Review of “Corazon tan blanco,” by Javier Marias
I found a web page that recommended several Spanish-language books for intermediate readers, so I ordered a couple. This is the first book from the list. If this is for intermediate readers, I can’t imagine what is suggested for advanced readers. It is written in some kind of avant garde style that no student should be exposed to.
The first chapter is one paragraph that goes on for five pages. Sentences run up to half-a-page. It is a stream-of-consciousness journey with the first-person narrator, who questions every single thing that happens to him. He gives some family history in his rambling thoughts. Flashbacks appear without warning in the middle of sentences. His life slowly unfolds in this piecemeal and unstructured manner.
I can summarize the plot easily, because nothing happens. He gets married, goes on a honeymoon, moves into a new apartment, visits a friend in New York (he lives in Spain, but I don’t remember which city), returns home and learns a terrible secret about his father. All the action is in his mind, his doubts and worries consuming his every waking moment.
The devil is in the details, and so is the interesting parts of this book. The author does a good job taking the reader into every mundane corner of the protagonist’s mind, unearthing questions we ask ourselves every day without thinking. All of it is captured for examination in remarkably well constructed flights of imagination. The self-deprecating humor is perfectly done, especially the way the narrator’s occupation as a translator is analyzed. I laughed several times at the depictions of the world of international diplomacy. Very good. The same sharp wit is turned on politics and everyday activities.
This would be difficult to translate to English, so much would be lost, but if it’s available, I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a simple but complex story about a man stumbling through life as a successful professional.
I also recommend it to someone who reads Spanish, but not to a “intermediate” reader like me.