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 understandor 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 meetsand falls in love withanother man who sheds disturbing new light on the crime. As María recounts this story, we are given a murder mystery brilliantly reimagined as metaphysical enquiry, a novel that grapples with questions 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 told.
The last time I saw Miguel Desvern or Deverne was also the last time that his wife, Luisa, saw him, which seemed strange, perhaps unfair, given that she was his wife, while I, on the other hand, was a person he had never met, a woman with whom he had never exchanged so much as a single word. I didn't even know his name, or only when it was too late, only when I saw a photo in the newspaper, showing him after he had been stabbed several times, with his shirt half off, and about to become a dead man, if he wasn't dead already in his own absent consciousness, a consciousness that never returned: 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, ...
That may well be the real brilliance of the work: it turns out that the novel isn't about the "Perfect Couple" after all (they're essentially a pretext), and it isn't about lives destroyed by the crime. It is about adults ensnared in an attempt to brush truth aside—a broad concept, perhaps, but so well-executed that I quickly forgot my initial reluctance to delve into the story.
(Reviewed by Karen Rigby).
Full Review (1091 words).
"A veces escribo para averiguar qué escribo" (Sometimes I write to discover what I write). So says Javier Marías—native of Madrid, and highly acclaimed novelist who has been widely tipped as a potential candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Marías is a translator (to Spanish) of authors such as Faulkner, Yeats, Shakespeare, and Nabokov; an essayist; columnist for Madrid's newspaper El País; and member of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language.
Javier was born September 20, 1951 to a philosopher father, Julián Marías—who was briefly imprisoned after the Spanish Civil War, and who opposed the Franco regime—and to a translator/editor mother. He was raised in an intellectual home...
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