The Infatuations by Javier Marías (Margaret Jull Costa) - review by Miranda France

Miranda France

Desvern’s Demise

The Infatuations



In the game of stereotypes played between Anglo-Saxon and Hispanic cultures, we’re supposed to be the dour, phlegmatic ones while they are all about self-expression and fun. At the moment, the reverse seems to apply to our respective literatures. We prize fiction that reveals character and feeling while the best in current Spanish-language fiction is so highly discursive and cerebral it looks more like philosophy masquerading as a novel. Magic realism is long gone, replaced by cool metafiction. In fact Jorge Luis Borges – an inescapable presence in Hispanic fiction – is at the root of both literary approaches. Borges gave his outlandish tales spurious authority by lacing them with footnotes and invented scholarship, tricks still popular with such postmodern writers as David Foster Wallace. Spanish and Latin American writers – including Enrique Vila-Matas and Roberto Bolaño – seem especially drawn to that Borgesian demi-world where real people, sometimes the authors themselves, enter imaginary spheres. Bolaño once said, ‘I could live under a table reading Borges.’ 

Javier Marías writes fictions that are inventive puzzles, and he leads a puzzling life too. He is the King of Redonda, a tiny, uninhabited Caribbean island with an aristocracy made up of his friends (A S Byatt is a duchess). In Spain, where he is a celebrity, Marías keeps two

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