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The Infatuations | [Javier Marías, Margaret Jull Costa (translator)]

The Infatuations

At the Madrid café where she stops for breakfast each day before work, María Dolz finds herself drawn to a couple who is also there every morning. Though she can hardly explain it, observing what she imagines to be their "unblemished" life lifts her out of the doldrums of her own existence. But what begins as mere observation turns into an increasingly complicated entanglement when the man is fatally stabbed in the street. María approaches the widow to offer her condolences, and at the couple’s home she meets - and falls in love with - another man who sheds disturbing new light on the crime.
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Publisher's Summary

From the award-winning Spanish writer Javier Marías comes an extraordinary new book that has been a literary sensation around the world: an immersive, provocative novel propelled by a seemingly random murder that we come to understand - or do we? - through one woman’s ever-unfurling imagination and infatuations.

At the Madrid café where she stops for breakfast each day before work, María Dolz finds herself drawn to a couple who is also there every morning. Though she can hardly explain it, observing what she imagines to be their "unblemished" life lifts her out of the doldrums of her own existence. But what begins as mere observation turns into an increasingly complicated entanglement when the man is fatally stabbed in the street. María approaches the widow to offer her condolences, and at the couple’s home she meets - and falls in love with - another man who sheds disturbing new light on the crime. As María recounts this story, we are given a murder mystery brilliantly reimagined as metaphysical enquiry, a novel that grapples with questions of love and death, guilt and obsession, chance and coincidence, how we are haunted by our losses, and above all, the slippery essence of the truth and how it is told.

©2013 Javier Marías; translation copyright 2013, Margaret Jull Costa (P)2013 Random House Audio

What the Critics Say

“Blindingly intelligent, engagingly accessible—it seems there’s nothing Marías can’t make fiction do. No wonder he’s perennially mentioned as a potential Nobel laureate . . . Marías’s rare gift is his ability to make intellectual jousting as suspenseful as the chase scenes in a commercial thriller. He’s tremendously stimulating to read; arresting turns of phrase enfold piercing insights.”Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“A haunting masterpiece . . . The lasting challenge to literature is to achieve a satisfying marriage between high art and the low drives of a simple plot. The Infatuations is just such a novel . . . Marías plays with perception, memory, and guilt like a toreador. With every flourish of his literary cape, the enthralled reader is never allowed to forget that, in the end, the author will make a killing. Just as Macbeth is a thriller that’s also a great tragedy, The Infatuations is a murder story that’s also a profound story of fatal obsession . . . Great Spanish novels don’t come along too often. Don Quixote was first published as long ago as 1620. I wouldn’t be surprised if The Infatuations soon acquired an equally devoted following.” The Observer
 
“Extraordinary . . . [A] masterly novel . . . The classical themes of love, death, and fate are explored with elegant intelligence by Marías in what is perhaps his best novel so far . . . Marías has defined the ethos of our time.” —Alberto Manguel, The Guardian 
 

“Marías [is] a consummate stylist . . . The cadences of his exquisite sentences are preserved in translator Costa’s English, the clauses balanced like a loaded scale . . . It is magic, stupendous, and not done for effect.” Booklist (starred)

“Absorbing and unnerving . . . For all the currents that ripple across its surface, The Infatuations is powered ultimately by the pressure of good old-fashioned suspense . . . A labyrinthine exploration, at once thrilling and melancholy, of the meanings of one man’s death—and a vivid testimony to the power of stories, for good or ill, to weave the world into our thoughts and our thoughts into the world.” The Sunday Times (London)
 
“Hypnotic . . . The Infatuations plays off Marías’s enchantingly sinuous sentences. They suck you in and lull you along with their rhythm, which gives the unusual and palpable awareness of how masterfully Marías has made time itself his peculiar object of investigation . . . The prose of The Infatuations is as casual as spoken language yet paradoxically feels honed to within an inch of its life. I don’t know how Marías manages that—or I should say, how his translator Jull Costa has achieved this in book after book, though never so marvelously as in this one . . . Powerful.” Bookforum

“A masterpiece . . . Composed with astonishing precision . . . One reads it all without being able to put it down: a passionate investigation, with a high dose of intrigue, into the hidden corners of the human soul . . . Here, great literature once again shows its true face.”  ABC Cultural (Spain)
 
“Keeps us guessing until almost the last page. Yet what lingers in the reader’s mind is not the murder mystery, compelling though it is. Rather, it is the author’s examination of the ebb and flow of flawed relationships; the chances that bring us together and the fates (in this case, murderous intent) that pull us apart.” Financial Times
 
“I ended up getting angry with myself for not having rationed the reading so it would last longer. Perhaps no novel has ever changed anyone’s life. But, fortunately, some are still being written that make us forgive—even if only for a few hours—that lamentable limitation.” El País

“Uniquely luminous . . . A reading experience that is sometimes urbanely sensual and sometimes abstractly philosophical; or, maybe more precisely, sensual and philosophical, simultaneously . . . Like Beethoven, Marías is a brilliant escape artist . . . But Marías is original; he cannot help it.” Times Literary Supplement (London)
 
“Plotted with tremendous skill and elegance, this cerebral tale is entirely absorbing.”Daily Mail
 
The Infatuations is a metaphysical exploration masquerading as a murder mystery . . . Quietly addictive.”Spectator
 
“This cerebral, coolly compelling crime novel appears in the first instance to have one of those observant but passive narrators recognisable from works such as The Great Gatsby, Brideshead Revisited, and The Secret History . . . As it turns out, María, our guiding voice here, gets a little closer to the flame than the reader is initially given to expect—and responds in a rather more complex way . . . Smart, thoughtful, morally challenging, and consistently surprising in its tense twists, this is a sleek atmospheric work.”Scotland on Sunday

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

2.8 (29 )
5 star
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3.2 (26 )
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Story
2.4 (26 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    stl1111 La Grande, OR, United States 08-19-13
    stl1111 La Grande, OR, United States 08-19-13 Member Since 2005

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    81
    ratings
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    22
    15
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    "Skip this one!"

    This book had positive publicist reviews and still sounds very interesting. I am a patient listener and more than willing to give a book lots of time to develop. But I couldn't listen to this narrator more than 4 hours. She sounds distraught and overly emotional at all times - even when not appropriate to the story. She's awful! I was driving and eventually listened to my young grandson's music rather than tolerate her another minute! This book may be one that is worth reading but don't bother listening.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie Ann Mendez-deLeon 08-21-13 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    ratings
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    "Narration was awful."
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    Probably not. I expected more from the reviews, but was disappointed.


    What could Javier Marías and Margaret Jull Costa (translator) have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    The story was alright but the author is redundant--essentially repeats himself ad nauseam
    same ideas over and over. Nor are the ideas themselves particularly novel or new.


    What didn’t you like about Justine Eyre’s performance?

    Her vocal range is very limited. The quality of her voice was forced, breathy, and her diction is poor. The sound quality was not so great.


    Was The Infatuations worth the listening time?

    I could have skipped it.


    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jami E. Nettles Columbus, MS USA 09-04-13
    Jami E. Nettles Columbus, MS USA 09-04-13 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    349
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    153
    63
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    "Narration makes the book impossible to listen to"

    I can't remember ever being so put off by a narrator, unless it was something technical such as a ridiculous fake accent or slow pace. This narrator simpers and whines her way through various characters in a way that totally trivializes the book. The themes of this book should provoke thought and reflection, but instead I just wanted the main characters to grow up - I couldn't imagine them feeling any emotion other than self-pity. What a shame.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jean Tribble Montgomery, AL United States 09-04-13
    Jean Tribble Montgomery, AL United States 09-04-13 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    13
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    "Was the book awful or boring or just not my cup..."
    What would have made The Infatuations better?

    This book may have been tolerable with a better narrator. This woman was a whiner. I will not listen to another book with this reader


    What could Javier Marías and Margaret Jull Costa (translator) have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Maybe the book lost something in translation. The story would go on and on saying things like - maybe he did this or maybe he did that or maybe he even did the other. This happened over and over again. It was so boring.


    How could the performance have been better?

    The narrator was the worst I have ever heard.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    I was sad and disappointed that I wasted my time on this book.


    Any additional comments?

    This book was reviewed on NPR. Maybe this book was meant to be read instead of listened to.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Caroline CARMICHAEL, CA, United States 01-01-14
    Caroline CARMICHAEL, CA, United States 01-01-14 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    "Terrible narration; I don’t know about the story"

    I had to give the story a rating or else I couldn’t write a review, so I am giving it an average 3 stars. I have no idea of whether the story will be any good. I simply can’t go on listening, about 30 minutes in. The narrator is terrible. She swallows the words and doesn’t articulate clearly; it is just too much hard work to understand what she’s saying as I drive or walk. Her voice is very off-putting. I don’t have the return option on this one, or I certainly would do so.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cate Washington D.C. 12-11-13
    Cate Washington D.C. 12-11-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great book ruined by HORRIBLE narration"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    The narrator. Worst I've ever heard.


    What didn’t you like about Justine Eyre’s performance?

    Ms. Eyre's narration was off-putting from the start. Less than a minute into the book I wanted to return it, but when I found that process less than straightforward and it was not a convenient time to call customer service, I decided to tough it out and try to endure the narrator's voice, hoping that the story would be compelling enough that I could ignore her. This was impossible. I listened to a few chapters like this and finally couldn't take it anymore. She sounds as though she's trying very hard to be dramatic, and as a result her speaking voice is very unnatural. Her voice has a tendency to drop into a low, creaky register which is grating, and the rest of the time she alternates between a slightly quavering, nervous sounding tone and a whiny one. When she speaks for the characters, who are all Spanish, she sometimes finds it necessary to speak in an accent, other times not. In my opinion, since the book is being read in translation, there is no need to imagine them speaking accented English, but if we must, the accent should at least be plausible. Her inconsistent application of the accent is weird enough (since all characters are Spanish, not just some of them) but the accent she applies to them is vaguely German.

    It's sad - I heard a great review of this book and was very excited to read it, and now that I've switched to the kindle version I'm enjoying it much more, though the whole point of buying the audiobook was that I don't have lots of time to sit and read. It really is well written and well translated, but to listen to this woman read it would have ruined it for me. I was so excited to get the book that I neglected to read reviews first - others warned of the narration problem. I should have listened. Don't make the same mistake!


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Penny K Palo Alto CA usa 11-27-13
    Penny K Palo Alto CA usa 11-27-13

    psyki

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Listen to a sample before buying!"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    I am a lover of Javier Marias novels. I might have stayed with this listen beyond the first ten minutes, had I been able to tolerate the narrator's voice. She sounded drugged!


    Would you ever listen to anything by Javier Marías and Margaret Jull Costa (translator) again?

    Absolutely, with an alive narrator.


    What didn’t you like about Justine Eyre’s performance?

    The timbre of her voice is rather pleasant, but she gives the reading absolutely no life!


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    I really could not say. I gave the story only one star because I would have to have read the text to rate it fairly.


    Any additional comments?

    Yes. I want to return this book, and I understand that I need to give it less than two stars in order to do so. I wish there were a way to do so without jeopardy -- for instance, a "can't judge" option, when one can not get past the opening, for one reason or another.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    j Philadelphia, PA, United States 01-15-14
    j Philadelphia, PA, United States 01-15-14 Member Since 2011
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
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    Performance
    Story
    "Unlistenable narration - can't go beyond 30 mins"
    What would have made The Infatuations better?

    Maria's is a fine writer, but listeners deserve better than Eyre's "vocal fry."


    What didn’t you like about Justine Eyre’s performance?

    Her "vocal fry" is an affected, annoying vocal pattern. It's hard to take seriously as well. It's the same technique employed by Jane Kozlowski's character on "30 Rock," which is a parody. Too bad- j. eyre did a good job in "Mad Men."


    Any additional comments?

    I'll buy the Kindle or paper edition to finish it. Wish I could return this one.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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