Each day before work María Dolz stops at the same café. There she finds herself drawn to a couple who is also there every morning. Observing their seemingly perfect life helps her escape the listlessness of her own. But when the man is brutally murdered and María approaches the widow to offer her condolences, what began as mere observation turns into an increasingly complicated entanglement. Winner of Spain's National Literature Prize for Narrative.
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.