Saturday, June 14, 2014

Daily Life of Another: The Infatuations by Javier Marias

Javier Marias, national award winning Spanish writer, has written an excellent novel beautifully translated by Margaret Jull Costa. The writing consists of long sentences with multiple clauses seamlessly presented. An idea is presented in an opening statement followed by clauses that expand on the topic, define the terms, give the characters’ personal views, and put the idea in a global social context. The ideas are modified as a result of passing time and new information obtained by the central narrator, Maria Dolz.

The story takes place in Madrid in current time, developed through Maria’s thoughts and conversations she has with other characters. The social setting is upper middle class involving professionals living comfortable lives. Maria works at a publishing firm dealing in a cynical manner with authors she considers to be marginally talented and overwhelmed by their own literary accomplishments. Maria is a single “prudent young woman” who is somewhat reclusive but has little difficulty satisfying her social and sexual needs. Her rich and intelligent inner life is disrupted by a deadly event and a subsequent infatuation; she falls in love (is infatuated) with a man involved in murder who is in turn infatuated with another woman.

Working in a business that buys, sells, and edits words, Maria tries to use her own inner monologue to understand the violent death of a man she has observed frequently in a cafe close to her apartment. Using a logical approach, she attempts to find motivations for the mentally unstable homeless man who committed the crime and for her own infatuation with the close friend of the deceased man. Maria’s personal motives to be in love and the situational motives of those involved in the murder are intertwined and can be defined in many ways: positive, negative, neutral, and in combinations. Some of her main observations involve: the burden/freedom provided to survivors by the death of a person, the difference between loving someone and being in love with him, the role of time/memories in the waxing and waning of infatuations, determining truths and accepting lies when words are exchanged to describe events, and the global consideration of causation/coincidence in all human "willful" action. It seems there can be only one conclusion to understanding real human interaction, and "reality" is no more affecting, accurate, and memorable than a novel boxed and shipped from Maria’s publishing firm.

The reader will love the writing, like shaking hands with an old friend, and the sentiments expressed, like a prudent young woman thinking about a perfect couple as they begin the new day in a Madrid cafe. Or, maybe the reader will discover the young woman is not so prudent and the couple is not as perfect they seem. Well, as Maria concludes, "...nothing is incompatible in the land of memory."

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