29 November 2013

Subtext and Nuance: The Infatuations

Javier Marias
This fascinating novel by the renowned [in Europe] Spanish writer, Javier Marias, revolves around the narrator’s first person account of her relationships, in fact, infatuations, with a very few people. In truth, the story has to do with the very concept of storytelling: the subtext and nuance that reveals the heart of the story. What really happened, who speaks truth and who deceives, and, in the end, does it matter?
“The mistake of believing that the present is forever, that what happens in each moment is definitive, when we should all know that as long as we still have a little time left, nothing is definitive. We have all experienced enough twists and turns, just in terms of luck but as regards our state of mind. We gradually learn that what seems really important now will one day seem a mere face, a neutral piece of information.”
            Quotable passages abound throughout the book, and if you like existential banter and interior monologues, you will love this novel. I was infatuated with the words more than the story, where little happens, but much is revealed, slowly, and much left to the reader to decide.
            We don’t know much about the narrator, Maria. She has breakfast every morning at a cafĂ© where she admires a couple also there every day, imagining their nearly perfect lives together. Their existence seems to bolster her spirits, as if guiding her into their satisfying universe. However, when he is tragically murdered, and she befriends the wife, another man enters her orbit and through him, all imaginings are torn apart, although our heroine is the least touched by all that happens in the book. Marias reminds us that what happens in life is mirrored in fiction, and equally forgettable, or so it seems.
“What happened is the least of it. It’s a novel, and once you’ve finished a novel, what happened in it is of little importance and soon forgotten. What matters are the possibilities and the ideas that the novel’s imaginary plot communicates to us and infuses us with, a plot that we recall far more vividly than real events and to which we pay far more attention.”
            Many of us become infatuated not only with people but with our ideas of those people and our concepts of self within their orbit. So it’s no surprise that Maria works for a publishing house and grapples with novelists to the point of exasperation. She has no real appreciation for their incessant musings, even as she lives within her own. Oh yes, The Infatuations is a lot about storytelling. 

            A literary page-turner, for the language and the simplicity of the story, this novel is not for those who thrive on high plot, rather that place where romanticism and reality coincide. I loved it.

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