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A Heart So White by Javier Marías

A Heart So White (1992)

by Javier Marías

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,320408,818 (4.05)68
Recently added byzgegman, phoebekw, private library, Themis-Athena, xijaxem, Lauconn
  1. 10
    Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me by Javier Marías (laurabi)
    laurabi: Una novela en la que Marías despliega su oficio, un desarrollo que atrapa y no sólo por la trama sino (como siempre) por las disgresiones del autor, desmenuza las situaciones con un detalle obsesivo y el final golpea por lo inesperado.
  2. 11
    Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (spiphany)
  3. 00
    Homo Faber by Max Frisch (spiphany)

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» See also 68 mentions

English (26)  Spanish (6)  Italian (2)  German (2)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (39)
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
I really liked this book. The back cover describes it as "a sort of anti-detective story of human nature.", which is pretty accurate. The main character, Juan, recently married to Luisa, knows little about his father's past marriages, and he isn't sure he wants to know. The book explores the nature of secrets in personal relationships, marriage, and sexuality.

The writing is top-notch, translated by Margaret Jull Costa. The protagonist riffs on different themes, sometimes it isn't clear how this is going to relate to the whole, but be assured that it always does. Some of the most interesting digressions are on the nature of translation and interpretation. Juan and Luisa are both translators, and that work sets the scene for a story of duplicity and double meanings. One of my favorite parts talks about the difference between translation and interpretation:

"no one can be sure that what the translator translates form his isolated cabin is correct or true and I need hardly say that, on many occasions, it's neither one nor the other, due to ignorance, laziness, distraction or malice on part of the interpreter doing the interpreting, or a bad hangover. That's the accusation leveled at them by translators of (that is, translators of written texts): whilst every invoice and every scrap of nonsense laboured over by the translators in their gloomy offices is relentlessly exposed to malicious revisions, and every error detected, denounced or even fined, no one bothers to check the words that the interpreters launch unthinkingly into the air from their cabins. Interpreters hate translators and translators hate interpreters... " ( )
  banjo123 | Nov 26, 2017 |
Prima di leggere un libro di marías occorre:
a) SAPERE che è un libro di marías (non è un consiglio così sciocco come sembra)
b) trovare il momento indicato per iniziare (astenersi frettolosi, distratti, mangiatori di unghie, mamme con bambini urlanti, pendolari di metrò)
c) non lasciarsi convincere dalla propria nevrosi a smettere dopo dieci pagine (e l'avrete questa tentazione, l'avrete)
d) non correre avanti per sapere come va a finire(tanto è inutile, non finisce).

E poi..via: "Non ho voluto sapere, ma ho saputo che una delle bambine, quando non era più bambina ed era appena tornata dal viaggio di nozze, andò in bagno, si mise davanti allo specchio, si sbottonò la camicetta, si sfilò il reggiseno e si cercò il cuore con la canna della pistola di suo padre, il quale si trovava in sala da pranzo..."
Lady Macbeth, per lui, l'ha fatto e voi, ne sareste capaci? ( )
  icaro. | Aug 31, 2017 |
I started this knowing nothing about it other than it was written by a Spaniard and was on the Guardian's list of 1000 novels everyone should read. And now I am glad that is so as if someone had tried to describe this to me, I probably would have thought "That's not for me". How wrong would I have been!

Marias's writing was engaging and he slowly builds up a sense of tension and suspense throughout the book even though the main character & narrator of the story spends a lot of time musing on fairly philosophical subjects. For my own aide-de-memoire, here is a quote which is typical which I will put in spoilers for fear of turning off a potential reader as I myself would have been by a description:

“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 out 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.” ( )
  leslie.98 | Jul 31, 2017 |
“I did not want to know but I have since come to know that one of the girls, when she wasn’t a girl any more and hadn’t long been back from her honeymoon, went into the bathroom, stood in front of the mirror, unbuttoned her blouse, took off her bra and aimed her own father’s gun at her heart, her father at the time was in the living room with other members of the family and three guests.”

And so with the first sentence we dive into unknown depths.

The title of the book is from Macbeth, in the scene in which Macbeth returns to his wife, after killing Duncan (‘the deed is done’). This is the kernel of the book, the wellspring. “Listening is the most dangerous thing of all, listening means knowing, finding out about something and knowing what’s going on, our ears don’t have lids that can instinctively close against the words uttered, they can’t hide from what they sense they’re about to hear, it’s always too late. It isn’t just that Lady Macbeth persuades Macbeth, it’s above all that she’s aware that he’s committed a murder from the moment he has done so, she’s heard from her husband’s own lips, on his return: “I have done the deed.” … she returned having smeared the faces of the servants with the blood of the dead man ("If he do bleed ...") to make them seem the guilty parties: "My hands are of your colour," she says to Macbeth, "but I shame to wear a heart so white," as if she wished to infect him with her own nonchalance in exchange for infecting herself with the bloodshed by Duncan, unless "white" here means "pale and fearful" or "cowardly"."

I compare reading Marias to floating in the water. To fall back on the water, to feel it pressing on the back, on the shoulders, like a hand on the shoulder, it supports us, it holds us up and calms us. To concentrate on not concentrating, so that the immersion carries you along at the same level, unvarying, familiar and new, blindly but inexorably toward knowing, yet knowing that if you stop concentrating you will shift focus and then lose your way so then you have to concentrate again on concentrating to regain your position, to feel it again pressing on your back, supporting you, calming you, like a hand on the shoulder.

On this, my second Marias novel, I was prepared to be immersed, to search for the right plane, and to listen for the reverberations. “It's always the chest of the other person we lean back against for support, we only really feel supported or backed up when, as the latter verb itself indicates, there's someone behind us, someone we perhaps cannot even see and who covers our back with their chest, so close it almost brushes our back and in the end always does, and at times, that someone places a hand on our shoulder, a hand to calm us and also to hold us.” This was a common repetition, a variation, that appeared throughout the novel in similar but slightly different ways each time. The “hand on the shoulder” became the defining image, always with the same significance of reassurance, of calming, of support. But the narrator’s father Ranz (the husband of the suicidal woman in the opening paragraph) never feels that hand on his shoulder. Instead, there are a few times where he puts his coat on his shoulder, never putting his arms in the sleeves, the narrator takes pains to explain this is how he usually wears the coat. He must cover his own shoulder, from the back, he is alone, no one is covering his back. The “hand on the shoulder”… it recurs extensively throughout the story, provoking recognition and heightened alertness each time I came across the action.

The rhythm of the reading differs from conventional novels in that it is mostly told tightly in two planes. One is a brief narrative descriptive type, still usually formed by looping, tumbling sequences, and then the other is the longer reflective echoing musings, which repeat throughout the book, varying slightly in their telling, but cross referencing backward and forward, and these become gradually longer and more insistent until they merge with and become the dominant narrative. It is about listening, secrets, obligations, suspicions, telling stories, concealing stories. Stay in the plane, just at that plane, retain your focus, and it is like being showered in puzzle pieces that somehow fall into place all around you. ( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
Corazón tan Blanco by Javiar Marias
This book starts with and bang (no pun intended) and ends in a similarly dramatic way but the journey from point A to point B is often slow and meandering (in a good way). Protagonist, Juan is a translator who has recently married and is impacted by events that happened to his family before his birth. I’ll refrain from providing a full plot summary since a true plot summary would give too much away, and furthermore, this book is about so much more that development of the plot. In sum, it’s a book about family, secrets, betrayal, and the interconnections between past, present, and future.

This was a slow and at times difficult read for me, albeit in a positive and enjoyable way. I read the book in Spanish and had to slow down my reading in order to fully appreciate this book. Marias is an intellectual writer. His sentence structure is verging on Proustian and the journey on which he takes the reader is filled with references to Shakespeare and grounded in the philosophical questions raised during the course of his story. Marias raises questions about marriage, listening and telling, and the significance of knowing (is it better to be ignorant? Does knowledge make you complicit?, etc.). I found several similarities with Proust (don’t worry if you hated Proust since Marias is also different in many ways). Both raise themes of the role of memory, both narrators (Juan and Marcel from In Search of Lost time) are frequently in the role of a voyeur, and their writing is very rich. Unlike in Search of Lost time, this book is packed with major events and at times reads like a smart detective story. I enjoyed it very much and would like to re-read this book in English to see what I missed.
( )
  JenPrim | Jan 15, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
Like Henry James's or Marcel Proust's, his sinuous, flattering, seemingly endless sentences presume -- even insist -- that we are as subtle and intelligent as the author. And their subject matter is Proustian or Jamesian as well -- Marías is interested not so much in the violent death or the adulterous love affair itself as in how we think and feel about such events when we contemplate them beforehand or consider them afterward.

» Add other authors (39 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Javier Maríasprimary authorall editionscalculated
Coe, JonathanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jull Costa, MargaretTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wehr, ElkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Für Julia Altares
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Non ho voluto sapere, ma ho saputo che una delle bambine, quando non era più bambina ed era appena tornata dal viaggio di nozze, andò in bagno, si mise davanti allo specchio, si sbottonò la camicetta, si sfilò il reggiseno e si cercò il cuore con la canna della pistola di suo padre, il quale si trovava in sala da pranzo in compagnia di parte della famiglia e di tre ospiti.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0811215059, Paperback)

A breathtaking novel about family secrets, winner of the 1997 Dublin IMPAC Prize for the best novel published worldwide in English, and arguably Javier Marías's masterpiece.

Javier Marías's A Heart So White chronicles with unnerving insistence the relentless power of the past. Juan knows little of the interior life of his father Ranz; but when Juan marries, he begins to consider the past anew, and begins to ponder what he doesn't really want to know. Secrecy—its possible convenience, its price, and even its civility—hovers throughout the novel. A Heart So White becomes a sort of anti-detective story of human nature. Intrigue; the sins of the father; the fraudulent and the genuine; marriage and strange repetitions of violence: Marías elegantly sends shafts of inquisitory light into shadows and on to the costs of ambivalence. ("My hands are of your colour; but I shame/To wear a heart so white"—Shakespeare's Macbeth.)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:46 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

No he querido saber, pero he sabido que una de las ni?as, cuando ya no era ni?a y no hac?a mucho que hab?a regresado de su viaje de bodas, entr? en el cuarto de ba?o, se puso frente al espejo, se abri? la blusa, se quit? el sost?n y se busc? el coraz?n con la punta de la pistola... As? comienza esta novela magistral de Javier Mar?as. Pero eso fue hace mucho tiempo, seg?n a?ade el narrador: ahora es ?l quien est? reci?n casado, con Luisa, y en su propio viaje de novios, estando en La Habana, ve desde el balc?n de su hotel a una mujer desconocida que espera en la calle y que durante unos segundos lo confundir? con la persona con quien se ha citado. A partir de entonces el narrador sentir? un creciente e inexplicable malestar (presentimientos de desastre) ante su reci?n inauguradomatrimonio, e intuir? que la explicaci?n tal vez est? en el pasado y por tanto en su propio origen, yaque su padre, Ranz, hubo de casarse tres veces para que ?l pudiera nacer. Lejos del investigador, el narrador de esta novela es, por el contrario, un hombre que prefiere no saber, consciente de lo peligroso que resulta escuchar y de que, una vez o?das las cosas, ya no pueden olvidarse. La vigorosa e hipn?tica prosa de Javier Mar?as configura en espiral esta extraordinaria novela en la que est?n presentes los grandes temas de su narrativa: el secreto y su posible conveniencia,el matrimonio, el asesinato, la instigaci?n, la sospecha, el hablar y el callar, y los corazones que poco a poco se van ti?endo y acaban sabiendo lo que nunca quisieron saber. La presente edici?n conmemorativa cuenta con un pr?logo escrito por el autor para la ocasi?n, un testimonio personal sobre los veinticinco a?os de Coraz?n tan blanco.… (more)

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