Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Infatuations by Javier Marias

A young woman finds out more about a murder

Maria, who likes taking coffee at a café close to her office in Madrid, frequently observes there a happily married pair. She nicknames them,“The Perfect Couple.” One day, she skims a front page newspaper story showing a bloody photo of man hacked to death. Some weeks later, she realizes that the man was the husband, murdered by a homeless psychotic. She googles details of the murder, piecing together the life of the couple. Returning to the café, she encounters the stunned wife, Luisa, who invites her to her apartment. Luisa and her husband had nicknamed Maria, “The Prudent Young Woman.” At Luisa’s apartment, she meets Javier Diaz-Valera, a suave handsome man, also with a literary bent, who was the victim’s best friend. Maria and Diaz-Valera begin a sexual relationship, Maria working hard to conceal her true feelings from her lover. She understands that he is in love with Luisa, waiting for the end of her mourning. One day, Maria accidentally overhears a conversation giving her new information about Diaz-Valera’s connections with the murderer. Diaz-Valera confronts her and explains himself.

I’m not sure if this novel was my cup of tea, although I read it on a cross country flight which is probably why I finished it. The book is a weird amalgam of bloody knives, love triangles and lots of gassy philosophical yada yada yada. The endless analysis of minutiae. Was that supposed to be funny? I certainly appreciated the ruminations in Sebald, but the never-ending analysis here seemed trivial. Nothing happens after the husband gets stabbed to death, only more conversations. Also, there may be an unlikeability question for me. Diaz-Valera seems too cold and Maria is a passive drip, in some cases a gigantic dope, although it seems to me Marias did a pretty good job of getting inside a woman’s head. She works at a publishing house so we get some amusing satire on pompous writers. Also interesting were Diaz-Valera’s references to other literary works by Dumas, Shakespeare and Balzac. It made me want to read those books, not more Marias, unfortunately.

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