by Javier "MarÃas ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 1, 1997
Another intriguing psychodrama of sex, guilt, and social satire from the prize-winning Spanish author whose fiction in English translation includes All Souls and A Heart So White (both 1996). First published in 1994, this novel (which has itself won major international literary awards) explores the engagingly dysfunctional mind and heart of Victor Frances, a successful screenwriter, and a bland usurper of things and people that don't belong to him--not unlike Shakespeare's Richard III (the source of MarÃas's exceedingly witty title). The novel begins with a bang, so to speak, when Victor's mistress Marta Deem dies of a heart attack in bed, precluding their usual lovemaking--and it then spins off into amusingly unpredictable directions as Victor observes Marta's funeral from a safe distance, then eludes the suspicions of her angrily bereaved family (most notably Marta's husband Eduardo, who pursues, Javert-like, his late wife's unknown lover). MarÃas's portrayal of Victor is convincingly complex. Before absconding from his love nest, he prepares breakfast for Marta's sleeping two-year-old son. And, in a dazzling comic scene, Victor (who's inexplicably drawn toward intimacy with Marta's distraught family) patiently endures the near-lunatic ravings of Marta's self-important father Don Juan Tellez. Further delicious complications are added by Victor's ongoing and deeply confused dÃ¢tente with his ex-wife Celia. Unfortunately, all these splendidly handled elements are subsumed in the thick rhetorical fog cast over the novel by Victor's exhaustively extended digressive monologues, which are filled with apposite but monotonous Shakespearean quotations, many of which take the form of long nonstop sentences and paragraphs. There's a brilliant fictional imagination at work here, but this novel tests even the most willing reader's patience. All the same, MarÃas's is a world-class talent, one always worth reading.
Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997
Page Count: 320
Publisher: Harcourt Brace
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997
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