Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Infatuations

When a mainstream New York publisher like Knopf can still surprise me with the excellence of two fat hardcovers in one season, I am glad. First there was the Willa Cather correspondence, and now there is Margaret Jull Costa's translation of the new novel by Javier Marías, released in English as The Infatuations.

Below, the Spanish-language original from 2011, along with translations into French, German and Italian.

The plot is simple enough, as Marías himself takes pains to explain 

"What happens 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 matter are the possibilities and ideas that the novelist'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." 

"We cannot know what time will do to us with its fine, indistinguishable layers upon layers, we cannot know what it might make of us. It advances stealthily, day by day and hour by hour and step by poisoned step, never drawing attention to its surreptitious labors, so respectful and considerate that it never once gives us a sudden prod or a nasty fright. Each morning, it turns up with its soothing, invariable face and tells us exactly the opposite of what is actually happening: that everything is fine and nothing has changed, that everything is just as it was yesterday - the balance of power - that nothing has been gained and nothing lost, that our face is the same, as is our hair and our shape, that the person who hated us continues to hate us and the person who loved us continues to love us. And yet quite the opposite is true, but time conceals this from us with its treacherous minutes and its sly seconds, until a strange, unthinkable day arrives, when nothing is as it always was . . ."