Phil had noted a contradiction in the book---this passage on page 135
“Once you’ve finished a novel, what happened in it is of little importance and soon forgotten. What matters are the possibilities and ideas that the novel’s imaginary plot communicates to us and infuses us with.”
And a second version on page 233 “ 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 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.”
Maria Dolz is reporting this now as something she remembers Javier having told her when she had asked what happened to Chabert back on 135 of our novel. But now Marías has Maria add “That isn’t true, or, rather, it’s sometimes true, but one doesn’t always forget what happened, not in a novel that almost everyone knew or knows, even those who have never read it, nor in reality when what happens is actually happening to us and is going to be our story, which could end one way or another with no novelist to decide and independent of anyone else . . . “
But we know by now that Marías can allow his character Maria to disagree with what Javier told her about the nature of novels because by now we know that Javier’s claim is true, or rather his theory of why novels are important is by now firmly lodged in our consciousness as true and so now we can disagree with it a bit---enjoy hearing Maria disagree with it a bit as a way of emphasizing her reality to herself and her own meditations on her reality versus novelistic reality, all of which further underlines the great reality we have been giving to the novel we are still reading, whatever our own personal real lives are like.
I looked up the idea of contradiction in The Infatuations and the first piece it found is a review in the Times by no less than Edward St Aubyn. NYTimes August 8
He describes the novel so well and knows Marías’s work so well that I now despair saying much about it because if I do I will produce a very poor work of envy---the very motive and emotion that the novel depicts. St Aubyn points this out so well:
quote Few things attract evil’s indignation more than a Perfect Couple, whether it’s Adam and Eve or Miguel and Luisa. The particular form of evil that preoccupies Marías in “The Infatuations” (as it did in “Your Face Tomorrow”) is envy turning into betrayal. The definition of “envidia,” or “envy,” in Covarrubias’s dictionary of 1611 is quoted three times in “The Infatuations” (the reappearance of the same blocks of prose is another signature effect of Marías’s novels: prose aspiring to the condition of music, bringing back a theme, not in a vague or allusive sense, but in exactly its original form): “Unfortunately, this poison is often engendered in the breasts of those who are and who we believe to be our closest friends, in whom we trust; they are far more dangerous than our declared enemies.” unquote
He notes too how Marías conveys great empathy toward the characters and great emotional generosity.
Such a high level of reflection and digression (let’s not even get into the amount of literary allusion) might easily become too cerebral, but Marías’s powerful awareness of indecisiveness and delusion is born not only of a speculative frame of mind but of a penetrating empathy. At one point the narrator gives voice to Miguel’s bereaved possessions, the clothes hanging in his cupboard and the novel with the page turned down and the unfinished medication in the bathroom cabinet, to consider what they might make of his death. This feeling of emotional generosity tempers the literary thinking, as do the scenes of pure comedy, like the Oxford high-table dinner in Marías’s novel “All Souls,” with its Buñuel-like degeneration of absurd formality into violence and contempt.
Marías’s line about the possibilities a novel infuses us with could be the epigraph for every novel.
The musical style of the work St Aubyn notes well too : “the reappearance of the same blocks of prose is another signature effect of Marías’s novels: prose aspiring to the condition of music, bringing back a theme, not in a vague or allusive sense, but in exactly its original form”
It is so good an essay-review I could just copy all of it out--one more big quotation for how it describes his style---
Marías has pointed out that the Latin root of the verb “to invent,” invenire, means to discover or find out. His special gift is to bring these two processes, inquiry and narration, into a conjunction, making things up as he discovers them and discovering them as he makes them up. He never works to a plan, and so his prose stays close to the thought processes of a writer working out what to say next and responding to what he has, perhaps mistakenly, just said. “The Infatuations” goes on to explore the narrator’s relationship with the widow and with the best friend of the murdered Miguel. At first he appears to have been killed by a stray madman. The plot, several times changing our perspective on the murder, works very well as a thriller, but it is essentially a pretext for advancing the skeptical worldview embodied by the style.
Skeptical worldview embodied by the style. Seems a perfect characterization.
Now we could privately debunk a bit just for the exercise. If Marías is making fun of himself in the portrait of Garay Fontina, the obnoxious writer who is waiting to give his speech for the Nobel Prize, it could be further proof that he is, after all, one of those laureates whose whole trajectory is to win the laurels, in other words the star pupil driven to be the star-of-stars by-the-book, to win the A+ from the teacher, and not by genuine creative brilliance. What he provides as high entertainment for this generation of readers may not be great literature at all but high-highness of entertainment---yet another variant of masterpiece theater---visible precisely in the supreme command he displays for doing the literary sort of thinking his father the philosopher would have both admired and thought not quite adequate for being not fully philosophical but a fallen literary form of philosophicalization. Marías may have to suffer winning for literature and not philosophy because I guess there is no Nobel for philosophy.
“Whatever else we may think is going on when we read, we are choosing to spend time in an author’s company. In Javier Marías’s case this is a good decision; his mind is insightful, witty, sometimes startling, sometimes hilarious, and always intelligent.” StAubyn
I don’t know if St Aubyn knows that the Spanish consider envy to be their trademark deadly sin. With that in mind, I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what games Marías’s novel might be offering to his countrymen. “Yes, I might get the Nobel, so I know you envy me or will envy me for this, even though you tend to think that I’m not really a Spanish writer but more of an English writer in Spanish costume.” “If I don’t get the prize, you will envy me nevertheless simply because of the rumors that I might win. So here is a set of tales of infatuations, or envies, to show how well I understand our national character and how much I count myself prone to the same dominant sin as the rest of you.” No doubt there could be much more to it than this. I need to consult with some Spanish friends who have read the book. And who know the kinds of games Marías likes to play with his native readers.
Also we must remember that Marías could have written the novel to the Swedes, to give them a game while everyone waits. “Well, if you give me the prize, I just want you to know that I’m of good humor about it and not at all as conceited or obnoxious as that terrible writer of my own creation in the novel, Garay Fontina, would be.” “If you don’t give it to me, rest assured I will not indulge the envy we Spaniards are so prone to, but will celebrate the winner with generous and intelligent goodwill. After all in this novel I have shown how much fun we all have with even the rumors of Nobel prize-dom.”