Javier Marías’ novel “Asi empieza lo malo” (2014)

Another acclaimed novel by one of Spain’s great contemporary writers, Javier Marías (Madrid, 1951; Wikipedia). The English title would be “Thus bad begins”, an allusion to Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

The publisher has the following to say on its contents:

«It’s not too long ago that this story occured; today however, it would be impossible. I am referring to what happened to them, to Eduardo Muriel and his wife, Beatriz Noguera, when they were young, and not so much to what happened to me with them, when I was the young one and their marriage a long and indissoluble misery».

This is the beginning of Así empieza lo malo, “a dim history of private life, one of those that normally are not told, or only in whispers,” evoked by the one who in his youth was witness and participant, Juan de Vere, while he was at the service of a formerly successful film director. This work allowed him to watch the strange, unbalanced present of the marriage as well as peer into the mysterious grievances of its past.

In the excited Madrid of 1980, Muriel charges the young De Vere with thoroughly investigating a long-time friend of his, Dr. Jorge Van Vechten, of whose indecent behaviour in the past he has heard rumours. But Juan will not limit himself to this but take doubtful initiatives, because, as he himself recognizes at a mature age,  “young people have the sould and conscience postponed.”

This way he will discover that there is no uninterested justice, but that it is always contaminated by personal resentment; and that all forgiveness or punishment are arbitrary, the individual ones and the collective ones. With his intelligent and deep prose, Javier Marías also gives us a novel on desire, that normally imposes itself over all scruples, loyalty and respect, and on our imperfect contemplation of the facts, always one-eyed: sometimes by force, sometimes by our entire decision.

A novel on desire, resentment and the arbitrariness of forgiveness.

For an early review in English, visit “the modern novel” (blog).

SOURCE: Alfaguara (publisher)

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3 thoughts on “Javier Marías’ novel “Asi empieza lo malo” (2014)

  1. Pingback: Snippet: Javier Marías’ “Berta Isla” (2017) | literary rambles

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