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A Heart So White

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Javier Marías's A Heart So White chronicles with unnerving insistence the relentless power of the past. Juan knows little of the interior life of his father Ranz; but when Juan marries, he begins to consider the past anew, and begins to ponder what he doesn't really want to know. Secrecy—its possible convenience, its price, and even its civility—hovers throughout the novel. A Heart So White becomes a sort of anti-detective story of human nature. Intrigue; the sins of the father; the fraudulent and the genuine; marriage and strange repetitions of violence: Marías elegantly sends shafts of inquisitory light into the shadows and on to the costs of ambivalence. ("My hands are of your colour; but I shame/To wear a heart so white"—Shakespeare's Macbeth.)

280 pages, Paperback

First published February 13, 1992

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About the author

Javier Marías

129 books1,987 followers
Javier Marías was 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 College. His mother died when Javier was 26 years old. He was educated at the Colegio Estudio in Madrid.

Marías began writing in earnest at an early age. "The Life and Death of Marcelino Iturriaga", one of the short stories in While the Women are Sleeping (2010), was written when he was just 14. He wrote his first novel, "Los dominios del lobo" (The Dominions of the Wolf), at age 17, after running away to Paris.

Marías operated a small publishing house under the name of Reino de Redonda. He also wrote a weekly column in El País. An English version of his column "La Zona Fantasma" is published in the monthly magazine The Believer.

In 1997 Marías won the Nelly Sachs Prize.

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Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 2 books247k followers
March 8, 2020
”Listening is the most dangerous thing of all, listening means knowing, finding out about something and knowing what’s going on, our ears don’t have lids that can instinctively close against the words uttered, they can’t hide from what they sense they’re about to hear, it’s always too late.”

Juan is trained to listen to people. He is a professional translator, so when he is listening to conversations it comes in his ears in one language and comes out his mouth in another language. He is the only person in the room that fully understands the conversation. His job is to make sure there are no misunderstandings. When he meets Luisa for the first time she is the person there to insure that he is doing his job properly while translating a conversation between two heads of state. Juan slips in his own suggestions into the translations, a puppet master, which he is not supposed to do. He is really just flirting with Luisa and seeing what she will do.

Wouldn’t life be easier if we could just write the dialogue for other people? Your spouse, your friends, your coworkers. If only we could stop time, our own fermata key, and scrub out an errant response and just rewrite it, but then life would be a novel where all the dialogue is pitch perfect. Conversations are very messy. Think of the fumbling around and miscues that lead to misunderstandings. Sometimes it is hours later before our minds conjure up what would have been the best possible words in the best possible arrangement.

Juan has that power. He can clean up conversations and gently nudge events in a direction that he feels will lead to a more productive exchange of words. It is kind of scary actually.

Javier Marias tips us off to what is on his mind with the very title of this book.

My hands are of your color; but I shame
To wear a heart so white.
Macbeth William Shakespeare

He carefully weaves the thread of Macbeth throughout the novel. What we hear can not be unheard. When we know, we are complicit.

As I was making notes about some of the more striking passages of Marias writing, which began to get ridiculous, especially, when I made the realization that I was noting something on nearly every page, I discovered that he is not a writer concerned with pithy beautiful one liners. He uses whole paragraphs with complex thoughts circling one another like a dance. I found myself thinking I understood what he was saying only to read it again and find another layer and another layer until I’m convinced, despite the archaeological dig I’ve performed on his words, that I’m still missing something very important hidden in the hieroglyphics of his intentions.

”If nothing of what happens happens, because nothing happens without interruption, nothing lasts or endures or is ceaselessly remembered, what takes place is identical to what doesn’t take place, what we dismiss or allow to slip by us is identical to what we accept and seize, what we experience is identical to what we never try; we pour all our intelligence and our feelings and our enthusiasm into the task of discriminating between things that will all be made equal, if they haven't already been, and that’s why we're so full of regrets and lost opportunities, of confirmations and reaffirmations and opportunities grasped, when the truth is that nothing is affirmed and everything is constantly in the process of being lost. Or perhaps there never was anything.”

Juan marries Luisa although I do wonder if he loves her or if he just felt it was time to get married. He does ponder, with such objectivity, the advantages of sleeping with someone, not in regards to sex, but all the other things such as comfort, not being alone, and the pleasantness of knowing that someone you trust literally has your back. Juan/Javier wants to understand everything, even those mundane things, that the rest of us accept, without thinking about. Why do we do what we do?

I’ve been overlooking a lot I’m afraid. Life needs to leave more juice on my chin.

Juan’s job and Luisa’s as well, though less so now that she has married, takes them away for work sometimes eight weeks at a time. He ends up in New York staying with a friend and fellow translator, Berta, who he once had a relationship fifteen years. I don’t think that Luisa knows that they had a fling because I can’t imagine anyone would feel comfortable with their spouse hanging out with any old flame. As it turns out Luisa has nothing to worry about, whatever spark was once there is no longer striking the flint. Juan becomes caught up in Berta’s search for a new man. Lets just say things become more strange/comical the more he tries to help her. He is surprised to find that the longer he is away the more he has twinges of the green eyed monster in regards to the family friend... Custardoy the Younger.

Custardoy the Older was the original best friend of Juan’s father Ranz, but after he passed away Custardoy the Younger stepped into his father’s shoes. Custardoy knows things about Juan’s father that Juan doesn’t know, not necessarily because his father has meant to withhold these things from his son, but with all children we tell them edited versions of the truth expecting at some point when they are older to tell them more.

Custardoy is the type of guy that you would not feel comfortable leaving your wife, girlfriend, pet chinchilla, or any female friend you care for at all alone with him. He has, in Juan’s opinion, a bit of a fixation on Luisa although this is easily disregarded (but not totally so) because Custardoy has a fixation on any reasonably attractive female that happens to pass by in range of his lascivious eyes.

Luisa becomes obsessed with learning Ranz’s secrets. She knows that due to his affection for her that she can wrangle them from him. Juan is unsure he wants to know. His relationship with his father is very good and there is always the possibility that knowing more will change the dynamics of what has really become a friendship beyond just father and son. Luisa’s insistence is slightly annoying, but then a novelist can’t dangle something like this and not come through for us. There are a lot of people that insist knowing everything is preferable to not knowing. I tend to fall into the category of never wanting to pry. If people want to tell me something then I’m happy to listen, but I never want to be the guy that corners anyone into telling me anything they don’t want to tell me.

We learn a lot about secrets as we grow older, maybe because we start to accumulate them. Some people like to be open books telling everyone, even strangers, the most intimate details of their lives. Telling someone something in confidence is usually the same thing as telling everyone. They tend to tell someone your secret “in confidence” and so on and so forth until everyone eventually knows. If you want to keep something secret you must bear the burden of telling no one. Ranz tells Custardoy something confidential. Custardoy intimates that he knows this secret to Juan. Juan then discusses this disturbing if incomplete knowledge he acquired from Custardoy with Luisa.

Luisa must know the rest.

After all wouldn’t it be best for all their interlocking relationships for the truth to be known?

You might think to yourself what a slender volume this is at 246 pages.You might be fooled into thinking it will consume an afternoon, but that will not be the case. The book will consume days mainly because you will quickly find that you must not be disturbed, in the slightest, when you are reading this book. Thoughts trek across paragraphs and on into pages. You must follow the string of evolving concepts or you will be lost. You will probably need to reread passages anyway, but it would be tragic if you missed something merely because you think this is novel, an entertainment, a killer of time. Marias captures you in a page and holds you hostage. He demands that you listen and think and think some more. You will emerge from reading this novel with more astute eyes. You will ponder your new self and realize that Marias has shared much more with you than a few interesting insights, but actually something more akin to a philosophy.

Don’t be afraid. This is why we read after all. Highly Recommended!

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Ilse.
441 reviews2,775 followers
November 19, 2022
I did not want to know but I have since come to know that one of the girls, when she wasn’t a girl anymore and hadn’t long been back from honeymoon, went into the bathroom, stood in front of the mirror, unbuttoned her blouse, took off her bra and aimed her own father’s gun at her heart, her father at the time was in the dining room with other members of the family and three guests.

Bang! What an explosive entry. From the first deliciously long, savoury, suspenseful sentence Javier Marías had me hooked, holding me dangling on his words like a fish that lost sense of its fish nature, oblivious if it is water or air that is essential for life – or both. Even if I thought having an inkling of what to expect with this second foray into his writing after reading Thus Bad Begins a few years ago, Marías brilliant writing took my breath away.

Opening with the suicide of the sister of the narrator’s mother – a sister who as well had been married to the narrator father, Ranz, previously - Marías weaves an intriguing tapestry out of family secrets and mysteries, circling around the shady past of Juan’s enigmatic father Ranz and his two – or three? – marriages. At least one of these women being dead, allusions on Bluebeard slowly sneak under the skin. Why does Ranz give Juan the nuptial advice not to share all his secrets with his bride? What is he hiding? Juan’s bewilderment on his family’s past interferes with his feelings of mystification by his own recent marriage with Luisa, his ominous sense of foreboding that disaster looms over them, cunningly drawing the reader in by weaving variations on the book’s epigraph from Macbeth as a leitmotif throughout the novel:

My hands are of your colour; but I Shame
To wear A Heart So White

Isn’t one of the pleasures of marriage that one is able to share and talk about ‘everything’ safely and at ease, finding a non-judging listening ear in the intimacy of pillow talk? Why would one keep things to oneself? Once something has been told, it cannot be untold. The listener’s heart might no longer be white, but tainted by knowledge that is unbearable.

The truth never shines forth, as the saying goes, because the only truth is that which is known to no one and which remains untransmitted, that which is not translated into words or images, that which remains concealed and unverified, which is perhaps why we do recount so much or even everything, to make sure that nothing has ever really happened, not once it's been told...

At first, because of the multiple scenes of eavesdropping and voyeurism (an important leitmotif in Marías Thus Bad Begins as well) and the complex and intriguing relationship of Juan with his father Ranz, I was reminded of Alberto Moravia’s The Voyeur. While Moravia’s novel however has heavy Freudian undertones, Marías doesn’t seem interested in such straightforward psychologising. By the figure of the mysterious father he rather evokes the elusiveness and intangibility of life– a point he returns to several times in the novel: We spend our lives in a process of choosing and rejecting and selecting, in drawing a line to separate these identical things and make of our story a unique story that we can remember and that can be recounted, either now or at the end of time, and thus can be erased or swept away, the annulment of everything we are and do.

Apart from the flowing sentences meandering the reader through the narrative in a slightly intoxicating pace, what makes this book so delicious are its many echoes, inner resonances of themes, reflections and motifs which are mirrored in Marías’ ample use of repetitions giving the novel the quality of a musical composition. From Juan’s fairly innocent duplicity in his work as a translator to Ranz’ dubious exploits as an art expert, Marías questions the sheer possibility of truth and truthfulness, making the point that one simply cannot know the truth. His irreverent, playful tone seems to suggest best to take the futility of truth and life lightly, but cannot conceal a subtle undertone of melancholy.

The novel is replete with amusing interludes and absurdist, almost slapstick scenes, showing Marías as a lover of the art of stylish digression. From an essay of Jonathan Coe on the book, I gathered that Don Quixote, rather than Tristram Shandy must have been on Marías’ mind as a type of digression (having read neither Don Quixote nor Tristram Shandy, Coe’s observations are a powerful reminder to try to squeeze them in before everything ends, which can happen any moment, Marías’ recent sudden demise a sad memento mori).

Marriage and secrets, perhaps they are as inseparable as Siamese twins, the one unable to exist without the other?

Does something become true if we repeat it often enough? Revealing more would just spoil the reading pleasure of discovering the many delight this novel has in store for yourself, unnecessarily risking a stain on your reader’s heart still white.
Profile Image for Guille.
728 reviews1,349 followers
January 27, 2021
Tiene esta novela uno de los principios más potentes que he leído nunca (creo haber leído en algún sitio que relata un hecho real). Su estilo, sin enamorarme perdidamente, me convence, las distintas líneas narrativas que se van entretejiendo me parecen muy bien llevadas y perfectamente acopladas y sus reflexiones que son el cuerpo de la novela, aunque no siempre comparto, son siempre interesantes, como esa de “lo que sucedió es igual a lo que no sucedió” o esa hermana gemela suya de que “nada sucede realmente”, ambas lo suficientemente crípticas y ambiguas como para que cada uno las interprete y las acepte según su estado y condición.

P.D. Mi primer libro de Marías, y ahora que acabo de leer Los enamoramientos, veo que nuestros inicios no fueron un flechazo precisamente, pero ya se veía venir el inicio de una gran amistad. Y esa portada, lo que ha dado de sí esa portada, quién lo hubiera pensado.
Profile Image for Steven Godin.
2,284 reviews2,153 followers
February 10, 2017
Masterfully intriguing and told using a seductive and challenging narrative, Javier Marias goes from sentence to dazzling sentence that reaches deep within the human psyche to reveal a family's past shrouded in mystery, where questions that are asked leads to unsettling hostilities, all the while exploring themes of love, desire and the good and bad side of marriage.

And it's marriage that sits somewhat uncomfortably in the foreground in 'A Heart so White'. Marias examines the commonplace yet peculiar institution of marriage and all its attendant secrets and betrayals. Taking a newly wed couple and delving into a history that's best left well alone. Juan is a newlywed translator who shuttles between the UN in New York and the Hague for six to eight weeks at a time, while his young bride Luisa, also a translator, remains behind in Madrid to establish their home together. In Juan's absence she develops a close relationship with her enigmatic father-in-law, a charismatic art dealer named Ranz who appears younger than his years and has a don Don Juan feel to him. Though in his seventies, the charmer he is, enabled him to marry three times despite the fact that his first wife died mysteriously in Cuba (maybe in a fire) and the second committed suicide in the bathroom while in the middle of a family dinner upon returning from their honeymoon. Trying to Learn more of what happened to his father's previous wives, Juan begins to question his own judgements on marriage and becomes increasingly paranoid that his Luisa has been unfaithful while he travels abroad for work.

As with 'The Infatuations' ( which I believe is vastly underrated) Marias takes his story and tells it in an unmethodical way, this could have been seen as a mystery thriller, Hitchcock style, in the hands of other writers, but Marias stays well away from any suspenseful thrills and goes with more of a philosophical approach to proceedings, pondering not only the curiosities of matrimony, he waxes lyrical on all matter of topics, and while there are digressions that may lose the less patient reader, he takes hold of his material and makes it technically brilliant, if a little overly enthusiastic in places. These asides, however, are always pertinent, building toward and culminating in an examination of passion so intense that it can drive a man to kill. As Lady Macbeth says to her husband shortly after Duncan's murder, "My hands are of your colour; but I shame/To wear a heart so white."

His descriptive sentences are quite astonishing here, and the senses always play a key role in the overall structure of it's story, there is lots of watching people, staring out of windows, looking up at windows and pondering thoughts, the characters trying to reach their own conclusions on matters that are presented in front of them without fully knowing the scenario, Marias really gets inside their heads, and you see a vast change within these people as the story progresses to a satisfactory finale.

An engrossing and unsettling masterpiece of fiction from arguably Spain's greatest living writer, very impressed indeed.
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,376 reviews3,195 followers
July 1, 2020
All that is told is fiction but all fiction relates to reality…
Recounting an event distorts it, recounting facts distorts and twists and almost negates them, everything that one recounts, however true, becomes unreal and approximate, the truth doesn't depend on things actually existing or happening, but on their remaining hidden or unknown or untold…

A Heart So White is in a way an anatomy of wedlock – a scrupulous analysis of man and wife relations in general and discovering a family secret in particular. A secret as grand and dramatic as in Jane Eyre and relations as psychologically intricate as in Wuthering Heights but the times are modern and the manners are different and the morals are looser.
Life brings surprises and sorrows but it goes on and whatever happens in our lives seems “to belong to the past. Everything does, even what is happening now.” Seize the day… Seize the hour…
Profile Image for Adina.
780 reviews2,956 followers
December 30, 2021

Translated into English from Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa

This book was a paradox. Although I wanted to highlight and quote all of it in my review because it was so good, it took me forever to finish. I could only digest it in small gulps because I needed to ponder every long sentence that I read. Nothing felt random or out of place, the plot was perfectly constructed and although it forced me to slow down while I read, it did not bore me.

“What happened between us both happened and didn't happen, it's the same with everything, why do or not do something, why say "yes" or "no," why worry yourself with a "perhaps" or a "maybe," why speak, why remain silent, why refuse, why know anything if nothing of what happens happens, because nothing happens without interruption, nothing lasts or endures or is ceaselessly remembered, what takes place is identical to what doesn't take place, what we dismiss or allow to slip by us is identical to what we accept and seize, what we experience identical to what we never try; we pour all our intelligence and out feelings and our enthusiasm into the task of discriminating between things that will all be made equal, if they haven't already been, and that's why we're so full of regrets and lost opportunities, of confirmations and reaffirmations and opportunities grasped, when the truth is that nothing is affirmed and everything is constantly in the process of being lost. Or perhaps there never was anything.”

The beginning is dramatic and gripping. During a family dinner a young woman goes to the bathroom where she shots herself in the chest. The woman’s husband re-marries with her sister and the narrator is their son. The novel analyses the complex institution of marriage and the secrets couples keep or should keep from each other.
March 23, 2017
"I have done the deed. Did you hear a noise"?

"Καρδιά τόσο άσπρη"..τι υπέροχη φράση για να γνωριστείς με έναν Ισπανό δημιουργό που σε γοητεύει συναισθηματικά και πνευματικά χωρίς ιδιαίτερη προσπάθεια.

Ο Χαβιέρ Μαρίας κατάφερε να με "γλεντήσει" χωρίς σταματημό και να με ικανοποιήσει αναγνωστικά με σπουδαία αφηγηματική τέχνη και φιλοσοφικό λόγο που με φυλάκισε εγκεφαλικά μέχρι το τέλος.

Είναι γεγονός τώρα πια και μπορώ να το δηλώσω:
Όλοι οι -Λατινοαμερικάνοι-Ισπανοί- Πορτογάλοι-συγγραφείς με "γλεντάνε" με αμοιβαία και λάγνα λογοτεχνική ηδονή.

Η ιστορία μας ξεκινάει με την εξαιρετικά ρεαλιστική περιγραφή στο -μακρινό παρελθόν- της αυτοκτονίας μιας νεαρής γυναίκας που μόλις επέστρεψε απο το γαμήλιο ταξίδι.
Ο χήρος σύζυγος νυμφεύεται κατόπιν την μικρότερη αδελφή της και αποκτούν ενα γιό.
Αυτός είναι ο κεντρικός ήρωας και αφηγητής της ιστορία μας.
Ο Χουάν.

Έτσι,μπαίνουμε στην πλοκή του βιβλίου,ξεκινώντας απο το γαμήλιο ταξίδι του Χουάν στην Αβάνα,νιώθοντας μαζί του τα καταστροφικά προαισθήματα που τον κυριεύουν,πριν και κατά τη διάρκεια του ταξιδιού.
Καταλαμβάνεται απο έμμονες ιδέες και σκέψεις απογοήτευσης σε σχέση με τα υπέρ και τα κατά του έγγαμου βίου.
«είμαστε άοπλοι μπροστά στις λέξεις· τα αφτιά δεν έχουν βλέφαρα».

"Και τώρα τι";
Ειναι το ερώτημα που γεννάει πληθώρα αμφίσημων σκέψεων και στοχασμών στο μάλλον μπερδεμένο υποσυνείδητο του.

Παράλληλα με κάποιες μακάβριες ανακαλύψεις του παρελθόντος ενισχύονται όλα τα αρνητικά και απρόσμενα πεπρωμένα...Και σηκώνουμε αυλαία στη σκηνή της οντότητας και της ελεύθερης καρδιάς.

Το "καρδιά τόσο άσπρη" γράφτηκε ως αφιέρωμα σε όλες Εκείνες και όλους Εκείνους που σε παρελθόν, παρόν και μέλλον θα ζουν επαναληπτικά τον έρωτα,την προδοσία,το πάθος,την αγάπη,τον παράφορο πόθο,την απιστία,την περιφρόνηση,την αφοσίωση και το έγκλημα...καρδιάς.
Μιας καρδιάς που δέχεται να λερωθεί απο αίμα κλεμμένης ηδονής ή παραμένει άσπρη και αγνή με εραστή το θάνατο!

Μιας καρδιάς που θα ακούει πάντα ξεκάθαρα τη φωνή της αιματοβαμμένης Λαίδης του Σαίξπηρ να λέει:
«Τα χέρια μου έχουν το χρώμα σου· μα ντρέπομαι να 'χω μια καρδιά τόσο άσπρη».

Θα μπορούσε να είναι ένα μυθιστόρημα δράσης και μυστηρίου,όμως ο άρτιος χαρακτηρισμός του είναι πως πρόκειται για ένα διαχρονικό φιλοσοφικό έργο που έχει πετάξει απο πάνω του τα βάρη των δυσνόητων στοχασμών και των ιδεατών λογικών συμβιβασμών.

Ο Ισπανός συγγραφέας μπορεί να χαρακτηρίστει ως καλλιτέχνης της λογοτεχνίας που άφοβα μας περιπλέκει σε ένα παιχνίδισμα κόσμων,ζοφερής μυθοπλασίας,
κοσμοπολίτικης ματιάς,δράματος,ειρωνείας,
ερωτικού θρίλερ και σοφών συμπερασμάτων σε κάθε εξέλιξη και ανατροπή.

**** Όμως κάπου απροσδιόριστα το τέλος δεν μου έδωσε την πληρότητα που περίμενα. Σπανίζουν σιγά σιγά τα 5αστερα στη βαθμίδα της δικής μου αξιολόγησης.

Καλή ανάγνωση!
Πολλούς σεμνούς και γλυκούς ασπασμούς!
Profile Image for İntellecta.
198 reviews1,523 followers
September 18, 2022
This book is not easy to read, but for me it is one of the highlights of the new Spanish literature. Linguistically, it is formulated excellently, but presented in getting used to long sentences. It begins very dramatically and captivating. Then at the end the bow closes and you understand the beginning. In between, there are some digressions that do not quite thematically fit the book, but still represent nice literary excursions. The plot comes in several strands together, which are described in detail and result in the end a very coherent picture. It's unbelievable how subtle the circles are between content, style and language.
Profile Image for Kris.
175 reviews1,421 followers
June 6, 2012
There are so many layers to this book. You have to be willing to give it time, especially in the first third or so, when Marías writes long, intricate, sentences that fold back on themselves, with parentheses within parentheses. Through this style, Marías presents the thoughts and interpretations of the protagonist, Juan, a translator who describes himself as committed, almost addicted, to understanding all he hears, all he sees, everything around him. Juan has recently married another translator, Luisa, and throughout the novel he strives to understand his father's secrets, while also exploring the meaning in the stories, secrets, and silences if his relationships - with Luisa, with his father, with the past.

The key to the novel is the title, "A Heart So White," which is taken from Macbeth. Marías threads the line, and the play, throughout the novel, as Juan questions the culpability in listening to someone tell a dangerous secret. What power lies in telling stories, both in words and in silences? Once we hear their secrets, are we destined to repeat the sins of our parents?

I found the pacing of the novel excellent, especially in the last quarter, when Marías picks up the pacing and leaves the reader almost breathless. I am trying to avoid telling much of the plot, as much of the power of the novel lies in opening yourself up to being surprised, wanting to hear characters' secrets and dreading them at the same time. Marías also develops different threads of the novel that all come together eerily in the last two chapters, leaving us with a dread of the cyclical nature of human experience, the repetition in human relationships, and the fear that sins carry over from one generation to the next.
Profile Image for Lisa.
971 reviews3,330 followers
September 5, 2017
Very unusual story about betrayal and confession.

Set in the deeply catholic countries of Spain and Cuba, it argues that too much knowledge between lovers and spouses destroys love. I wonder if that is true. It reminds me of Jeanette Winterson's thoughts in The Passion, where she reflects on the theme that "between sex and fear, passion lies". Too much familiarity, trust and knowledge would thus by default make passion disappear. The same idea is repeated in Written on the Body, where boredom is the enemy of love.

It is a very interesting thought that every person, regardless of how much he or she loves and trusts another person, needs a private and secret life, too. But at the same time, it is disturbing, because humankind also yearns for perfect trust and belonging. Is there a balance? Would finding that balance mean happiness?

This novel requires a second reading for me to be able to evaluate it properly. Sometimes books just leave me with a feeling of ineffable satisfaction.
Profile Image for Sawsan.
1,001 reviews1,265 followers
January 29, 2022
القلب الأبيض هنا لا يرمز للنقاء لكنه يشير لعدم الرغبة في المعرفة
الجهل مريح أحيانا لأن معرفة الحقيقة تُجبر الانسان على الفعل والاختيار
سرد لخافيير مارياس يفيض بالتفاصيل الحياتية والنفسية والفلسفية
يتأمل الراوي خوان المترجم في حياته بما فيها من أحداث وشخصيات
كل تفصيلة ومشهد وحدث له ترجمة خاصة بحسب فكره ورؤيته
انتباهه مفرط بالتفاصيل وهو يحكي عن مشاهداته وعمله وعلاقاته
ويستعيد الذكريات في محاولة غير آمنة لكشف وفهم أسرار الماضي

Profile Image for Seemita.
178 reviews1,554 followers
March 22, 2017
What do I wish to hear? About the present? The past, may be? Or a little tune on the waiting future? Do I wish to eavesdrop on my best friend to find out what she thinks of me when I am not around? Am I tempted to open a letter addressed to my partner with no overt allusion to my name or salutation on the envelope? Am I inclined to return to an unknown place just so I can hear a random conversation complete in my mind? Do I wish to pause a few seconds longer at the traffic so I can hear the banter in the adjacent car? Am I willing to take that pain? Am I willing to take that time? Am I willing to listen?

Javier Marías’ tale is the silence that bids its time between two words, it is the unscrupulous clock that ticks for one and cheats another, it is the nebulous doubt that lies suspended between the free and the bound.
An instigation is nothing but words, translatable, ownerless words that are passed from voice to voice and from language to language and from century to century, always the same, provoking people again and again to the same act for as long as there have been people and languages and ears in the world to hear them.
For days together, I oscillated between Juan and his many roles. Seamlessly switching between a faithful spouse and a steadfast friend, a tentative son and a diligent interpreter, Juan appeared serene on surface. But his ears were in rebellion. He simply could not give up listening. And in this hallucinatory air, his auditory brilliance spilled open many floodgates that bore ‘no entry’ boards on themselves.

Almost like a bottomless pit, an obscene way of crediting the dexterity of mind, all the words, spoken and unspoken, coalesced in his nervous maze, propelling him towards invading the unknown, the unnecessary.
Berta was fascinated by the unknown, nobody can resist participating in an experiment and returning with news, even when they don't know what the experiment's about.
Marías’ experimental writing runs amok, picking filial relationship, poking domestic fabric, stress-testing old friendship and disrobing secrets and then, masterfully, synthesizing all into an incredible structure of many sharp edges – much like a diamond. A diamond, so sparkling on surface, coal black at its heart.

Marías’ says in his novels, there is a constant struggle between the desire to know and the convenience of not knowing. That how much, the struggle, can drain the colour of the heart, is anyone’s guess.


Also on my blog.
Profile Image for Hanneke.
316 reviews309 followers
October 24, 2022
Intriguing book. It is impossible to read at a normal speed, you are forced to slow down as ideas pop up like little cartoon balloons in almost every sentence. You have to reflect on them, as they seem to remain hovering above the book and only drift away very slowly. The book does not have much dialogue and is written in a breathless voice. I cannot even say if I find that tone attractive or not, neither if I like the book very much. The book is about secrets; secrets kept and secrets revealed. Secrets that can be very dangerous and even deadly when spoken aloud. I do not want to elaborate on the book further. In fact, the story is rather simple, but I am sure that its interpretation must be different for every reader.
Profile Image for Garima.
113 reviews1,755 followers
August 6, 2014

My hands are of your color; but I shame
To wear a heart so white.
William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Time keeps on moving at an indifferent pace and yet it keeps on changing; every second, every day, and every year. Since we all are busy living, we attach little importance to the things happened and the words spoken in the past as most of the times we are under the impression that it doesn’t hold the power to change our present or affect our future (not devastatingly at least). Certainly there are poetic terms like nostalgia, longing, regrets, et al, which we all cherish despite the happiness or sadness they cause, but then there is ‘truth’ of the past, which is not exactly cherished. The definitions of ‘truth’ we associate with the past usually arise from the following two sources: that we’ve witnessed that truth or we’ve been ‘told’ that truth. We hardly question the truth behind that truth which we’ve been told because we see no reason for doing so and primarily we don’t see any reason as to why somebody would lie to us or keep any ‘secrets’. And one day, without any warning we’re forced to confront all these questions we thought were limited to the lives of ‘others’ as for us, we were always ‘normal’. Time slows down and is no longer indifferent. It longs to tell us ‘something’, something different or something more, something that would change our lives forever. Past is no longer inconsequential as we hit upon the fact that it holds the key to the moments which shaped the identities of those we claimed to have known but in retrospect they are nothing more than a stranger to us and subsequently we realize that there is a sub-conscious part of our personality which we ignored deliberately as the words it contain are not worthy listening to or we make no effort in interpreting their true meaning but in all this, we betray not anybody but ourselves because we have chosen a pretty version of truth around which we want to live our life, forgetting in the process that there are other lives which would turn out to be a lie because of some choices we make.

So, is A Heart So White about everything I just said? Yes and No. A book like this is so deeply communicative that it not only conveys what it contains but also what it has left unsaid, leaving the task of interpreting the words for its readers and everyone has the right to come up with their own version of the message or moral of the story. At the beginning only, we’re presented with the scene of a suicide committed by one of the characters at a family lunch, and the reader is immediately gets deceived into thinking that this shall serve as an ideal trigger to set the pace of the narrative. Now let’s see why she committed suicide? was a natural reaction I gave but what followed left me humbled by the time I reached the last page.

Javier Marías has interwoven a carefully intricate and compelling novel that tells the story of a married couple, Juan and Luisa, both working as translators and interpreters serving various Government bodies. This profession makes them, particularly Juan, very sensitive to words.
I have a tendency to want to understand everything people say and everything I hear, both at work and outside, even at a distance, even if it’s one of the innumerable languages I don’t know, even if it’s in an indistinguishable murmur or imperceptible whisper, even if it would be better that I didn’t understand and what’s said is not intended for my ears or is said precisely so I won’t understand it.

This tendency made him encounter a situation where the translation of few words made him examine the lives of those he’s closely related to. Sometimes a single person or a single incident sets the benchmark not only for most of the future happenings but some of the past events too. As the story moves further, it follows the discourse of all such events in Juan’s life which gives us a brilliant idea about the talent of Marías as a writer. They present an impeccable commentary at both philosophical and psychological level accompanied with humor and profound seriousness about human experience, the myriad relations it constitutes, especially those of married couples and how words play one of the most significant parts in forming the course of our actions and reactions. Whether those words are spoken or listen to, we need to choose them carefully.
Listening is the most dangerous thing of all..listening means knowing, finding out, knowing everything there is to know, ears don’t have lids that can close against the words uttered, they can’t hide from what they sense they’re about to hear, it’s always too late..it may well stain our hearts so white or are our hearts merely pale, or fearful or cowardly?

Many would argue that there’s nothing new in that lesson and that can be one reason why some of the readers would find themselves struggling with this novel. It’s demanding, verbose and for an impatient mind the long discourses would have difficulty in justifying themselves. It has various repetitions and is highly subjective, which again, can annoy the readers but if approached with rationality, the result can prove to be an immensely rewarding one. In the introduction by Jonathan Coe, Marías is aptly being compared with Proust and Bernhard, but as I say about most of the great writers, that Marías gives us something original and evocative. In A Heart so White, the way he has examined the nature of secrets, lies, their revelation or their concealment and its subsequent effect on our lives is a reading experience worth relishing for. And although I'm not an aspiring writer, I can safely say that Marías writing technique is something that can prove as a valuable study for all those who want to learn fiction writing.

Highly Recommended!
Profile Image for Fuchsia  Groan.
162 reviews197 followers
February 11, 2020
Antes de empezar esta novela mis expectativas eran tan elevadas que llegué a tener la certeza de que eran inalcanzables. A las expectativas normales por empezar a leer a un autor al que tenía ganas de conocer desde hacía tiempo, hay que añadir que Corazón tan blanco fue un regalo de alguien muy especial, un regalo que más que en la novela o el autor tuvo su origen en una broma privada relacionada con la portada de esta edición en concreto (no indaguéis si no queréis terminar, como nuestro narrador Juan Ranz, sabiendo algo que quizás nunca quisisteis saber... y que quizás no es lo que estáis pensando). Pero incluso así la novela me ha sorprendido y gustado todavía más de lo que esperaba.

Desde el inicio todo captó mi atención, la prosa, la historia: No he querido saber, pero he sabido que una de las niñas, cuando ya no era niña y no hacía mucho que había regresado de su viaje de bodas, entró en el cuarto de baño, se puso frente al espejo, se abrió la blusa, se quitó el sostén y se buscó el corazón con la punta de la pistola de su propio padre...

Un inicio, creo, muy inteligente, con el que Marías engancha al lector, lo introduce de lleno en el epicentro de una supuesta trama de intriga, para ir poco a poco llevando su curiosidad hacia otros elementos, quizás no tan espectaculares pero sí mucho más cercanos y que son los que explicarán todo lo demás. Puede parecer que el autor se va por las ramas, pero no es así. La trama no es lo importante, la novela es una espiral de reflexiones en torno a las relaciones, los secretos, lo que decimos y lo que callamos, lo que queremos escuchar y lo que preferimos no saber, sobre qué somos, ¿nuestros secretos o lo que mostramos?, ¿son menos reales las cosas que solo nosotros sabemos, las que ocultamos o incluso las que olvidamos? ...hasta la más monótona y rutinaria de las existencias se va anulando y negando a sí misma en su aparente repetición hasta que nada es nada ni nadie es nadie que fueran antes, y la débil rueda del mundo es empujada por desmemoriados que oyen y ven y saben lo que no se dice ni tiene lugar ni es cognoscible ni comprobable.

Juan Ranz, el sobrino que nunca lo fue de la mujer que se suicida en las primeras líneas, narra su historia, y por tanto la de su padre y la de Teresa, su tía. Al empezar la novela Juan se ha casado con Luisa, envuelto en una bruma quizás irracional de presentimientos de desastre ante su matrimonio. Es imposible no identificar a Juan Ranz con Marías, y a mí me ha sido imposible no hacerlo con ambos en el temor indefinido ante esos cambios de estado ...quizás sea esto lo que nos lleva a leer novelas y crónicas y a ver películas, la búsqueda de la analogía, del símbolo, la búsqueda del reconocimiento, no del conocimiento.

Juan y Luisa, ambos traductores, se conocen trabajando durante la reunión de un mandatario español con su homóloga británica. En este momento, antes incluso de haberse visto las caras, se da el primer secreto de su relación, el que crea la intimidad, el que es compartido. Los políticos reflexionan sobre el poder, estableciendo un paralelismo entre el que ejerce el Estado y el que se ejerce en las relaciones personales: La gente quiere en buena medida porque se la obliga a querer, querer es una costumbre, o todo el mundo obliga a todo el mundo, no tanto a hacer lo que no quiere, sino más bien lo que no sabe si quiere, porque casi nadie sabe lo que no quiere, y menos aún lo que quiere, no hay forma de saber esto último. Y así, entre sentimientos, empujones que damos a la voluntad del otro y que él nos devuelve, nos vemos al borde de una situación irremediable y lógica, que justamente por serlo ya no podemos saber si queremos o nos aterra, no podemos saber si queremos lo que nos pareció que queríamos hasta hoy mismo: el matrimonio.

Tras el matrimonio se pasa a ser ambos sin elección y por tanto y necesariamente se pierde en buena parte el “yo”: al contraerse, los dos contrayentes están exigiéndose una mutua abolición o aniquilamiento, la abolición de aquél que cada uno era y del que cada uno se enamoró. Se pierde el futuro abstracto: vamos al mismo sitio, querámoslo o no esta noche.

En este “artificio” surgen los secretos, pues quizás todo se queda congelado en el momento en el que se compromete uno a lo imposible, o al menos a lo improbable, a la promesa de inciertas decisiones y deseos futuros: ¿Y ahora qué? Ahora solo queda instalarse en el convencimiento o superstición de que no existe lo que no se dice. Ante este juego de secretos, el que sabe calla y el que no sabe imagina, creando su propio relato, ¿qué somos si el otro no sabe?, ¿será verdad que es mejor no saber, convertir al otro en un enigma, en simplemente una parte de nuestro relato, un habitante fijo de nuestro universo rutinario, hacer como si ambos hubiésemos desaparecido en ese nuevo mundo compartido?

En fin, callar y hablar son dos formas de intervenir en el futuro.
Profile Image for Gorkem.
137 reviews88 followers
April 28, 2017
Marias'ın ciddi anlamda beyin hücresi olmak istiyorum.En Giriş kısmından sonuna kadar temponun sürekli arttığı bir düşünsel ve edebi şölen.

Büyük konuşuyorum, Mariası sevmeyen ve sevmiyorum diyen bir edebiyat okuru ya edebi anlamda daha olgunlaşmamıştır ya da düşünme eylemini geri plana atmıştır.

Bu kadar övdükten, konu çok kısa olarak içinde bulduğumuz anlarda istemeden kulak misafiri olduğumuz kulak röntgenciliğinin gidebileceği son durum. Ana karakterimiz bir çevirmen. Karısının Balayı esnasında rahatsızlanması esnasında kaldığı hotelde başlamaktadır. Marias o kadar psikanalitik göndermeler dahilinde oluşturuyor ki kitabın akışını, ana karakterinin de çevirmen olması kitabın alt metinlerine inanılmaz hale getiriyor.

Kitapta düşündürecek çok fazla felsefik ve durum yorumlama var. Ki Marias'ın genel özelliğidir bu. Nefes alır cümleler cümleleri olaylar olayları doğurmakta. İlk başta okuyanı sarsan ve sonradan (bir 30 Sf sonra mesela) iyice kitabın tanığı yapan bir tarzı var Marias'ın

Okuyacak herkese iyi okumalar

Profile Image for Stephen Ford.
3 reviews3 followers
October 8, 2007
This is one of the worst books I have ever read. Where shall I start? Its banal insights may just about justify a short story by a teenager; the dialogue is stilted, pretentious and postured; and no interesting events occur - nothing actually happens.

Most importantly, the style is pedestrian, repetitive, circumlocutary. For instance: "Carefully, very carefully (but not that carefully) I crossed the room." So which is it, Marias? Carefully, very carefully or not that carefully? And why should I care?

Life is too short to read dross like this. It would be eminently forgetable were it not so infuriating that time spent reading this could be spent more productively - for example, watching paint dry.
December 28, 2013

A book about boundaries, both protected and invaded as well as about time. What is present already is diffused into the past and therefore cannot be known. One cannot know anything! At some point it will be long enough ago that it can be laughed at as though those laughing and remembering were not participants. There are secrets. He lives in a world of suspicions, trying to interpret, translate, so he is well defended, everything is in its place as when he returns from a trip and unpacks each thing in its spot, then putting away the suitcase so the trip is forgotten and he can return safely.

Marias writes in the purity of eloquence. Under his master tutelage he creates a world of intellect where we learn of life and its machinations beginning from the inward and reaching for the outward. Where it has been said that Auster makes the intellect sexy, here Marias makes it complete.

The protagonist in this typically fascinating novel by one of my favorite authors lives within a world which is precariously unsafe. His identity is held at stake ready to crumble, be stolen, invaded. He is on a balcony, a woman he doesn't know is yelling, pleading, relentlessly devouring him with words and a history he doesn't recognize or own. At the end he finally understands she is speaking not to him from the street but to a man standing in a balcony next to his, unseen.

He has participated in a life, without engaging as a participant, a mistaken identity.

He works as a translator translating speeches and discussions from the heads of his own country and others. He understands that what is said is all rubbish. None of it has an impact on life nor will change or disturb anything. This is where he meets his wife, at one such event. She too is a translator of words. She is there to sit behind him and supervise, be his safety net in case he falters or plunges into mistakes intentional or otherwise. Even mistakes will not alter nonsense but which appears to the public through the appetite of the media as relevant if not crucial. He does intentionally offer a translation differing from the words of one particularly obnoxious statesman. She says nothing behind him, joining him, in both an adolescent bit of mischief as well as an acknowledgement of the world's thin slice of irrelevance, futility. These two staid people are drawn to each other. The problem for him though with the marriage is that he now must give up his identity. No longer be who he was. Rather than a springboard of hope and support to further become himself and helping his wife to do the same, he sees marriage as the end of something dear that cannot be retrieved. A certain period of time has ceased and a clearly, incisively new sheet of time has begun.

Time roils, unwinds, revolves around itself, folds into itself, collides. It passes at unpredictable speeds or barely at all. It is speckled throughout the text. It defies the simplicities of being referred to as linear. Life is only simplified by the brutal cliches employed to avoid the whirlwinds of complexity threatening continuously to reveal themselves. What though if you can see that, as Pessoa did, and cannot turn away from it yet can do nothing about it? Marias is brilliant in blending insights of incalculable relevance seamlessly into the narrative.

So what happened?

How was the last part of the book born? Was it insisted upon by some overly eager editor? Could it even be possible Javier, Mister Marias, Sir, that you bent your prodigious skills around some form of plot that unknowing crept into your mind? A white wiggled worm unseen? Oh god I can't believe I am even going to say this-readers turn away-but did you bow down to a…convention of narrative discourse that had an effect that rippled through your text? If so, and for me it did, it toppled each precious insight, sparkled turn of phrase into a deliberate chain of little consequence only to justify your creating a well-wrought finale for the resolution of a plot that was but a minor character in the sequence of this novel up to now. It turned everything before it, all the storied jewels of knowledge and imbued glow of creativity into something trivial. You swept it clean.

As I am writing this it dawns on me, as it probably has dawned upon the readers of this review much earlier, that this was…intended. Is this what Marias was after? Did he snap the silent thread joining the many miracles of this book purposively leaving the text, as life, as a trail of trivial remnants, exemplifying the message of this book? Hmmnn. Let me scratch my beard in a knowing pose and pose pondering. I've been swept through the experience of what the content revealed. The old devil. Damn. And I thought I was doing so well. I never know in writing these reviews whether at the end I will be feeling proud or humiliated. A heart so white. Mine isn't white, it is blushing red. Pulsing and swollen. Thank you Mister Marias, Sir, for the teaching of another poignant but painful lesson. I remove two stars from my own withering collection and dutifully put them back in their proper place beneath your name, completing the deserved five star rating.

Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,162 reviews9,039 followers
November 19, 2020
We are entirely enclosed in the musing, reflective, probing, ruminative, endlessly qualifying always tergiversating mind of Juan, an interpreter, who has a lovely new wife and a father who makes him nervous like his own personal raincloud about to burst forth. Juan’s mind circles and swoops around and around, graceful repetitive incantatory flights of meditation like a philosophical kittiwake or a Jesuitical lapwing, and what is he contemplating? Why, the suicide of his mother’s sister who was his father’s second wife. This is a tale of unease.

The father is the sinister centre of the story. He had three wives. The first two died. We begin with the second one. A few days after returning from her honeymoon, she rose from a family dinner, went to the bathroom, took out a gun, and shot and killed herself. So that’s the question … why would she do that?

But this is not a family saga or a thriller. This novel is much closer to poetry than other conventional novels. There are repetitions, of phrases, of images, and of situations. Several times, a man stands before a house, looking up at a window, waiting to see a woman. Different men. Different women. Predatory men, women imperiled, perhaps, surely, definitely. One woman hopes a man will end the life of another woman. He overhears this from the hotel room next to his. Another time in another city he helps a friend of his make a nude video for a stranger she has met through a personal ad. (This is before the internet. Tinder users will find this sequence hilarious.) Will she be okay when she meets this guy? There’s always something to worry Juan.

Juan is a nervous guy, he can’t relax, but I liked his sense of humour, even though there wasn’t much of it. One time, he was interpreting in a high level meeting between a top Spanish politician and the female British Prime Minister (does he mean Margaret Thatcher? I think so!) and he gets so bored with the inane blandishments they are exchanging that he starts to make stuff up (“Do you think we are ever loved?”…"Shall we take a walk in the garden outside?"). I hope interpreters do that sometimes.

You have to let Javier Marias’ prose flow through your mind like a rippling never slowing tumbling stream that sometimes flows into blind nooks and crannies and sometimes takes unexpected turns -it took a while for me to get on Javier’s wavelength. At first I didn’t get it. Then I got it. This guy Juan, he thinks his whole life is an unexploded bomb, he tiptoes around carefully while his mind races, sometimes fearfully, sometimes rhapsodically. It's a book about men and women and marriages and secrets and language and interpretation and overhearing and whether the truth is best left alone.

I might mention that there seemed to be a shortage of paragraph breaks in Spain in 1993 when this was published because some of these paragraphs go on for five pages. Also, some of the sentences in this book are longer than the paragraphs. Literally!

So this is probably one for Henry rather than E.L. James fans.
Profile Image for Roberto.
627 reviews1 follower
September 6, 2017

Un gioco di incastri

Marías scrive senza regole, senza attenersi a nessun copione, abbandonandosi ad una fiume di pensieri vagando apparentemente senza una metà precisa. Sembra non conoscere il punto d’arrivo e neppure il peso che i personaggi hanno nella narrazione. I personaggi, nella loro ambiguità, si sovrappongono, si identificano, fino a confondersi, i fatti accaduti in momenti differenti si incastrano con tempismo perfetto. La costruzione del romanzo è perfetta, niente è lasciato al caso.

Le mie mani sono del tuo stesso colore, ma mi vergogno di avere un cuore così bianco

Il titolo è tratto da una citazione di Shakespeare, le parole che Lady Macbeth rivolge al marito che si è appena macchiato di un omicidio. Il bianco non è visto come simbolo di purezza e innocenza, quanto piuttosto come desiderio di sottrarsi a ogni responsabilità. Sapere ci costringe a scegliere, ci obbliga a intervenire, a diventare responsabili. Un cuore così bianco lo ha non l’innocente, ma colui che, ignaro della realtà degli eventi, non ne è stato ancora contagiato.

Juan, il protagonista, non vuole conoscere per non essere parte delle colpe degli altri. Lentamente sarà condotto dalla moglie Luisa alla consapevolezza tramite una indagine psicologica su sé stesso, raccontando la sua vita in modo a volte ossessivo.

Il libro è una profonda e molteplice riflessione sul segreto, la persuasione, l’istigazione, il sospetto, la possibilità di sapere, l’impossibilità di ignorare. Indaga sul senso di colpa, sul segreto e sul peso che deriva dalla sua rivelazione. Ma è anche la storia del matrimonio di Juan e Luisa, del padre di Juan e delle sue mogli o probabilmente anche la storia di molti matrimoni. Come può essere anche la storia di quello che si fa o non si fa per amore, delle cose che si pensano e si dicono e delle cose che si dicono senza pensarle veramente.

Il problema principale e più comune all'inizio dei matrimoni ragionevolmente convenzionali è che, nonostante la loro inconsistenza e la facilità con cui i contraenti possono sciogliere il vincolo, per tradizione è inevitabile sperimentare una sgradevole sensazione di punto d'arrivo, e dunque di arrivo a una fine, o meglio (dato che i giorni passano, uno dietro l'altro, impassibili, e non c'è fine) l'impressione che sia arrivato il momento di pensare ad altro

Il migliore libro che ho letto di Marias.
Profile Image for Rojita (ڕۆژیتا).
100 reviews6 followers
February 28, 2020
ام��وز با وجود مریضی خودم رو مجبور کردم تمومش کنم ( امیدوارم کرونا نباشه)
ایده‌ی داستان خوب بود اما به شکل بدی روایت شده بود، پراکنده و گاهی خسته‌کننده و بی سر و ته
در مورد ترجمه هم واقعن نمیدونم خوب بود یا بد
هفتاد صفحه‌ی پایانی کتاب جور بقیه رو کشیده بود و یکم جذابش کرده بود
القصه، اگر نمی‌خوندم هم چیزی رو از دست نمیدادم فقط یه کنجکاوی که ایجاد کرده بود رو راضی کرد.
Profile Image for Tony.
886 reviews1,466 followers
August 2, 2011
Over beers with a friend, I was trying to articulate what it is about Graham Swift, one of his favorite novelists, that I didn't like. I meant to be gentle, not wanting to bruise his feelings, but he doubtlessly was prepared for another rant. After 30 years of friendship he well knows my attempts at persuasion and my underlying insistence on being right. (We spent a similar evening arguing with voices raised but without consequence over who was the most musically influential Beatle). But skills that serve one well in a career can become tedious in a bar. So he stopped me with a pas encore, saying simply that there can be nothing as subjective as one's taste in fiction. I sputtered, but eventually gave up, realizing he was right.

See, Javier Marias suits me. I offer no defense to the argument that he is repetitive or untidy or insufficiently profound. He makes the commonplace come alive. But unlike Murakami, who searches his own soul while boiling spaghetti, Marias instead searches voyeuristically.

Look at that cover. A man in a hotel room looking out his open windows, across the esplanade, to a female figure waiting alone. What does he see? Well, that woman's adulterous affair that intersects thematically with a friend's search for love (or something like it), his father's three wives, and his own recent marriage. Let us not forget the Shakespearean clue of the title. For there is murder here and it is most foul. The mixing of vignettes serves as impressionism. Our voyeuristic protagonist sees the hand, hears the voice of the man in the next room. A stranger. But he also sees his father, or a man in a dating video sent to his friend; and will he also see himself. Because the woman, myopic, mistakenly calls to him.

There is one vignette which I must relate. Our protagonist is a translator. The woman who will become his wife is also a translator, and they meet when she is assigned to monitor his translation between a Spanish political leader and the female Prime Minister of England. At one point, everyone leaves but the four of them. The leaders engage in small talk. Our protagonist, however, takes some liberties which re-directs the conversation, warming the leaders to each other, and charming, without consequence, the real intended audience.

Good stuff. All told in a voice that resonates.
Profile Image for Nora Barnacle.
163 reviews93 followers
February 7, 2017
Sudeći po ovoj knjizi, Havijer Matijas je pisac – zavodnik, ali ne u značenju Latin lover, već pre zavoditelj, zavodilac – kako li se kaže.

Iza, naizgled, nesigurnog naratora, ispitivački zbunjenog pred životom i ljudima, on stoji zreo, stamen i vraški talentovan, odmeren, precizan, jasan. Rečenice su mu nešto duže, deskriptivan je, repetitivan, zgušnjava i detaljiše. No, to radi toliko perfidno i znalački da čitalac ne samo da ne pomišlja na “’ajde, više, reci, aman!”, nego i ne primeti ponavljanje, zapravo, jedva ga dočeka. Doslovce ponavljanje. Čitavih pasusa. Više puta.

Od onih je pisaca koji atmosferu nabiju seksipilom bez ijedne lascivne reči, usijaju neizvesnošću bez trunke specijalnih efekata, nasmeju čitaoca bez klovnovskih bekeljenja, šokiraju bez hladnih tuševa i poentiraju bez dramatizacije. Pri svemu tome ne koristi ni onaj “zavesa” efekat – ja sam ti rek’o, a ti zamišljaj dalje – nego pokaže svaki kadar, pa još jednom, zajedno sa čitaocem, preko svega pređe. A opet, svi ostaju osumnjičeni i sve opcije ostaju otvorene.

Radnja bi mogla biti uzbudljiva (samoubistvo stavlja na prvu polovinu prve strane, a razrešenje na par poslednjih), no ta tema ostaje epizodna u odnosu na sve drugo između. To između je mnogo uzbudljivije, pomisliš – evo, sad puca, iako se zapravo, ne dešava skoro ništa, svakako ništa spektakularno, izvesno ne u rangu tog inicijalnog događaja. A sve je lepo posloženo: poštovani čitalac ne treba da vidi piščevu muku (ako se mučio), niti njegove razbacane igračke (ako se igrao), a razmetanje talentom i erudicijom nije pristojno (svestan je pisac svog talenta, o, da).
Moglo bi se reći da mu je snaga u rečima, jer se sve vrti oko prevođenja i tumačenja (sve saznajemo iz prvog lica simultanog prevodioca visokih državnih zvaničnika i međunarodnih institucija), ali mislim da je i to samo još jedan element Marijasovog zavodničnog arsenala u vrlo elegantnom pakovanju.

Silvija Monros, prevodilac, je valjano ispratila svu tu jednostavnost i suptilnost.

U čemu je fora, ne znam, jer ne znam kako se jednostavnost pečatira autentičnošću. Kao što ne znam u čemu je fora sa babinim krofnama: isto brašno, ista voda, isto mleko, kvasac, sve, i to još precizno izmereno (na digitalnoj vagi!), a ne ko ona (frtalj i odprilike). Govoriti o nekakvom talentu za krofne bi bilo odveć neozbiljno i, dabome, sasvim neprofesionalno shvatanje poretka sveta. Al’ nikad ne ispadnu ko babine.

Pet ko vrata!
Profile Image for Maziyar Yf.
453 reviews204 followers
May 17, 2022
کتاب قلبی به این سپیدی نوشته خاویر ماریاس نویسنده اسپانیایی بر پایه یک راز و تلاش راوی نه چندان کنجکاو داستان برای کشف آن نوشته شده است ، خوان راوی کتاب فردی ایست که علاقه چندانی به شنیدن راز و یا کشف آن ندارد ، او همواره روایتگر بوده و داستان را نه الزاما به گونه درست آن ، بلکه از دید خود تعریف می کند . زاویه دید خوان به داستان است که تقریبا به همه ابعاد آن حالتی رمز آلوده داده و ذهن خواننده را درگیر یافتن پاسخی برای آن می کند .
خواننده در درازای داستان با چهار راز یا ابهام روبرو می شود: ماجرای ازدواج های پدر خوان ، مردی که لوئیزا همسر خوان را دید می زند ، داستانی که در هتلی در هاوانا در کوبا می گذرد و ماجرای دوست او برتا در نیویورک . اما ماجرای پدر خوان و ازدواج های اوست که داستان اصلی کتاب است .
ماریاس کتاب را به گونه ای غافل کننده و غیر منتظره شروع می کند ، اما در ادامه داستان ، جملات و تک گویی های طولانی خوان ریتم داستان را کُند کرده و از شتاب آن کاسته است .
داستان کتاب در مادرید ، نیویورک و هاوانا می گذرد ، از آن جایی که زمانی ساکن مادرید بوده ام خواندن کتابی درباره محیط و فضای این شهر می توانست داستان را دست کم برای من جذاب تر کند ، اما چون سرگردانی های خوان بیشتر در نیویورک بوده از این رو نویسنده بیشتر نیویورک را توصیف کرده تا مادرید را .
با جست و جویی کوتاه در اینترنت ، می توان پی برد که کتاب قلبی به این سپیدی به شدت تحسین شده و عموما آنرا به عنوانی شاهکاری کمتر شناخته شده دانسته اند . شاید کتاب برای کسانی که شیفته و دلبسته ادبیات اسپانیا باشند بتواند یک شاهکار باشد اما احتمالا برای یک خواننده عادی یک داستان معمولی باشد که اندکی پس از خواندن به آسانی فراموش می شود .
Profile Image for Celeste   Corrêa.
278 reviews136 followers
April 2, 2020
Foram momentos de fúria, fadiga, decepção e finalmente o alívio do fim, mas também a necessidade de reler este livro num tempo de reconciliação.

Uma narrativa que inicia com um suicídio e rapidamente se transforma numa interrogação sobre um futuro que não prevemos; tudo é possível: perguntar e calar, perguntar e obrigar ou não fazer nem uma nem outra coisa.

Quando não formos capazes de nos recordar de mais nada para além daquilo que nos aconteceu e que fizemos e não o que contaram ou sucedeu a outros ou que outros fizeram (quando os nossos corações já não forem tão brancos).

O título é belíssimo, misturar Shakespeare e o quadro As Meninas é uma ideia genial, mas as frases são enormes e as páginas demasiadas.

A necessidade de reler (para entender) estas longas frases de Marías roubou-me muito do prazer e sabor que gosto de retirar dos livros.
Profile Image for Roy Lotz.
Author 1 book8,093 followers
May 10, 2021
A well-read friend is a precious resource, never to be taken for granted. As a case in point, I am fortunate enough to know a book-loving Spaniard, whose recommendations can be relied upon. It was this bibliophile who told me about Javier Marías—“probably the most-celebrated Spanish novelist alive, at least outside of Spain”—and this fame, he said, was well-deserved. Accordingly, I bought Marías’s most famous book, and dug in.

Many authors—particularly those with a pronounced or unusual style—are apt to be polarizing, and this is certainly true of Javier Marías. I can very well understand if someone found his prose to be unbearable. Marías is dedicated to the periodic sentence. With an abundance of commas, he strings clauses together for half a page or more before a period is met with. Indeed, while reading this book on my commute to work, I often had to stop mid-sentence, as I knew I would not reach the end before my stop arrived. And this preference for the diffuse is not simply verbal: as a narrator, he loves to dwell on seemingly irrelevant details—the consequence being that a scene which, in life, would take seconds to pass, takes half an hour to read about.

This could easily be grating, and for many I suspect it will be. Besides that, Marías is apparently above giving numbers to his chapters: they all have a blank heading. But one mark of a great artist is arguably the ability to make something work that, in lesser hands, would fail completely. I quickly became a convert to Marías’s prolix style, his mildly neurotic fixations, and was drawn into the peculiar aesthetic world of this novel. Great stylists have a way of conjuring a mood, an atmosphere, that nobody else can conjure; and Marías is such a stylist. Every sentence bears the imprint of his artistic sensibility, a kind of ghostly presence that renders the mundane appealing. Such sublimation can be wonderfully addictive. I even found myself thinking of certain passersby that they could easily fit into this novel.

I do not want to spoil this novel by getting into the plot or the themes. I will only offer the first line of this novel, as I think it encapsulates much of the mood and style of Marías’s writing:
No he querido saber, pero he sabido que una de las niñas, cuando ya no era niña y no hacía mucho que había regresado de su viaje de bodas, entró en el cuarto de baño, se puso frente al espejo, se abrió la blusa, se quitó el sostén, y se buscó el corazón con la punta de la pistola de su propio padre, que estaba en el comedor con parte de la familia y tres invitados.

In English:
I did not want to know, but I have come to know, that one of the girls, when she was no longer a girl and not long after she had returned from her honeymoon, went into the bathroom, stood in front of the mirror, opened her blouse, took off her brassiere, and searched for her heart with the barrel of her father’s pistol, who was in the dining room with some of the family and three guests.

If you like this sentence—with its overlong structure (and this is not nearly the longest in the book), its theme of ignorance being preferable to knowledge, and its irrelevant detail of the three guests (and yes, it is irrelevant)—then you might like this book. If not, then I suppose you ought to ask your own well-read friend for a recommendation.
Profile Image for Noce.
201 reviews265 followers
January 26, 2012
Ode agli stoici genitori dell’infante Javier.

Certo è, che Marìas da piccolo, non l’avrei voluto conoscere.

Mettiamo il caso che sia possibile usufruire di 5 minuti e prendere la macchina del tempo per tornare all’infanzia del piccolo Javier.

Eccolo lì, coi calzoncini corti, che vi aspetta sulla porta di casa perché voi lo portiate al parco.

Osservatelo mentre fiducioso vi dà la mano e vi incamminate assieme. Il tragitto scorre lento e sereno (il piccolo Javier è taciturno, ma questo vi assicuro, non è una garanzia di pace, è più come la quiete degli uccelli poco prima della pioggia torrenziale).

Arrivate al parco freschi e riposati, e siccome vi piace viziare i pargoli, vi dirigete col docile Javier dal gelataio.

Ignari della vostra sorte, vi rivolgete al bambino chiedendogli: “Tesoro, che gelato vorresti?”

E da qui.. l’inizio della fine.

Il Javier bambino pazientemente inizia: “Prenderei il pistacchio, se non fosse che quel verde, che non è lo stessa tonalità di verde del pistacchio che vende il gelataio sotto casa, mi ricorda il prato in cui, una domenica di due mesi fa, caddi sporcandomi i pantaloncini. E lì, c’era una bambina che mi guardava con occhi attenti, che forse erano quelli di una bambina sollecita, che ha già dei fratelli più piccoli ed è quindi per lei un istinto naturale avere quest’indulgenza negli occhi, che poi è la stessa tipica delle madri, attitudine che forse dovremmo riconoscere a tutte le donne, anche se in tenera età; oppure i suoi non erano occhi solleciti, erano occhi curiosi, come quando capita un incidente e il desiderio di sapere chi c’è a terra, è più forte di quello civile, di chiamare i soccorsi; o magari, si trattava più semplicemente di uno sguardo supplice, come se la bambina dagli occhi attenti desiderasse essere al posto mio, perché lei in quanto femminuccia non avrebbe potuto sporcarsi con tanta disinvoltura come facciamo noi maschietti. Ecco perché, ti direi pistacchio, ma per non lasciarmi andare ai ricordi, sceglierei invece la fragola, con quei pezzetti rossi che se guardi bene ti invogliano molto più del rosa acceso di tutta la pallina, che non è il rosa shocking del ghiacciolo Fior di fragola che mangiavano i miei genitori quand’erano piccoli, è più un rosa panoramico, che fa da sfondo a quei minuscoli pezzetti di fragola succosi, e che forse non sarebbero così succosi se andassimo a leggere la lista degli ingredienti e notassimo la presenza di coloranti, ma che comunque non leggeremo, perché da bambini si sa, l’attenzione è rivolta altrove, che non per questo è un altrove superficiale, ma è solo un altrove parallelo a quello degli adulti, e che in fondo si ricollega al rosa panoramico perché..”

A questo punto, probabilmente sarete già così esasperati, che nel frattempo vi sarete suicidati buttandovi nel tritatutto delle granite, oppure avrete lestamente malmenato il padrone di un cane, liberato la bestiola invidiosi della sua incapacità di capire i discorsi umani, e dopo esservi impossessati del guinzaglio, avrete già legato il piccolo Javier a un palo, abbandonandolo al suo destino di bambino logorroico.

Invece, grazie al cielo, noi non siamo stati i genitori di Marìas, né i suoi babysitter.

Marìas, sempre per grazia divina, è scampato alle nevrosi dei genitori, a molti tentati omicidi, ed è cresciuto sano e impaziente di dire. Ovvio che da grande sarebbe diventato scrittore. Autore di libri bellissimi, e magari in certi momenti lenti e digressivi. Ma volete mettere il piccolo sforzo di sederci con lui sul divano delle elucubrazioni, in confronto alla fatica dei genitori di tirare su un bambino a forma di ipotesi?

Mi permetto di parlare di libri al plurale, perché non è la prima volta che leggo qualcosa di Marìas. Abbiamo già incominciato a conoscerci con Domani nella battaglia pensa a me. E, se devo dirla tutta, Un cuore così bianco mi è forse piaciuto un pelo di più.

Forse perché è un libro camaleontico.

Leggendo di questo cuore tan blanco, vi avvicinerete pensando di appassionarvi a una storia normale, poi capirete che sì, la storia esiste, ma è la storia dei pensieri, non delle persone che diventano secondarie rispetto ai processi mentali che innescano. Ma occhio: è un inganno; dopo qualche capitolo penserete di aver sbagliato e di esservi immersi in un giallo; e dopo ancora, vi ricrederete e quando qualcuno ve lo chiederà, risponderete di essere alle prese con un trattato di psicologia, mentre alla fine giungerete alla conclusione che si trattava di un noir mentale.

Un noir torbido, dove a essere sospettati sono gli istanti fugaci compresi tra il pensare e l’agire, dove tutta la partita si gioca nel rischio di sapere o di non sapere. Di dire o di non dire, consapevoli che qualunque scelta si prenda, la tonalità del cuore bianco può variare, e non è detto che l’unico paragone col bianco sia la purezza. Quasi 300 pagine per fotografare dei secondi, un flash di idee.

Indi, per non sfiancarvi io, prima ancora che leggiate Marìas, le conclusioni sono due:

1) La ridondanza macchinosa che i detrattori di Javier criticano come prolissa e superflua, è invece il nocciolo della spirale ipnotica dei libri di Marìas. È uno sbaglio di prospettive. Siete seduti dalla parte sbagliata del divano. Il plot nei libri di Marìas non esiste, ma persiste invece una sottile ma tenace ragnatela iridata, che collega le sue parentesi e digressioni.

Quella è la trama serica, attorno al quale Javier ordisce i suoi ricami. Quella è la trama che avvince, sfinisce l’intelletto, eppure sgorga e disseta come una fontana.

2) Sulla scia dei punti interrogativi che Marìas semina ovunque, pensate se il poveretto, anziché scrivere libri, avesse dovuto affidare la sua sapienza ai 160 caratteri di Twitter. Avrebbe fallito prima ancora di cominciare, e al mondo avremo avuto due ubriaconi in più che affogano i dispiaceri nel vino. Lui e Saramago. Due verbosi con la cirrosi epatica.
Profile Image for Ben Loory.
Author 24 books672 followers
September 10, 2011
liked it, didn't love it, didn't really "really like it," found myself often sighing loudly towards the end-- JUST FRIGGIN SAY WHAT YOU'RE GONNA SAY ALREADY AND STOP SAYING IT EIGHTY TIMES IN A ROW-- but there's no doubt marias is an extremely talented writer, above all a great writer of scenes... there are scenes in this book-- many, many scenes-- that i will probably remember my whole life (bathroom, balcony, meeting of interpreters, post office, museum guard, wow there are a lot)... it's just the narrative voice which can get so maddening... always circling, thinking, rethinking things, but never very profoundly... often felt like being trapped in the head of a normal guy who thinks he's a genius of the ages... but without being given enough breathing room to allow that to be funny...

and i guess that's really my problem with the book, it's just so utterly serious... never cracked a smile once the whole way through... no sense of joy or excitement (or even anxiety or fear)... people mention henry james and w.g. sebald in their reviews, but i don't really see either of those here (except on a very superficial level (THEY ALL USE LONG SENTENCES))... mostly it reminds me of milan kundera (though i like this a lot more than kundera)... same kind of weighty oh-the-humanity, weariness-of-the-centuries, fine-let's-fuck kinda thing...

i don't know. it is a strange book. compulsively readable, at least most of the way. pretty fascinating on a structural level. just not very emotionally involving.


but anyway, my second marias, and it won't be the last. (i liked Written Lives a lot better, that one had a sense of humor.)
Profile Image for merixien.
541 reviews267 followers
February 16, 2022
Kitap daha ilk sayfasından büyük bir olay ile başlıyor. Balayından yeni dönmüş olan genç kadın, ailesinin evinde yemek masasından kalkıp banyoya girer ve kendini kalbinden vurur.

Birinci şahıs anlatıcı ise kendi doğumundan çok önce yaşanan bu olaya dahil olur. Zira intihar eden genç kadın, annesinin kız kardeşi ve balayından döndüğü kocası ise anlatıcımızın babasıdır. Olayın gizemi hiçbir şekilde ortaya çıkmadan kırk yıl geçmiştir ve anlatıcımız artık evlidir. Kendi evliliğinin kafasında uyandırdığı soru işaretleri bir noktada asla teyzesi olamamış teyzesinin intiharının hikayesine kadar götürür.

Marias’ın herhangi bir kitabı gibi bunu da anlatmak pek kolay değil. Karmakarışık aile ilişkilerini bir kenara bırakıp temelinde evliliklere, evliliklerin içinde saklanan sırlara ve dürüstlüğe dair aklınızın bir köşesini her daim meşgul edebilecek sorular bırakıyor. Bir kez daha insanın anlamaktan ziyade, anlatmaya dair tutkusu ön plana çıkıyor. “Her şey anlatılabilir, başlamak yeterlidir” ve “ evlilik anlattıran bir kurumdur” doğrultusu üzerinde anlatının sınırlarının nerede çekilmesi gerektiğini soruyor. Beni en çok etkileyen şey anlatmanın iki insan arasındaki şeffaflık ve dürüstlük mü yoksa anlatıcının “günah çıkarma” misali kendini temize çıkarma, aklama çabası mı olduğu ikilemini doğurmasıydı. “..söylenen bir cümleyi hafifletmek için daha çok anlatmak gerekiyor; saçma ama böyle,”

Yazarın kendine has üslubu sebebiyle çok da kolay okunmuyor, merak uyandırsa da aralıksız devam edemiyorsunuz, durağan ve sakin bir süreç talep ediyor sizden. Kitapta adım adım ilerledikçe aslında sürpriz olmayan bir sona gidiyorsunuz ancak kitabın sizi çeken kısmı o hikayenin ya da gizemin sonundan öte bütün bu sorguladıkları. Zaten yazarın kendisi de kitaba bu gözle bakıyor, o yüzden sizi merak içinde bırakan çoğu olay ya da kişiye dair soruları havada bırakıyor. Bir de tabii Marias’ın adeta kendine ait evreni olduğu gerçeği ile daha önceden okuduğunuz ya da ileride okuyacağınız kitaplarda yer alan karakterlerle karşılaşma hoşluğu var. Sanırım bu kitapların bittikten sonra dahi aklımızda yer edip bizimle yaşıyor olmalarının sebebi de bu evren. Evlilik, anlatmak, sırlar ve suç ortaklığına dair çokça söyleyecek sözü var. Benim de evlilik ve "Luisa"larına dair kendisine sormak istediğim çokça soru birikti aslında içimde ama o konuda yapılabilecek pek de bir şey yok sanırım.
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