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Thus Bad Begins

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  2,234 ratings  ·  363 reviews
From the internationally acclaimed author of The Infatuations comes the mesmerizing story of a couple living in the shadow of a mysterious, unhappy history–a novel about the cruel, tender punishments we exact on those we love.

Madrid, 1980. Juan de Vere, nearly finished with his university degree, takes a job as personal assistant to Eduardo Muriel, an eccentric, once-succe
Hardcover, 444 pages
Published November 1st 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf (first published September 23rd 2014)
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Giles Moustache Similar only in the husband/wife dynamic, I'd say, which is superficial. Thus Bad Begins, like other Marias novels, is saturated with the narrator's t…moreSimilar only in the husband/wife dynamic, I'd say, which is superficial. Thus Bad Begins, like other Marias novels, is saturated with the narrator's thoughts, perceptions, conjectures, flights of fancy, as well as his limitations and motivations. Moravia is working in a broadly realist tradition--though it has been a while admittedly since I read it--and Marias is not. (less)

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Jun 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It has been a while since I read anything by Marías, and all of the others have been from earlier in his career. This is one of his more accessible books, a slow burning drama of secrets both personal and political, with a title taken from Shakespeare which appears at several pivotal moments.

The narrator is Juan De Vere, a young man who is taken on as a factotum-cum-researcher by a minor Spanish film director Eduardo Muriel. Muriel asks him to investigate unspecified rumours about his friend Dr
Feb 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm starting to get a little worried that we hit peak Marías with his trilogy and that he might now be sliding somewhat into what might possibly pass as decline. It feels like someone has convinced him to chill out a bit with the incredibly intensive, repetitive, highly internal, digressive language and spend more time on actual plot and action, perhaps in order that his novels might be better suited for adaptation to film? This just didn't get in my head with recursive rhythms the way I feel hi ...more
May 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Why should we be loved by the person we have chosen with our tremulous finger? Why that one person, as if he were obliged to obey us? Why should the person who troubles or arouses us and for whose flesh and bones we yearn, why should he desire us? Why should we believe in such coincidences? And when they do happen, why should they last? Yes, why should it last, this rarest of conjunctions, something so fragile, so held together with pins?

Demasadio corazon.

Review in progress :-)
A mesmerizing read
Other writers might have told a story like this in only 150 pages, Marias takes over three times longer, but there’s almost no sentence superfluous. Oh, how I like being sucked into his endless, meandering sentences, his crude, voyeuristic and sometimes even vulgar descriptions and the incessant, impossible complex musings of his main characters. Nothing is easy with this writer and his protagonists, but so is life, isn’t it?

Compared to his masterpiece, the trilogy "Your face t
Kasa Cotugno
After starting a very lightweight novel a week or so ago which I gave up on fairly early, I realized I now want more out of my fiction than mere entertainment. This provided the perfect anodyne. Rich, dense, meaty European fiction incorporating historical and popular references, in fact populated with familiar faces, but not too familiar. Inside dope that may or may not be fact. All to tell the story of a toxic marriage as witnessed by Juan de Vere (or young de Vere, as his boss calls him). Why ...more
Jul 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, translation
indeed, freedom is the first thing that fearful citizens are prepared to give up. so much so that they often ask to lose it, ask for it to be taken away, banished from their sight, which is why they not only applaud the very person intending to take it from them, they even vote for him.
with over a dozen of his books available in english translation, javier marías's stateside renown seems to grow deservedly with each new release. his most recent novel, thus bad begins (así empieza lo malo)
Roman Clodia
Mar 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

The past has a future we never expect,

I could talk about the plot here but, you know, it's not so much a plot as the bare skeleton on which to hang a meditation on secrets, guilt, revenge, retribution, spying, voyeurism, cruelty, truth and lies, love, lust, the desire for power...

Set in 1980, just a handful of years after the death of Franco and the establishment of democracy in Spain, at the plot level this contrasts two secrets and two responses by the film director, Muriel: a pr
Paul Fulcher
May 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Anything you're told, anything you didn't personally witness, is pure rumour, however wrapped up in oaths it comes, all swearing the story to be true. And we can't spend our lives listening to rumours, still less acting in accordance with their many fluctuations. When you give that up, when you give up trying to know what it is you cannot know, perhaps, to paraphrase Shakespeare, perhaps that is when bad begins, but, on the other hand, worse remains behind."

Thus Bad Begins is the most recent n
Katia N
Mar 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everyone who likes the novels by Marias and his manner of writing would not be disappointed. I liked this novel more than "Infatuations" and you can trace the allusions, albeit subtle, to the "Your face tomorrow" trilogy which i consider the best of his novels.

This novel is a profound, deeply moving mediation on the nature of truth; whether it really exists; whether people always like to know it. Also it is about what is more important - revenge or forgiveness and whether they ever come together
Stephen P
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: interiority
This book is an indictment against time passing; its nerve and indifference. He succeeds. In this way the tedious structure and style is a replica of this eternal battle. If it was meant in this manner or arrived at Marias’ doorstep packaged in a plain brown box, then trying trying to open it will provide the patient reader not just the knowledge but the experience. For most this may well be an experience they will rather hear about than go through for over 400 pages.

I enjoyed it. But was this m
lark benobi
I didn't like the story very much. What I loved though was the feeling of being in the presence of a masterful and intelligent storyteller. The language isn't just beautiful--it's also full of insight, where it surprises sentence by sentence. ...more
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: español, spanish-lit
Así empieza lo malo y lo peor queda atrás.

“Thus bad begins and what remains behind is worse” are words from Hamlet, Act 3.

And so bad begins. Juan de Vere, recounts his first job working for the famous film director Eduardo Muriel when he is in his early twenties. The time is 1980. Muriel, an eccentric character who wears an eye patch has many connections and the young Juan is caught up quickly with all the attention that fame brings. And also the bad things. Quickly he starts to discover the un
Nov 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
Well written and constructed, but contained probably one of the most sexist and disturbing portrayals of a female character I've ever crome across. Most descriptions of her are in regard to her physically or sexually (her weight, her thighs, her breasts, her butt, her legs) and she is either begging her verbally abusive husband to love her (which he refuses due to an evil deed she did 8 years prior), passively skrewing most of the other male characters, or attempting suicide. All of the male cha ...more
Justin Evans
Nov 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Another interesting development for Marias; not as interesting as his writing a female narrator in his last novel, but interesting nonetheless. TBB features much more straightforward narrative than any of his other novels, which is to say that large chunks of it are just plot. Still well written, no doubt, but much less unique than his earlier work. Another important departure is his dealing, explicitly, with the Spanish Civil War and the Francoist years that followed it. You could easily read t ...more
Katie Long
I recognize the brilliance and beauty of the writing here as a meditation on time and history and memory, but as a whole, this didn’t really work for me. Instead of sinister and foreboding, I found it to be withholding. Instead of richly detailed, I found it discursive and repetitive. Also, so so much male gaze.
Stacey D.
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I'd like to thank Knopf Marketing and Goodreads Giveaways for sending me this breathtaking novel, won in a giveaway earlier this year.

The title, which is taken from a line in Hamlet, “Thus bad begins, and worse remains behind,” is very fitting for the times we are living in, as we collectively embark on what could be the end of American democracy, the two-party system and life and liberty, which we have come to know and love. This is my last novel of 2016 and has become one of my favorites of th
Jan 23, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
This is the second Javier Marias book I have read, the other being The Infatuations. I have to admit that I was drawn to both these books by the excellent photographs on the covers (The Infatuations has one of my all-time favourite images on its cover). And you shouldn't judge a book by its cover.

This book is what I imagine you would get by combining Hitchcock's "Vertigo" with Ishiguro's "The Remains of the Day". The main protagonist is in the employment of a man and watches the life of the fami
Charles Finch
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
My review from USA Today


Javier Marias is the real deal. His new book, Thus Bad Begins, is a stunning successor to his widely-lauded 2013 novel The Infatuations, both of them written in his sixties, with the freedom and expansiveness that novelists sometimes suddenly attain at that age. This novel, set in Madrid in the early 1980’s, is about the troubled marriage of a filmmaker and his wife. Narrated by the filmmaker’s ingenuous young assistant, it slowly but inexorably moves from innocence towa
Apr 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017
I may have shared with you how I often feel a stranger in this world. When a writer is able to tap into that emotion, to make me reread a sentence because he has just described a way I’ve felt, it is a somewhat rare occurrence. But Javier Marias is one of the few writers who is able to do just that, touch a piece of my heart and make it feel a little less alone.

Take for example, this early description of Beatriz’ troubled marriage, which faintly mirrors my experience with my first husband:

Jaclyn Crupi
Dec 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
'Indeed, freedom is the first thing that fearful citizens are prepared to give up. So much so that they often ask to lose it, ask for it to be taken away, banished from their sight, which is why they not only applaud the very person intending to take it from them, they even vote for him.' Marías is the Ferrante of Spain and deserves a bigger English-language audience. Loved this and will continue to ponder it. Parts if ot reminded me of Fates and Furies and What I Loved. ...more
Bryan--Pumpkin Connoisseur
First let me say that a middle-of-the-road Marías is going to be a lot better than most of the 21st Century literature I've read so far. But the sad fact is I was disappointed in Thus Bad Begins, the literary breakdown of a marriage told in Marías' discursive, layered style. (I can easily imagine that those that like Marías like him a lot, and those that don't can't stand his writing. But that's just a guess) Marías attacks a point over and over, until there is no unexamined view to it, but here ...more
Nov 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In person, Javier Marias says he is surprised when critics say his novels are beautifully constructed. "If they only knew" that he has only a general sense of the direction of the novel when he starts, he says, and writes to find out, himself, what will happen.

This is a beautifully constructed novel. The ending resonates powerfully, having been foreshadowed, somewhat, earlier in the narrative, but still prompting a reevaluation of the earlier passages. There's a fascinating, chillingly ironic se
Ajay P.
Jun 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this Novel also Marias beautifully juxtaposed the complexity of politics and body; the lies and betrayals in love and politics; an intriguing analysis of the mind of post Franco Spain. Among Marias women, Beatriz is most sensuous and melancholiac. But I find the last chapter is unwanted.
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Marias delves into the consequences of keeping vs divulging secrets. Since this book is set in the 80s, the memories of Francoist Spain are still fresh, and past actions still echo in the present, though the drama here is mostly a small-scale domestic one. Like Proust, Marias has crafted another memory-dwelling creeper for a first-person narrator. Young de Vere plays at being a spy, admires the wrong people, and uses his position in the Muriel household to his advantage in sometimes underhanded ...more
Gumble's Yard
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Juan de Vere works as a personal assistant to a famous (although fading) Spanish film maker – Eduardo Muriel.

At the start of the book he is asked by Eduardo to investigate a family friend, the paediatrics doctor Van Vechten (renowned post-war for his generous free treatment of Republican families) – Muriel has heard disturbing rumours that Van Vechten acted very badly to women and needs to find out if there is any truth in them, encouraging the much younger de Vere to invite him to mix with his
Oct 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has left a lasting taste in my memory. The taste of fresh grilled fish with cold beer in the evening, outside in the mild fantastic weather of Yam’soukro, Côte d’Ivoire, where I was reading it in the light of my mobile phone. I will never forget that taste, and the book, for no discernible reason, will remain one of the most memorable and haunting books I have read.
Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great stories. The atmosphere is perfect in every one of them. The characters made me laugh: "no, no, no, ni hablar del peluquín" was one of my favourite sentences. You can see a lot of Marías' characters, story lines and ideas for his novels in these short stories. I enjoyed it very much. ...more
Michael Jantz
Dec 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Still the master. Marias does not disappoint.
Mario Hinksman
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Themes of trust powerfully explored through the eyes of a young assistant to a Madrid film maker. The haunting power of the past and the damage it can bring to the present and the future, are both a theme explored in relation to Spanish history and human relations in general. In turn the value of forgiveness and the appeal of revenge are skillfully layered into this story that is ultimately the story of a particularly difficult marriage.

While the plot is fairly predictable, the richness of the l
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Like other books of his, expect a chatty, over-written, baroque style which will be annoying at times but will delight you overall.

This one was a winner for me because of its form—I’m a sucker for a first-person confessional sort of thing—and my interest in the history of the Spanish civil war and Franco fallout years. And even though it felt like trudging through mud for about a third of it, the end certainly pays off.

If you haven’t read any of his work, I wouldn’t start here, but with Bad Nat
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Javier Marías is a Spanish novelist, translator, and columnist. His work has been translated into 42 languages. Born in Madrid, his father was the philosopher Julián Marías, who was briefly imprisoned and then banned from teaching for opposing Franco. Parts of his childhood were spent in the United States, where his father taught at various institutions, including Yale University and Wellesley Col ...more

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