The first novel by a distinguished Spanish writer mainly known for his short stories turns out to be a primer in existential thinking about death and dying.
Originally published in Spanish in 2013, this book plunges us into a dark world where relationships founder and death is a pervasive reality. When their marriages collapse, the narrator and his good friend Jacobo both enter new phases of their lives, questioning in an even more intense way the meaning (or meaninglessness) of things. While perhaps not clinically depressed, they both feel dejected and confused. As the narrator explains, “I could now clearly see the enormous fragility of everything that had until recently appeared indestructible to my eyes.” This fragility is tested to the breaking point when Jacobo, who had begun to experience a fear verging on paranoia, is discovered murdered, the victim of a stabbing in his apartment. The narrator becomes obsessed with finding out more about his friend, so he visits Jacobo’s apartment and to some extent “becomes” Jacobo by putting on his slippers and smoking his cigarettes. Eventually he discovers an exchange of emails between his friend and a mysterious woman named Nadia. Before long the narrator writes to Nadia and then meets her in the apartment of his slain friend. In a strange and amorous doubling of Jacobo’s life, they become lovers. Much of the action of the novel is internal and psychological and plays out against the intellectual background of writers like Marguerite Duras, whose book The War is freely alluded to and provides a pattern for the triangle of narrator, the deceased Jacobo, and Nadia.
A meditative and philosophical “thriller.”