book Sammy He could have put it downAny time Ned broke in That is my point He had the free will to stop reading the book at each moment No one forced him And by the way the tie doesn't go with the suitWhat does that have to do with anything?He's wearing the tie JimmyYour Honor to have the jury see him as a shnook He likes looking like a shnook so if he says something that makes sense it will sound smarter Or make him look like he has a date after court he doesn't want to show for Juries love this kind of stuffYou think I'm wearing this tie because I think you're bringing it up because you want to divert his HonorBoy Boys Children Leave all this for when we get out there Now let's define the case each of you want to make and come up with a compromise Shit it's hot in hereTake off the robeGo to hell SammyMy client went through an emotional pain of three days 180 pages of reading something repetitive suffocating and banal He did not close it because he was led on in a purposive mannerOf course he was led What the hell do you think these writers do They plant things like terrorists You can't even see them while you read They lead you off in one direction then you find yourself somewhere else Your honor this isn't a case His client this reviewer guy just doesn't have the chopsSam?OK my client didn't start reading until later in life But he has read a lot recently and has read many of this author's books And might I say loved them And for good reason Now I hate to agree with Ned I wore this tie because I woke late and dressed in the dark but you see the author led him on to continue reading this incredibly dull stuff by the richness of his previous novels All Souls TITBTOMTITBTOM Sam?Tomorrow In The Battle Think On MeYou see this is what he does your Honor He's shleps out in his mammy pamsy suit and pathetic tie he slightly musses up his hair then the godawful dimple when he reluctantly smiles making him look like a kid who just needs this one break And me I look like the old cagey guy Please tell him he can't use TITBTOM out there and then blushGet To The PointAnyone having read the defendant's previous work would feel the compulsion to read on The woman the narrator speculated about everything including her own speculations Her thoughts never stopped or arrived anywhereKind of like this conversationVery good your Honor The story didn't go anywhere never moved off the starting block I hold out that my client as an average typical reader may have missed some salient points that in all honesty were too well hiddenYou mean Mr Marias Ned smiled did too good of a jobTook it too far Besides he began with a fascinating hook where the narrator eats alone every morning in this diner watching this couple being happy the perfect couple There was a promise here your Honor that was broken for the next one hundred and eighty pagesDamnit What about SamNed sit down We're just defining the cases Take it easyYes your Honor but what about this guy's attempt to be inside of a woman?I must have missed that part Ned Sam blushed What page did you say that was on?The judge rose played futilely with the thermostat then opened up a drawer with a key in a wood filing case He brought the three uarter full bottle of aged scotch malt and three semi clean glasses to the table and poured careful They each raised their glasses and silently toasted one another You know what I mean This is good scotch your Honor Sammy boy purposively wants to embarrass himself even here as a strategy We all know that I meant this writer is taking the chance to place himself inside of a woman's mind her imagination No credit for the courage of this How hard it might be Let's face it we guys are born into this world are taught that all kinds of things are coming to us Power in large and small events We expect it Walk around with the expectation Imagine what is like for a woman? Just for a moment? A woman alone? What she is handed before she can even speak in complete sentences is that she is not as good not as capable cannot fully depend on herself so must be with others She my friends grows up in let's be honest what is still a man's world with a certain level of fear vulnerability and in danger She is taught and shown by our culture by Sammy's jokes that she is not set out on a level playing field Ned held his hands up OK so he didn't do a perfect job with this I admit it Who has? There was that yellow raft boat and somebodies choiceSophie's ChoiceThanks Your Honor I didn't know you read?Idon'tnot usually From another case He refilled the glasses in a ritual cadence Arching their eyebrows they toasted againYou have to Ned went on give the man credit for taking the chance For trying Do you realize that just the effort can have a great effect One man reader to another then another If any of us if I could through the effort see the world through a woman's eyes feel what its like being in this still man's world that has done the world a service And Sam Sammy this is part of the book Over and over again he shows this networking How everything said and done effects and changes others forever it all ripples out It's like that painting What the hell is that he snapped his fingers but there was no sound The judge and Sam tried not to look at the gnarling fingers It's by that Jackson guy A bunch of stupid dots when you see it up close if you want to even call them dots Big deal right? You leave then stop when you're at a distance and they are somehow all connected into a whole It is beautifulYou might want to pour him some Sam jerked his head your HonorThe judge filled the cup Now slow down this stuff is expensiveExpensive You've had it open for months nowYou don't expect the good stuff do you? You're trying to throw me off aren't you Judges know how its doneWhat Ned lifted his glass would a woman feel right now sitting here? Could she feel comfortable like we do to be herself?Speak for yourself When Jimmy takes off the robe I'll feel a lot better So will he It must be eighty degrees in here Okay Ned he made an effort I agree Just not a good enough one Sam tapped the table with the point of his index finger it doesn't matter in the end my guy isn't going to create any ripples He has no networkings to connect no dotsIs he any good?No I mean he's okay Sam shrugged He tries to be cutesy sometimes Like this review He has us speculating and being as banal as I'm complaining about He's writing down everything we say That kind of thingIf this is his review I guess Marias doesn't have much to worry aboutNo it's an on line thing A great site but he's one out of a few million Someone here or there gives him a pat on the back I don't think he's ever gotten twenty of them The guy doesn't even show a picture of himself so no one firebombs his house or sues him Yeah Sam laughs The judge looks at the digital numbers lapse of time its passing un shown Believe me whether he gives this a one star rating or a five no one cares It's not going to get in the papers or stop anyone from reading it It's going to be a three or four anywayI've never been inside of a review before Are we allowed to break and use the bathroom?Gentlemen the judge tapped at his wrist where a watch should have been the idea of this recess if I may remind you was to let me know what case each of you are establishing then see what compromise we want to reach He picked a pen from a holder and pointed its blunt end at Sam Your point is that your client this Mr S suffered some sort of emotional injury because for the first what one hundred and eighty pages he was misled by the author's past reputation and his the readers expectations were thwarted over a lengthy period of timeI would your honorDo you need scotch?Sam nodded his head My client was significantly disappointed As the prosecuting attorney pointed out Marias himself showed in the narrative how one person being effected by an event will then network out to others effect others who will then effect This disappointment will not only injure my client stay with him forever but will spread It cannot be seenIt can can't it? On his face? Movements? How he treats other people?Are you taking his side your honor Teaming up? You owe him?Me? The judge held his hands up speak to the shmuck writing our reviewThen I object It is all a conflict of interestThere you go with your objections again That's how we got here in the first place Of course it's a conflict of interest That's the problem about being in a review He's the guy tapping on a keyboard Can't you see the words coming out of my mouth? We just have to do the best we can Be a man about itYou seeSee what? Never mindSo Sam interrupted glancing at the ceiling the corners first the writing was flat boring didn't meet the expectations from previous works and failed to fulfill the setup of the scene and narrator's character from the beginning Hopes dashed The reader my client being in my estimation unfairly prosecuted he glanced back up at the ceiling corner is left in danger of fearing being disappointed in trying any novel now in life And yes I respect his attempt to place us males inside the mind of a woman to see the world through her eyes Every man should want to do this as difficult and resistive as it may be A reuirement to be licensed as a human being However the author held out a gold ring We finally got there And we really did He put the narrator in a physically and emotionally tense and frightening situation Around page one eighty the writing became immediate The narrator became palpably vulnerable Breathtaking My client could now look back at the narrator's endless discourse and speculation the attempts to set up all the possibilities in a mystery novel that wasn't happening the banality and dreary internal banter your Honor you're sweating by the wayand he was able to see the inner experience of this woman's isolation fear and vulnerability It could just as effectively have been done according to my client within approximately one third the number of pages Easy for my client to say But here we are We have reached the great writing the suspense of the story unfolding experiencing the narrator's experiences first hand It is a revelation Almost worth the drudgery through the one hundred and eighty pages Then further along it slips back into its former style to the point where the unfolding was no longer pertinent to my client He was baited Exhausted All the interiority Marias out Mariased himself Simple as that then all he was left with was true beautific language but otherwise scarred and empty handed Unfair and may I say unnecessary Listen JimmyI mean your HonorSam over here can say whatever he wants but he ain't too well readIs that so?Yes your honor He missed the entire point if I got it right You know how some people read and they say they see than what's before them Right? We deal in a different world We deal in the real world objects people witnessing concrete actions I spoke to a couple of professors at our college up here Man this guy writing this thing doesn't even trust I'm smart enough to come up with this on my own I've got to get it from some ProfessorsHe's right NedOh yeah Let's see what he does to youHolding up his partially robed arm once looking at the static numbered clock the judge said we've got seven minutes gentlemen before recess is overThe book by the end that my esteemed colleague and his beleaguered client missed is thatgive me a second and let me check my notesis a wonderfully successful text about fictionstorytelling itself Everything is a fictitious story putting everything said and done in doubt You know that long explanation of Diaz Valera's to Maria? Who knows what to believe of that As the writer so skillfully shows and get it Sam you too Diaz Valera has all the power telling it It isn't so simple He'll tell what he remembers how he remembers it what is left in and out how it benefits him in remembering himself which may be custom manufactured by shards of these memories It is his the storyteller's reality Then Maria will do with it what she needs to do and that will be her reality which may be passed on to others Remember all of this will effect and network others But what he is saying and the book is about is that everything is in doubt Everything in the book everything we have said here is in doubt We make believe that it isn'tIf you don't mind and let me say this slowly so we all understand we will make believe for the next couple of minutes that we have no doubts Everything before us is real concrete and identifiable The case you are going to present Ned is; the author was doing his job from the beginning and the defendant's complaints shows he was doing his job only too well the courageous attempt at having the reader experience a woman's isolation fear vulnerability and that the essence of the book the very way the book was written and would be read is that everything is a story all stories are manufactured by the teller and let's see according to their needs and thus everything including what the reader just read or is reading is in doubt Did I get that all Ned? Please feel free to nod your head yesJust one thing your HonorThe judge rose stoppered the bottle of scotch Placing it back in the drawer of the wood file cabinet he locked it Returning he sat pleating his robe in place then stretching his arms Thirty seconds NedHe read Virginia Woolf's The Waves before this One of the professor's says here in my notesthat it is a book that when read will reconfigure the person in their relationship with their world and with themselves There is no way that he could then read The Infatuations and remain unchanged and be able to objectify the experience of this textWas that last part yours Ned?Its in my notesHe didn't write it your honorUh It doesn't make any difference And your's Sam is that the book was unreadable at the beginning Then the writer baited you with false hope and dropped you again Although you have no physical injury you are claiming an emotional injury of significant disappointment You claim that all aside your clients review will be read by a small group of on line readers who are kind intelligent and generally overlook any gaffes or overstatements your client generally makes There will be no ripple effect in theworld whether he gives this book a rating oflet's seethree or four starsYes your HonorThis will be our compromise that we have settled on that will be agreed upon and announced out there by yours truly You Ned Mr Prosecuting Attorney will drop all charges if the defendant reviews this book with a three and a half star rating You okay with that Sam?Um I believe there is no three and a half stars I've seen this sight No halves Decimals and fractions are out It is precisely either a three or four I propose a threeYour HonorYesNed Is there something you wan to say?Anything below a four and the defendant will have to cop to at least a lesser degree of defamation of characterNednext time I'll give you the good scotch?No sirSir?SirThen Sam?Why not My guy probably missed some things anyway A four it isThen gentlemen I am glad to announce we are done with ten seconds to spareYour honor?YesNed?Can we just get up and leave? I mean will the guy writing the review let usWell Ned let's stand up open the door and see You could say that I wished them all the best in the world as if they were characters in a novel or a film for whom one is rooting right from the start knowing that something bad is going to happen to them that at some point things will go horribly wrong otherwise there would be no novel or film They were the brief modest spectacle that lifted my mood before I went to work at the publishing house to wrestle with my megalomaniac boss and his horrible authorsSo is the sentiment expressed by the narrator These real people she doesn’t know have captured her heart and imagination like fictional characters so much easier to take than those who make their livings in publishing Nicely played JM premising the real on the fictive to distance the real Nice indeedI should know better than to rush out and read something brand new in this case before it’s even published in this country A couple of us jumped through a hoop of an inconvenience to review this before most of you even get a chance to see it Good for some of us perhaps bad for you definitely not the best thing I could do for myself—even at the time I wrote my profile I stated “rarely if ever do I read a title as it's published” and for good reason I like having books hanging around watching me and making me feel guilty badgering me with “Now?” It gives me pause opportunity for the book and I to acclimate and eventually arrive at mutually determined “Now” So I leapt in Readingreadinguh okayreading wondering reading Something seemed off was it the voice of the female protagonist as my first inclination suggested? Was it that she sounded so much like Marías himself? Hmm Not good But I am liking this It keeps me going I like what the story is about and I like what the book is about I’ll return to that In my haste to get going on the new Marías I’d forgotten the characteristic authorial voice or rather hadn’t forgotten it The familiar digressive wanderings were present in spades constantly wandering speculating making suggestions to me It wasn’t until reaching the final section of the novel that the voices for me congealed And it wasn’t that the narrator became credible as a woman Or that she became credible as Woman Rather she became credible as human—as real—that place where fiction and my perceptionreception of it matters Part voice part character Part authorial and the ever appreciated translator I want to know Margaret Jull Costa; I want to talk to her for hours and part making sense of what’s provided—the text What had been disparate coalesced I’d had my doubts and was proven wrong—like characters in the story—who had their own certainties until they no longer had them Seeds had been planted This is a mystery of sorts The blurb prefers ‘existential mystery’ and I can live with that as well But it also much It’s about the mysterious Love and Death Memory Guilt and Complicity Murder “a murder nothing ” Like so many authors I’ve come to love reading and look forward to their books are as much about writing and the story telling process I said I’d get back to what the book was about as they are the story Where other writers use metafiction Marías gently tugs at its hemline or shirtsleeves It’s about allusion and its difference from intertextuality It’s about Balzac’s Colonel Chabert in a big way and Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Dumas’ The Three Muskateers and Marías’ Bad Nature and Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me and probably a great deal of what he’s written to date It’s also about the author making fun of his profession and professional aspirations and affectations Good stuffSome uotes because I like uotes On the fourteenth day he phoned my mobile when I was in a meeting with Eugenie and a semi young author recommended to us by Garay Fontina as a reward for the adulation bestowed on him by the former in his blog and in a specialized literary review of which he was editor ‘specialized’ meaning pretentious and marginalOn fictionfactnarrativeHis uncertainty did not last long and he soon regained his composure Having scanned his memory and found no very clear evidence there he must have thought that basically regardless of what I knew or didn’t know I was entirely dependent on him now as one always is on the person doing the telling for he is the one who decides where to begin and where to end what to reveal and suggest and keep silent about when to tell the truth and when to lie or whether to combine the two so that neither is recognizable or whether to deceive with the truth as I had initially suspected he was trying to do with me no it’s not that difficult you just have to present your story in such a way that it seems unbelievable or so hard to believe that your listener ends up rejecting it Unlikely truths are useful and life is full of them far than the very worst of novels no novel would ever dare give houseroom to the infinite number of chances and coincidences that can occur in a single lifetime let alone all those that have already occurred and continue to occur It’s uite shameful the way reality imposes no limits on itselfAnd further And I could not help considering from a hundred different angles or perhaps it was only ten angles repeated over and over what Díaz Verela had told me his two versions if they were two versions and pondering details that had remained unclear in both for there is no story whether real or invented without blind spots or contradictions or obscurities or mistakes and in that respect—that of the darkness that surrounds and encircles any narrative—it didn’t really matter which was whichWhen you don’t know what to believe 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 your hands of the truth or of the whole tangled mess—which comes to the same thing The truth is never clear it’s always a tangled mess Even when you get to the bottom of it But in real life almost no one needs to find the truth or devote himself to investigating anything that only happens in puerile novelsAnd How easy it is to introduce doubts into someone else’s mindSomewhere between 4 and 5 stars rounded up because whatever else this novel has accomplished it demands to be reread It’s uite shameful the way reality imposes no limits on itself The uestions about life and death are uite contrasting While we hardly ask about how someone is born the news of someone’s death is almost always followed by the uestion of How Apart from satiating our curiosity and mellow down the shock of the news there is a sense of relief we try to find in the answers And to be honest such news is not always unpleasant especially when the death is caused due to some natural causes; in unnatural or unforeseen circumstances however the string of uestions extends to when where and most importantly Why but that too remains valid for a short time and exists at a superficial level because when all said and done everything merges into nothingness The world in which we are living today there is no dearth of such unnatural deaths and every day we get to know of several contemptible crimes some of which are self evident in their atrocity and some are veiled under the political nature of events which try to establish an unconvincing justification of taking several innocent lives The convenience of language comes handy in allocating various terms to such events but at the end of the day and deep in our hearts we know what it should be called 'Yes a murder nothing 'Javier Marías latest novel The Infatuations Los enamoramientos in a brilliant translation by Margaret Jull Costa is a philosophical enuiry into human nature which when exposed to dark alleys of death and its companions makes way into myriad speculations and unexpected conclusions Maria our protagonist is in a habit of starting her day by having breakfast at a particular café in Madrid where she silently observes a loving couple Luisa and Miguel whom she secretly attributes as ‘The Perfect Couple’ She feels happy on seeing them happy inwardly smiles when they laugh at some random jokes and admire their immaculate sense of dressing style and their dignified demeanor Watching them becomes a part of her daily routine and provides the necessary stimulant to deal with her otherwise mundane and at times frustrating day at work with a publishing house Even without the exchange of a single word she feels a deep connection with them a connection to which it won’t be wrong to give the name of 'The Infatuation' How fragile they are these connections with people one knows only by sightMaria experiences the fragility of her abstract relationship with the couple when her routine was interrupted by their absence for several days Miguel is brutally murdered and Luisa becomes an ‘inconsolable widow’ Should Maria go forward and offer some comforting words to the lady she was always in the habit of seeing besides a handsome man or better she let go of her curiosity surrounding the tragedy and move on with her life thus bringing an end to the Happy beginning to her mornings? Curiosity killed the cat but thankfully Maria is a ‘Prudent Young Woman’ the name given to her by the coupleShe does meet Luisa which makes way for some new characters and unfolds several layers concerning Miguel’s death which renders the whole situation a murder mystery But this is not your everyday whodunit novel This book screams of Marias style from every angle which besides from great writing offers huge chunks of internal monologues philosophical discourses and microscopic analysis of different situations which further gives us enough material to contemplate both while reading the book and after the last page is turned over At times it reads like as if Marias pens down all the thoughts which occur in his mind relating to a uote he liked in a book or a news item he read in a national daily or observations he made while noticing a couple walking down a street or having a uiet dinner at some restaurant and with the rough draft in his hands he inserts few characters and a subtle plotline in congruence to his thoughts and presents us with a uniue literary achievementMaria through her meeting with Luisa meets Javier and falls in love with him or is it just an infatuation? Could be anything but it does make Luisa vulnerable since she becomes acuainted to some incomplete facts by way of sheer chance and holds the power in molding those facts into whatever concrete evidence she deems fit giving the situation she finds herself in and at the same time is exposed to life threatening conditions It in turn tells us that one can easily find oneself carefully dissecting the delicate nature of truth in the face of uncertainty and how in the wake of making choice between making or breaking a life especially of those we have become infatuated with whether in a trivial or substantial way the uestions of morality and ethics takes a backseat the most transient and trivial of infatuations lack any real cause and that’s even truer of feelings that go far deeper infinitely deeper than thatThroughout the novel we mostly find ourselves reading the numerous ruminations by Maria on subjects like love death justice chance destiny psychology of guilt the implications of thoughtful and thoughtless actions truth et al Sounds boring? Yes but there is something about Marías prose which gradually draws the reader in captures the attention and the only way out in a satisfactory manner is to read till the end As one character points out Again he had been tempted into speechifying and was forcing himself to resist He was trying to get to the point and my feeling was that if he was still taking his time he was not doing so unwillingly and unwittingly but had an end in mind perhaps he was trying to draw me in and gradually accustom me to the facts The Infatuations notwithstanding Marías merit as a writer does have its share of flaws most apparent of which is its narration from the perspective of female which as I came to know was a first for Marías It’s not being carried out with as much finesse as Marías is capable of and for most of the part he succumbs to the age old generalizations pertaining to women behavior specifically in terms of dealing with their male counterparts Although most of the time the gender specificity of the narration is not that prominent but when it comes under the spot light the weak points are easily discernible Apart from that this book runs the risk of pushing the readers patience to its extreme since the most interesting part comes close to around 200 pages so had this been my first Marías book I’d be a bit underwhelmed but it was not and met most of my expectations ensued after reading his other book A Heart So White Therefore for Marías neophytes it’s advisable to get acuainted with his style first but with some other book in order to understand the true essence of ‘The Infatuations’ in a appreciative manner The emotional turmoil described in this book through various characters provides a profound and intellectual study of human fallibility which when communicated through the impeccable observational skills of Marías that dwells nothing but on the brutal honesty promises an inimitable reading experience Four stars for this one I really liked it From the award winning Spanish writer Javier Marías comes an extraordinary new book that has been a literary sensation around the world an immersive provocative novel propelled by a seemingly random murder that we come to understand—or do we—through one woman’s ever unfurling imagination and infatuations At the Madrid café where she stops for breakfast each day before work María Dolz finds herself drawn to a couple who is also there every morning Though she can hardly explain it observing what she imagines to be their “unblemished” life lifts her out of the doldrums of her own existence But what begins as mere observation turns into an increasingly complicated entanglement when the man is fatally stabbed in the street María approaches the widow to offer her condolences and at the couple’s home she meets—and falls in love with—another man who sheds disturbing new light on the crime As María recounts this story we are given a murder mystery brilliantly reimagined as metaphysical enuiry a novel that grapples with uestions of love and death guilt and obsession chance and coincidence how we are haunted by our losses and above all the slippery essence of the truth and how it is toldThis ebook edition includes a reading group guide  God I love reading A good novel one of the greatest pleasures that we get in this life and fuck you everyone who helped me forget that and God bless you Javier Marías for making me rememberOkay so I just invoked the Lord's name twice in one small paragraph which must mean I'm a bit worked up I don't know if I can convey how much I enjoyed this book but beyond that what a profound relief it was for me to enjoy it so much nowI'm coming up on the closing end of an MFA program While in sum this has been great for me and I feel incredibly lucky to have been allowed all this time off from real life to read and write in certain ways I feel that the experience damaged my relationship with the written word It's made me cynical about writing for one thing and has compromised my ability to lose myself in books This doubtless has a lot to do with my personal pathology than with any flaw in the MFA system but the discourse and assumptions of MFA land broadly speaking have disrupted my historical enthusiasm for literature To be fair and to emphasize that this is much about my own eccentricities than anything else I did once go from being an obsessive bookworm from age five to a near illiterate due to high school English classes which made me hate books and I didn't read novels for almost two years after college because having been made to discuss and analyze it had temporarily ruined the thrill of fiction for meFortunately I don't think I'll suffer such long term effects this time thanks to the heroism of the brilliant Spaniard Javier MaríasI have a hard time articulating what I find so mortally offensive about my interpretation of the MFA dogma but I think it might be the idea that everyone has something worth writing about and that we just all need to learn certain skills in order to do it well In fact in my opinion most people do not have anything worth writing about or at least do not have anything to write that I'd ever want to read And that's simply because most of us humans do not have particularly interesting or original minds I feel like a lot of the MFA world would object that this doesn't matter a lot of people have interesting stories they might say and thus the great need for all these billions of memoirs and my response to this would be to vomit on their feetBut yeah I feel like the implication I picked up from MFA land is that it doesn't matter if you don't have a uniuely fascinating mind; once you learn the tricks and techniues you can manufacture some fiction and serve it up to people who will recognize the product as palatable and therefore consume it I feel like that's what workshops are sort of a uality control taste test like what Applebee's probably has to make sure their newly developed recipes all taste like something they'd serveThe analogy for me is cooking The MFA is a cooking school that teaches eager students all kinds of techniues from simple braising to complex foams so that they can concoct all manner of restaurant ready cuisines The thing though for me is that even with all these skills and bells and whistles if you're using mediocre ingredients how awesome can the dish you make ultimately be?What matters isn't so much how you cook as what you're cooking with In fiction the ingredients are the author's brain and if the author's brain isn't particularly juicy and tasty to begin with you might wind up with a decent soup but the end product can only be but so great Conversely a brilliant writer can burn the hell out of something and write a shitty book; that happens all the time But ideally the chef's skills and techniue will perfectly exploit and highlight the advantages of his raw materials which is what Marías accomplishes beautifully in The InfatuationsThe first sentence of this book scalded away the sour aftertaste of my MFA acuired nitpicky hypercritical reading habit and reminded me of what it's like to read for pure pleasure Marías's prose makes me feel like I'm a dog having my belly scratched a bizarre thing to announce since I'm reading him in translation which is like I don't even know what it's like falling in love with someone who's had a ton of drastic plastic surgery procedures done like on those shows they had on TV a lot a decade ago where people got everything on their body redone at once so that you don't actually know what they look like? Wait I guess it's not like that at all Never mind jeez I don't know But if living in Miami for three years isn't enough motivation to learn Spanish which evidently it hasn't been wanting to read Marías properly should be I feel like he writes very much with translation in mind but I also get confused by the parts where he explicitly discusses the language because I don't know what the Spanish would be and what the translator had to tweakAnyway my confused non point about the author's brain and all that is just that Marías's mind is so compelling and fascinating that it makes me feel as a lazy back cover blurber might write spellbound I mean I just feel like his mind literally casts a spell with his words and I don't care what happens in the book as long as I can stay in it Actually this book did have a suspenseful plot and I did want to know what would happen next but that pleasure was very much secondary to just wanting to keep on reading his sentences inhabiting this consciousness he created seeing the world from this perspective I know people would disagree with me but that power of seduction and hypnosis can't be taught in any school And I may be wrong about this too but I doubt anyone has ever inspired true love or even profound infatuation by relying on a copy of The Game or The Rules which I imagine to be cooking school slash MFA in book form forgive my mixed metaphors or actually fuck it don't this ain't a workshop if you don't like it too bad for would be seducers Using these guides you might get someone to sleep with you a few times or who knows even propose but to make someone fall deeply in love with you you need to have something in you capable of seriously inflaming another's passion An organic tomato as it were or just a vision of the earth that's unlike any ordinary person's but is enough like ours so that we can get lost in your workAnyway I'm not going to say this book is for everyone cause I bet it's not but it's definitely for me If you love long recursive sentences and slow largely internal meditative fiction with a theoretically lurid thriller type plot but have not yet checked this guy out do I had such high hopes for this The reviews have been glowing Everyone seemed to be talking about it And I've been trying to read translations At first the premise and subject matter seemed promising and the first few extended conversations were uite interestingBut then Blah blah blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah The talking and talking and talking and then thinking internal talking and talking and talking Please I'm drowning in the middle of sentences that are paragraphs long And paragraphs that seem to reach to infinity And then by the time something did actually happen I didn't care any About anyone or anything in the book I kept going feeling that I'd already invested too much time and brainpower to uit but it was a slog If I had to do it over I would have abandoned it at 100 pages Blah

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