Summary and book reviews of The Infatuations by Javier Marías

The Infatuations

A Novel

By Javier Marías

The Infatuations
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  • Hardcover: Aug 2013,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: 22 Apr 2014,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

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 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.

Excerpt
The Infatuations

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, ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Over the period of a few years, María has spent part of every morning watching a married man and woman in a neighborhood café. She is drawn to them because of their seeming happiness, "as if they provided me with a vision of an orderly or. . . harmonious world" (4). Is this a strange thing to do? What does it reveal about María?

  2. The "Perfect Couple," as María calls Miguel and Luisa, is abruptly severed when a homeless man stabs Miguel to death in a seemingly unmotivated attack. When María learns that Miguel was killed on the same day she last saw him, she realizes that "his wife and I had said goodbye to him at the same time, she with her lips and I with my eyes only" (30). What do you think of María's ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

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 Members Only (1091 words).

Media Reviews
ABC Cultural (Spain)

A masterpiece ... Composed with astonishing precision ... One reads it all without being able to put it down: a passionate investigation, with a high dose of intrigue, into the hidden corners of the human soul ... Here, great literature once again shows its true face.

El País

I ended up getting angry with myself for not having rationed the reading so it would last longer. Perhaps no novel has ever changed anyone's life. But, fortunately, some are still being written that make us forgive—even if only for a few hours—that lamentable limitation.

The Financial Times

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.

The Observer (UK)

A haunting masterpiece... The Infatuations is a murder story that's also a profound story of fatal obsession . . . Great Spanish novels don't come along too often. 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 Guardian (UK)

Extraordinary ... [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 ... Marías has defined the ethos of our time.

Sunday Times (UK)

Absorbing and unnerving ... For all the currents that ripple across its surface, The Infatuations is powered ultimately by the pressure of good old-fashioned suspense ... 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.

Times Literary Supplement (UK)

Uniquely luminous ... A reading experience that is sometimes urbanely sensual and sometimes abstractly philosophical; or, maybe more precisely, sensual and philosophical, simultaneously ... Like Beethoven, Marías is a brilliant escape artist . . . But Marías is original; he cannot help it.

Daily Mail (UK)

Plotted with tremendous skill and elegance, this cerebral tale is entirely absorbing.

The Spectator (UK)

The Infatuations is a metaphysical exploration masquerading as a murder mystery ... Quietly addictive.

Scotland on Sunday (UK)

Smart, thoughtful, morally challenging, and consistently surprising in its tense twists, this is a sleek atmospheric work.

Booklist

Starred Review. Marías [is] a consummate stylist ... The cadences of his exquisite sentences are preserved in translator Costa's English, the clauses balanced like a loaded scale ... It is magic, stupendous, and not done for effect.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Blindingly intelligent, engagingly accessible...He's tremendously stimulating to read; arresting turns of phrase enfold piercing insights.

Reader Reviews
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Javier Marías

"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 Marías 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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