Monday, February 3, 2014

The Infatuations, by Javier Marías

As with A Heart So White, The Infatuations is essentially a novel-length meditation on a single line from Macbeth—in this case: "She should have died hereafter," the opening line from Macbeth's famous "sound and fury" soliloquy.

And, as in A Heart So White, Marías continues to be too stylized for my taste—by which I mean: too repetitive; by which I mean: I grow weary listening to the same rhetorical mode, page after page, regardless of who's speaking, in which a word is offered to describe (let's say) an action, but that word is then immediately modified or revised or refined by the speaker—often the narrator—as if language at the moment of its utterance always fails or blunders or disappoints, and that failure can only be addressed or mitigated or contained by more words, relentlessly, or unrelentingly, and hopelessly, or despairingly, until the final page.

There's something to that, of course, epistemologically speaking. A verb is not its action.

Still, it's disconcerting to encounter a writer with so little confidence in language.

Or, better said, it's perturbing to always, only listen to characters for whom life's greatest drama is not what we can communicate but that we can't, and who experience that drama, both epistemologically and ontologically, in exactly the same way.

In other words: Javier Marías has made a career of repudiating Shakespeare's confidence in language, which is total, absolute, and—for good reason—besotted.

Put another way: Marías has made a career of writing about Shakespeare by enacting Hamlet's indecision, at the level of the sentence, over and over, for thousands of pages, in which language is not a creator of truth—of the creator of a truth—but its futile pursuit.

Perhaps Marías is trying to understand how all of us, Shakespeare's children, lost what should have been our best inheritance: the poet's confidence—and joy—in the vitality, primacy, and utility of words.

Or he's reminding us that it's all we have and not what we believe it to be, Shakespeare notwithstanding.

Anyway, The Infatuations might be the best book of 2013—it's brilliant, brimming with passages that you'll want to read to your lover—but I had more fun reading Glitz, which constructed more than one kind of consciousness.

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