such a good passage on Marîas I have to steal it from Scott Esposito--
Adam Thirwell reviews Javier Marias’ newest novel. This is a good time to remind everyone that Marias himself approves of my long essay on the question of sexuality in his novels.
This makes for a reading experience that is sometimes urbanely sensual – one of María’s most brilliant riffs in the novel is an expanded meditation on the various implications of appearing with or without a bra in front of a stranger – and sometimes abstractly philosophical; or, maybe more precisely, sensual and philosophical, simultaneously. For the real pleasure is in the strange things his narrators do to the business of narration. Marías has discovered a unique form – even if he himself might deny the possibility of uniqueness in literature. He has a fastidious dislike of originality. In an essay he once wrote in praise of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s novel The Leopard, he admitted that he did not believe in the idea of literary progress. For everything in literature, he argued, exists in a state of timelessness: “Old and new texts breathe in unison, so much so that one wonders sometimes if everything that has ever been written is not simply the same drop of water falling on the same stone, and if, perhaps, the only thing that really changes is the language of each age”. But Marías is original; he cannot help it. And this originality derives from these ghostly first-person narrators, who possess an unusually double talent: for digression and transition. In a recent book of conversations, the composer Thomas Adès quoted Morton Feldman’s aphorism on Beethoven: “it’s not so much how he gets into things that’s interesting, it’s how he gets out of them”. And this is also true of Marías. Like Beethoven, he is a brilliant escape artist. His narrators can drift for giant lengths, and yet still re-emerge, calmly, on to the same stage, transformed by their reflections.