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 ... His sentences often contain a tangle, or an explosion of tenses that do everything to undermine the majestic simplicity of the past, present and future in favor of remembered anticipation or fevered speculation ... Marías’s punctuation tells the same story as his arguments: his long sentences, full of thoughts that other writers might separate with a paragraph break or a full stop, often run on, punctuated only by flimsy commas ... The main impact of this technique is to emphasize that thoughts are stories we are telling ourselves ... All the characters in The Infatuations are in a chain of romantic frustration, sleeping with substitutes for the person they really love, sketching relationships they hope to improve later on, if only by disposing of the person they imagine stands in their way ... 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.
...a murder story of archetypal simplicity whose slow unravelling becomes a vehicle for all the big questions about life, love and death. There are passages on almost every page that cry out for quotation. This may be a literary and metaphysical fiction, but it's never boring. Marías plays with perception, memory and guilt like a toreador. With every flourish of his literary cape, the enthralled reader is never allowed to forget that, in the end, the author will make a killing. Just as Macbeth is a thriller that's also a great tragedy, The Infatuations is a murder story that's also a profound study of fatal obsession ... The full text of Don Quixote was first published as long ago as 1620. I wouldn't be surprised if The Infatuations soon acquired an equally devoted following.
The question of why the murdered man died now and not hereafter haunts the book; the plot is animated by the idea that Díaz-Varela, who loves the wife of the murdered man and seems made for her, might have a good deal to gain from his friend’s death. Marías is more concerned, at least on the surface, with the resonance of the murder, with the shape and texture of its aftermath, than he is interested in anything as banal as solving a crime ... Marías’s great skill is to make this natural and to implicate the reader in its moral maze. He manages to match his complex diction with a complex vision about what is right or wrong ... The Infatuations has a strange, insinuating afterglow that forces the reader to rethink the entire book, or at least wonder, and wonder seriously, about the narrator herself, what she does and what she does not do.
Margaret Jull Costa, with her habitual skill, has rendered Marías's precise, somewhat laconic Spanish into graceful and equally laconic English, but the title necessarily defeats her ... The classical themes of love, death and fate are explored with elegant intelligence by Marías in what is perhaps his best novel so far. The story's literary underpinnings are Macbeth (as is usual in Marías), Balzac's Colonel Chabert and, more surprisingly, Dumas's The Three Musketeers, all glossed by Díaz Varela, who paternalistically instructs Dolz on the importance these three books have for him ... Marías is an old hand at hoodwinking the reader, layering his novels with plots that seem, each one, final, but then suddenly blossom into something unexpected.
The Infatuations is mysterious and seductive; it's got deception, it's got love affairs, it's got murder — the book is the most sheerly addictive thing Marías has ever written. It hooks you from its very first lines ... It's more of a metaphysical thriller — closer in spirit to the Michelangelo Antonioni film Blow-Up than to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Marías uses his crime plot to explore the elusiveness of perception, the fragility of memory and the violence lurking within ordinary life, including supposedly 'happy' feelings like being in love ... Marías calls into question the certainties that most of us — including most other novelists — take for granted.
The narrative is confined to half-a-dozen characters and, although the novel kicks off with an act of savage brutality, most of it ponders vital metaphysical questions relating to the moment of death, the nature of mourning, the fluency of love, time, memory, fidelity, friendship, and so on ... the mystery of the success of Marías’s novel could, by no means, be found in the story ... Marías’s disquisitions are not only tedious and pedestrian, but also built upon commonplaces and clichéd contemporary commoditised ‘commonsense’. Furthermore, the same topics have been at the core of his novels for the past forty years. Maybe the reiteration and the shallowness are due to lack of planning? ... the voice – since there seems to be just one, regardless of whether you are male or female, thug or writer – is a tedious echo of past novels.
Marías reveals all of this efficiently, then sets it aside in the early pages of his four-part Infatuations. Death is not the spoiler here. Anyone equipped solely with the curiosity of a whodunit aficionado will be sorely disappointed, probably bored, and likely frustrated by the novel’s remaining three acts ... What follows are signature Marías digressions, with ruminations on death, time, truth, memory, envy, and infatuation—the great themes get turned over again and again, like soil in a graveyard ... It is a novel that can tug conventionally with the promise of revelation and deliver on the most obvious questions: What happened? Who did it? Why? ... Marías’ novel operates on so many levels simultaneously, it becomes a piece of evidence itself, an artifact that proves its own argument. It is a dizzying feat that relegates 'metafiction' to that dreary province literary terms go should they fail to articulate, as The Infatuations does so artfully, that life and fiction are inventions often made from the same materials.
Marías sets himself the challenge of a female narrator, María Dolz, a publishing employee. She works well, but is little different from his other narrators: an observer, something of a voyeur ... As usual, Marías makes unlikely situations feel plausible and creates a sense of sinister danger ... Marías's method is to set up parallel relationships, and explore them ... The Infatuations is not Marías's greatest novel: the tale is slighter than in others and the set-piece tours de force not so exciting. There is less humour, too, despite several fine scenes. The novel is pleasurable in its rhythm and in the voice, with its insights and doubts. Few writers catch so well the inner rhythms of a - neurotic - person's mind.
Asymmetrical love affairs, sudden (often violent) death, the wobbly nature of identity and the curious link between the fictions we read (or write) and the shaky narratives we fabricate from our own lives are the recurrent fixations of this witty, urbane and acutely perceptive writer. Superficially, The Infatuations is a romantic fable inside a crime story, focused on a thirtysomething Madrid single, Maria, who may be a namesake for the author ... Through interlacing internal monologues, the novel switches seamlessly between the minimal action that occurs, which may or may not jibe with its characters’ fantasies, projections and rationalizations about what occurs ... Dialogue and plot frequently pause for paragraphs, even pages, to make way for the characters’ inner soliloquies ... Masquerading as melodrama, “The Infatuations” gradually unmasks itself as a philosophical crime-scene investigation, in which Marías’ scalpel-like prose and microscopic observations lay bare the fragmented, indeterminate nature not only of our most intimate relationships but of everything we think we know about why we behave as we do.
The first half of The Infatuations comprises the most mature meditation on death and dying in Marías’s corpus, perhaps a result of Julián Marías’s passing in 2005 ... The Infatuations invites us to acknowledge injustice, from private accidents to national catastrophes, as ultimately vital to our pleasure and peace ... María is the most ghostly narrator in an oeuvre populated by eavesdroppers, stalkers, and lingerers ... Marías’s novel weaves an intricate web, but its triumph is in the power of its narrator. By transforming a female into a kind of shade, Marías found the ideal voice — detached, inquisitive, and vigilant — for one of his finest novels.
Marías takes slightly trashy, eye-catching plots, then winds long, philosophical digressions around them like so many knotty, twisty pieces of string. These digressions consist of what Marías calls pensamiento literario, 'literary thinking,' which is different from philosophical thinking because it 'allows you to contradict yourself' ... How do we really feel about the dead, after they’re gone? Is murder truly always as revolting to us as it seems in the abstract? The characters in The Infatuations think about these questions through the works of old masters ... All Marías books feel like chapters in one much longer book. And it’s one you should start reading, if you haven’t already.
The Infatuations is a metaphysical exploration masquerading as a murder mystery. The narrator, the widow and the best friend spend much of the book engaged in conversation, or imagined conversation, or recollected conversation, living simultaneously in a past both real and fantasy, tinged with nostalgia and regret, and a future imbued with suspicion and impossible hopes ... Between the interstices of the fragile plot of The Infatuations are disquisitions on life and death, freedom, the consequences of love, the impossibility of ever knowing another, and the role of fiction ... Along the way we get his immaculate prose and his sardonic view of the implacable nature of time.
It’s a plot that in the hands of a traditional and less interesting novelist could have been walked down predictable pathways ... Indeed, it’s quite a feat that María, few vestiges of whose own reality are disclosed, should be able to hold our attention as she does ... Discursive, digressive, repetitive, she speaks in a style reminiscent of the French nouveau roman. Statements are restated, reiterated, qualified and modified ... Preferring the comma to the stop, Marías’s extended, many-claused sentences equally have a Jamesian quality ... What makes him exciting is not just his way of seeing but his way of writing. María’s ruminations – hypnotic, banal and profound by turns – open up, in the spirit of Joyce, a sense of new possibilities
The Infatuations takes you where very few novels do…to dark thoughts and long passages of suggested theories or, at times, even to entirely imagined conversations between characters. Plot advancement takes a back seat. Instead, a narrator’s thoughts offer various perspectives on life, death and love…and, appropriately, infatuation ... The Infatuations sometimes overlooks the actual story to instead highlight how Marías presents his story ... Marías obviously and absolutely revels in taking a single idea or thought, then riffing, building on it, sometimes for paragraphs, even pages, at a time. One sentence runs a page and a half. At times, multiple pages pass with no action or event, instead centering on the narrator’s inner reflections ... The discussion and analysis of death’s after-effects remain more vital to the novel than the events surrounding Miguel’s death ... The style cannot entirely escape criticism. For some, even an appreciation for introspective searching cannot mask a burning desire to know what happens next in a snail-paced plot ... Still, Marías forces us at every turn to question the source of words, to remember and separate facts from suspicions.
The book probes what defines the boundary between love and infatuation, and how often both can be on shaky ground ... In The Infatuations, we have the possibility that perhaps life, unlike the novel, is quite a different, more complicated thing, and the jaded notions of manipulations and cynicism apparent to Maria are simply products of her bitter worldview ... The Infatuations, containing the qualities of Marías’s best work, is an important addition to his oeuvre.
This cerebral, coolly compelling crime novel appears in the first instance to have one of those observant but passive narrators recognisable from works such as The Great Gatsby, Brideshead Revisited and The Secret History: a bystander who reports on the main action without doing a great deal to alter its course. As it turns out Maria, our guiding voice here, gets a little closer to the flame than the reader is initially given to expect – and responds in a rather more complex way ... Much of what occurs in Marías’ novel is powered by the supposed passion stirred by one character for another, and this primacy of emotion does not languish unanalysed: over screeds of conversation and conjecture, these characters assess love and what it might drive them to do ... This is a mature, thoughtful take on potboilerish content: a crime thriller seen through a philosophical and literary filter, which, while it dwells little on the gory details of its central misdeeds, can find copious pages on which to synopsise and muse on slightly relevant texts by Balzac and Dumas ... Smart, thoughtful, morally challenging and consistently surprising in its tense twists, this is a sleek atmospheric work – one that gives the lie to its persistent contention that fiction and 'the idiotic world of publishing' have nothing much to tell us about our lives.
It is an odd and certainly counterintuitive mode, perhaps, for what at its heart is a spin on a dime-store crime novel or a made-for-TV melodrama, with its affection for stock characters and portentous gestures, dealing with a murder that seems sewn up until the case begins to unravel ... In a book in which other books—not just Balzac’s, but Macbeth and The Three Musketeers—play intricate leading roles, where literature brushes against the messy flux of life, the relation of story to reality becomes less and less a cut-and-dry question for María ... The Infatuations reads at times as if Marías were offering a novelist’s twist on A Lover’s Discourse wrapped inside a murder mystery ... It might not work if Marías’s sentences didn’t themselves exert such a hypnotic hold. His characters often think and talk with gestures of grandiloquence, which could annoy, or at least have an unlifelike drag, but somehow doesn’t ... The prose of The Infatuations is as casual as spoken language yet paradoxically feels honed to within an inch of its life.
Marías’s novel is also a riposte to the relentless pacing of genre fiction. For as well as paring down the form he has extended it, telescoping time in such a way that he can articulate the moral and ethical assumptions that inform our seemingly intuitive decisions ... Unsurprisingly, these almost Kundera-like mini-essays impact on the verisimilitude of the narrative, but this matters not for they are beautifully written, and impish in their moral ambiguity ... By contenting himself with a single death Marías is able to cut through the fat of the modern murder mystery so that we might see homicide for what it is: the worst of crimes but also something commonplace, a cliché.
Consciousness is very much centre stage in The Infatuations, namely, the ways in which one's consciousness plays on the corporeal world – and the ways the consciousnesses of others play on one another – and vice versa ... Like in Marías's other novels (A Heart So White, for example, and the Your Face Tomorrow trilogy, his magnum opus) there is a sort of system of quotations that repeat, echoing and resonating like musical themes. Even the thoughts of characters recur in the thoughts and speech of other characters; there is a porousness to the consciousnesses Marías represents: sentences and souls intermingle and become entangled ... In addition to being psychologically penetrating, The Infatuations is a wonderful mystery, in which catastrophes are contingent and everything is mutable and, therefore, unpredictable. Marías keeps the reader guessing till the last page of this mesmerizing and vertiginous and, often, bone-chilling and hair-raising novel.
As always with Marías, there are no definitive answers, only the exploration of provocative ideas in his trademark style: long, looping sentences (superbly translated by Costa) that mimic the stuttering starts and stops of a restless mind ... Marías’ rare gift is his ability to make this intellectual jousting as suspenseful as the chase scenes in a commercial thriller. He’s tremendously stimulating to read; arresting turns of phrase enfold piercing insights ... Though eschewing overt political commentary, the novel makes crystal clear the bitter contemporary relevance of someone who believes guilt can be evaded through 'murder-by-delegation' ... Blindingly intelligent, engagingly accessible—it seems there’s nothing Marías can’t make fiction do. No wonder he’s perennially mentioned as a potential Nobel laureate.
With philosophical rigor, Marías uses the page-turning twists of crime fiction to interrogate the weighty concepts of grief, culpability, and mortality. Indeed, scattered throughout are metafictional reflections on the limits and power of literature’s hypotheticals, while María’s job at a publishing company provides comic relief in its caricatures of the vanities of writers. The novel’s power lies in its melding of readable momentum and existential depth. Through Costa’s lucid translation, the prose exhibits Marías’s trademark clarity and digressive uncertainty; a novel that further secures Marías’s position as one of contemporary fiction’s most relevant voices.