Every morning María Dolz, the main character in Javier Marías’ latest novel “The Infatuations,” eats breakfast in the same small cafe on her way to work. And every day she observes “The Perfect Couple”: a long-term married pair eagerly sharing breakfast as though on a first date.
But one day Miguel, the man, is brutally murdered on the way to his car. María comforts the widow and becomes involved in their world, first by falling for Miguel’s best friend and then by discovering, through a series of observations and overheard conversations, that Miguel’s murder is not as it seems.
Reminiscent of the writings of Albert Camus, “The Infatuations” (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 352 pages, $26.95) is equal parts mystery and metaphysical mediation on envy, influence, and the danger that comes when the dead come back to us — either literally (such as in the case of Colonel Chabert by Honoré de Balzac, which is heavily referenced) or figuratively.
“Yes, the dead are quite wrong to come back, and yet almost all of them do, they won’t give up, and they strive to become a burden to the living until the living shake them off in order to move on.”
But who is responsible for the dead? If a man is murdered, who must be held accountable — only the man who pulls the trigger, or also the man who plants the seed of murder in his mind and encourages its growth?
It’s clear to see why Javier Marías’ name is often mentioned in discussions of potential recipients of the Nobel Prize in Literature, as “The Infatuations” beautifully tackles themes that strike at the heart of the human condition. Marías meticulously weaves philosophical arguments, classic literature, and real and imagined conversations together, resulting in a kaleidoscopic masterpiece.
This is by no means a quick read, and classic literature shouldn’t be: this is a book to be savored, discussed and read again.
Laura Farmer is writing studio director at Cornell College. Find an archive of her reviews at laurafarmerreviews.com.