"It's a novel, and once you've finished a novel, what happened in it is of little importance and soon forgotten," says Javier Marias's female narrator, Maria, not once but twice in The Infatuations. "What matters are the possibilities and ideas...."
Possibilities and ideas abound in the latest offering from the Spanish literary giant. This intellectual pretzel of a novel is an exercise in ambiguity, where "the truth is never clear, it's always a tangled mess." As the novel begins, a woman who breakfasts in the same café every morning, who has watched Miguel and Luisa dining together for years, enjoying the spectacle of their perfect love, discovers in the newspaper that Miguel has been viciously and repeatedly stabbed to death in the middle of the street on his birthday--and he wasn't the intended victim.
The plot is simple enough to be told in a short story. The pleasure of the novel lies in its embroidery on that simple narrative, its homages and tributes, riffs and satires, labyrinthine embellishments and baroquely illustrated projections: what could have happened, what should have happened, what might have happened, now that the grieving widow is in the care of his very attentive best friend, the handsome and charismatic Javier Diaz-Varela. Maria meets the widow, begins a casual affair with Diaz-Varela, and finds herself falling in love. But all is not what it seems in this riddle-within-a-riddle--and the reader has the delirious pleasure of circling mothlike around the flame of possibilities.
Marias is irresistibly compelled to explore every potential development, and time seems to slow down as his characters move through a poetic Jell-O of suspended animation, weighing all the options available to them, considering all the permutations of human motivation and behavior. In page-spanning sentences of multiple clauses, they decide to act or not to act, to trust or to deceive, toying with their freedom.
As Marias escorts the reader intellectually through the loops of one scenario after another, the actual turning points come as surprises, with the casual unpredictability of real life. In elegant language, bursting with a tantalizing array of observations on the way we live our lives, Marias is a world-class performer juggling the dilemmas of mortality, the deceptions of chance and the unbearable difficulty of believing anyone is telling the truth. --Nick DiMartino
Shelf Talker: Marias (author of the Your Face Tomorrow trilogy) spins a love story in modern Madrid of secret loves and ambiguous motivations revolving around the murder of the wrong man.