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Een hart zo blank : roman by Javier Marías
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Een hart zo blank : roman (original 1992; edition 1993)

by Javier Marías, Aline Glastra van Loon (Translator)

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1,148327,114 (4.02)59
Member:deklerk
Title:Een hart zo blank : roman
Authors:Javier Marías
Other authors:Aline Glastra van Loon (Translator)
Info:[Amsterdam] : Meulenhoff Millennium; 316 p, 21 cm; http://opc4.kb.nl/DB=1/PPN?PPN=322867533
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:Literatuur, Spaanse lit.

Work details

A Heart So White by Javier Marías (1992)

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    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.
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» See also 59 mentions

English (23)  Spanish (4)  German (2)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  All languages (32)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
“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 |
I enjoyed this but don't know how to review it without spoilers. Put it simply - it's very clever. Juan is an interpreter / translator who has recently married. He knows very little about his father's life or his father's marriages because he's never asked. And can he believe what he's been told anyway? Beautifully written, although I was quite detached from the characters. I enjoyed this. ( )
  sashinka | Jan 14, 2016 |
I enjoyed this a lot, but it is not an easy book to summarise. Loosely it is a book about family secrets, communication and relationships, with a long-hidden tragedy at its core, and focuses on a son's attempts to understand his father's past and come to terms with the psychological effects of his recent marriage, written in a rich language with a lot of sudden changes of focus, and occasional repetitions. Trying to break it down like that doesn't convey how rewarding the read is. ( )
  bodachliath | Feb 24, 2015 |
http://msarki.tumblr.com/post/74848982435/a-heart-so-white-by-javier-marias

The number of pages of made-time that it takes for Javier Marías to get anywhere is simultaneously relaxing in its pace and frustrating in its ramble. But what better activities does one have to do with one's time than to sit still with a book written by a master-observer regarding the human condition? There are few topics the author fails to elaborate on within his process, the hours of contemplation required in finding and eventually knowing his subjects well. In simple big-time wrestling terms, sentences elaborately structured with such sophistication and care that even a lesser reader might employ its own standing head scissors before Marías takes his precise and finishing aim with an incoming pile driver. Ha! The entire novel kept me waiting for what was to come. I could not foretell the ending nor know the direction of the exit he might be headed for. For lack of better terms let us name this brilliant crafting suspense within a literary elaboration.

Often I find myself nodding in agreement with Marías regarding relationships, especially marriage. But his complicated nuances between father and son, mid-life renewals of childhood friendships, work environments and travel, affairs both present and past, all contribute to the measured extravagance almost exploding on every page. Memory often plays an integral part in the Marías oeuvre, at least it has in the few titles I have thus far read. Whether these recollections can be trusted, or the fictions made real, all stories told or heard are subject to a bit of untruth or embellishment at the least. It is refreshing to read Marías in the sense of his having already considered his ideas extensively before setting them down on the page. He seems to exhaust every possibility in arguing his case for whatever position might be adhered to by one of his characters. He is not only a brilliant writer but gifted in making what he writes extremely interesting, though long-winded. But for one who revels in the rhythm of time, and has nothing more useful to do than enjoy a fine and lofty musical performance, then Marías is the writer meant for you. And if questioning one's motives or wanting to trust in another human being is just your cup of tea, then Marías is also a good resource to reference to, as any doubt which might exist in one of our preconceived or well-thought notions this great author will raise doubts beyond any small measure. But still the angst augured is relaxing in its own way. And the consequences sometimes light in regard to the manner in which he gets us there. Somewhat like a lazy ride on calm water in a whisper-quiet motorboat.

These Marías characters never surprise me with their secrets and suspicions. All relationships have them. Marías is a master at identifying anything and everything that might become questionable or in need of further thoughtful consideration. If he writes of someone dying, and perhaps he already has and I am not aware of it just yet, then it would most certainly be the slowest of deaths. The suffering process would drag out, time would stand still as it often does in uncomfortable, dreadful situations. And the novel here does this as well. Secrets that demand to be told with all their budding questions answered. Unavoidable realizations and an understanding of an awful incident in the past, an almost hopeless situation if the dire consequences had actually been avoided, a forgiving comprehension necessary in order to process the information successfully without wanting to do your own self in. But then, as always, a complicit exercise where the innocent party carries a burden of guilt and shame just by knowing and agreeing to be tolerant, to continue to be still loving and abiding, no matter the questionable facts regarding the dated crime. Javier Marías is one of the most gifted novelists writing today. He is so clever and kind with his words that his vicious grip is administered unexpectedly.

When applied correctly against an opponent the mandible claw is a maneuver which is regarded by fellow wrestlers to cause intense, legitimate pain. The aggressor places his middle and ring fingers into the opponent's mouth, sliding them under the tongue and jabbing into the soft tissue found at the bottom of the mouth. The rest of the same hand is placed under the jaw, and pressure is applied downward by the middle and ring fingers while the thumb and/or palm forces the jaw upwards.

( )
  MSarki | Jan 24, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (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 (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Javier Maríasprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Costa, Margaret JullTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wehr, ElkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Für Julia Altares
Julia Altares zum Trotz
und für Lola Manera in Havanna
in memoriam
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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)

A few months after his honeymoon, Juan Ranz still has not been able to adjust to the changes in his life. Then he finds out that Teresa, his father's first wife, committed suicide upon returning from her own honeymoon. Only one person knows why and has kept this dark secret for years."Pocos meses despue s de su viaje de novios y sin au n haber podido, o querido, adaptarse a su cambio de estado, Juan Ranz se entera casi sin querer de que Teresa, la primera mujer de su padre, se quito la vida al regreso de su propia luna de miel. So lo una persona conoce el porque y ha guardado durante an os ese oscuro secreto."-- Back cover.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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