A HEART SO WHITE by Javier Marías

A HEART SO WHITE

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A harrowing drama of family secrets and their deepening resonance throughout several involved lives, by an accomplished European author whose All Souls (not reviewed) appeared in English translation in 1993. Marias's novel (winner of the Spanish Critics' Award) begins with its narrator Juan's imagined reconstruction of the suicide of his father's first wife, his mother's sister, shortly following their honeymoon. Juan and his new wife, Luisa, are both translators and interpreters who labor to facilitate communication among ``delegates and representatives'' at various multilingual international congresses. They're also both perpetrators and victims of miscommunication within their own relationship and as members of Juan's continually traumatized family. The guilt borne by his father Ranz, a menacing, almost satanic figure whose experience of marriage and widowhood eludes his son's full understanding, casts troubling shadows over all those close to him- -and finds mocking parallels in Juan's friendship with a crippled woman victimized by her recalcitrant lover and in his chance observation of an adulterous couple who may or may not be plotting murder. These perplexities are rendered in an unusual style that blends Jamesian introspection and qualification with headlong melodrama and rapid nonstop sentences. Marias's title and epigraph allude openly to Macbeth's murder of Duncan, and its sinister burden of simultaneous cumulative revelation and deepening mystery powerfully expresses its stated sense that ``nothing that happens happens . . . and the weak wheel of the world is pushed along by forgetful beings who hear and see and know what is not said, never happens, is unknowable and unverifiable.'' The impression of characters caught in the toils of their own self-conscious self- exploration is reminiscent of Sartre's No Exit. The novel circles repeatedly, with an unflinching concentrated gaze, on its people's awkward spasmodic efforts to bridge the gaps that frustrate their need for mutuality and union. The flawed, truncated nature of all human contact and efforts to reach it has rarely been given such remorseless stress.

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 1996
ISBN: 1-86046-002-X
Page count: 256pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1996




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