In general I dislike Javier Marías, but I love this novel. And since this blog privileges fiction that’s worth highlighting, novels that you would recommend to a friend, A heart so white is in it! Marías is one of the most important writers (if not the most) working now in Spain. Marías is that kind of author that detonates either love or hate, he can be considered boring, tiring, and his long sentences sometimes make you think everything he says is a constant speculation. These characteristics are traceable in this novel, in my opinion a masterpiece full of mysteries and enigmas that unfolds not only in the most evident sense (a strange death at the beginning of the novel) but also as a way to talk about our language as the most important enigma. In fact, the main characters are Juan, a translator and Luisa, translator also. They meet at an international meeting between Margaret Thatcher and Juan Carlos of Spain, both alone with the two leaders. Digressions about the art of translating, the impossibility to grasp through words reality and so on are constants in the novel. There’s an exquisite and almost perverse fascination in the way Juan imagines changing the words, manipulating the meaning of certain phrases and ideas.
How do we think, how do we translate, how do we lie, and, most important, how do we listen? These are the ideas that the novel conceives.
The mystery is also neuralgic to the novel, and goes along with important intertexts, Macbeth, and sleep --- murdered sleep, and a devastating fire. Here, a sample of Marías distinctive pace. Look for the first period:
“What happened between us both happened and didn't happen, it's the same with everything, why do or not do something, why say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, why worry yourself with a ‘perhaps’ or a ‘maybe’, why speak, why remain silent, why refuse, why know anything if nothing of what happens happens, because nothing happens without interruption, nothing lasts or endures or is ceaselessly remembered, what takes place is identical to what doesn't take place, what we dismiss or allow to slip by us is identical to what we accept and seize, what we experience identical to what we never try; we pour all our intelligence and our feelings and our enthusiasm into the task of discriminating between things that will all be made equal, if they haven't already been, and that's why we're so full of regrets and lost opportunities, of confirmations and reaffirmations and opportunities grasped, when the truth is that nothing is affirmed and everything is constantly in the process of being lost. Or perhaps there never was anything”.
“Corazón tan blanco” (winner of the IMPAC award in 1997) was translated by Margaret Jull Costa.