August 4, 2014 by Reader's Connection
An inmate at the Marion County Jail once told me that he didn’t want any books by Agatha Christie. I don’t think we did much Christie business at the jail, but he must have spotted a paperback on my cart, and he complained that the Queen of Crime Fiction could go on forever just describing somebody’s nose. Around his own nose he made an impatient, hovering gesture.
If you’re like my inmate, and you want your tales of murder to rattle quickly toward their violent ends, don’t read The Infatuations by Javier Marías. His narrator, María Dolz, doesn’t dwell on noses, but she is fixated on one individual’s lips, and she makes observations at length about love and death and memory and the faultiness of human perception. I love her, she makes me laugh, but she’s not in a hurry.
Miguel Desvern is murdered horribly on the street in Madrid. María didn’t really know the man, but she liked eating breakfast in the same café where Miguel and his wife ate, and that thread of connection draws María into situations where she learns more about the murder than she wants to know. I’m not a detective, she tells us. What do I care about justice?
And she’s forever doubting the truth of what she has just learned.
Most Spanish writers are idiots–that’s according to María, who works in a Madrid publishing house and unloads on the subject whenever she can–but Javier Marías has written a mortality-obsessed tale that I love.