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by Javier Marías,Margaret Jull Costa,Javier Marias

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.)
Download A Heart So White epub
ISBN: 0811214524
ISBN13: 978-0811214520
Category: Literature
Subcategory: World Literature
Author: Javier Marías,Margaret Jull Costa,Javier Marias
Language: English
Publisher: New Directions (November 2000)
Pages: 288 pages
ePUB size: 1362 kb
FB2 size: 1953 kb
Rating: 4.8
Votes: 319
Other Formats: docx lrf lit lrf

Marias is a very good writer and this is an exemplary instance of his craft. The book is dense and philosophical and, in my opinion, requires at least 2 readings. I liked the "Your Face Tomorrow" trilogy a bit better but Marias is a must read for those interested in "serious literature".
Another great book from Javier Marias. His writing tells me of an interesting story, it tells me of his intimate life and his public life. He has become on of my all time favorite writers. This is the third book of his that I've read. I look forward to his other books. If you like good literature, you won't be disappointed.
Mr Freeman
I should state upfront that while I am very taken with the writing of Javier Marias, I can well understand that it will not appeal to everyone. Relatively little seems to occur in his novels, and what does happen often proceeds at a glacial pace, as Marias or his narrator painstakingly examines rather mundane situations, occurences, even gestures, and spins out various possible causes and consequences, possible pasts and futures. The writing often is dense, but (for me) it always is engaging, and the reader's reward is a cascade of insightful ideas and perspectives on modern cosmopolitan life.

The opening chapter of A HEART SO WHITE is a brilliant six-page account (all one paragraph) of the suicide of a young woman in the middle of a dinner party, at the end of which it is revealed that she was the narrator's father's wife. Shortly, we learn that the narrator's father, Ranz, later married the suicide's sister, who then became the mother of the narrator. In a sense, the remainder of the book is a quest, somewhat reluctant and oft-diverted, to find out why Ranz's previous wife (and the narrator's aunt) committed suicide, something that Ranz has kept secret for the 35+ years since. In the course of this quest, Marias explores many aspects of secrets and poses the question, Is it better not to know? -- which leads to the related question, Is it really possible to suppress the desire to know?, and then the further question, of course, is, In the end, is knowledge really possible at all?

The novel's title comes from one of several lines from Shakespeare's "Macbeth" that recur throughout the novel and add depth and complexity to the work. Another recurring line from that play is Macbeth's "I have done the deed." Near the end of A HEART SO WHITE, Ranz says, "What I did was done, but the big difference about what happened afterwards is not whether I did or didn't do it, but the fact that no one knew about it. That it was a secret."

In addition to secrets, other themes (some familiar to readers of other works of Marias) are the evanscence and serendipity of events in life, truth and the distortion of narrative, silence and how it can be as deceptive as speaking, and the obligations of/from the past, or the "weight of the past."

A propos, perhaps, given the preoccupation with secrets, the novel features a lot of eavesdropping and instances of peering down into the street from overlooking windows and, conversely, spying from the street on upper-story windows, all of which intensifies a certain voyeuristic character of A HEART SO WHITE. This voyeurism is extended further in one of the humorous episodes of the novel (in my experience Marias always has his funny or witty moments) where the narrator assists a woman friend in her search for a mate through a dating service and the making and exchanging of videos, which, of course, conceal and distort as much as they reveal. The funniest episode in the book is when the narrator (a translator) first meets his wife Luisa (also a translator) as the team assigned to be the interpreters at a meeting between a senior Spanish politician and a high British politician (who appears to be a lot like, and perhaps is, Margaret Thatcher), a meeting at which the narrator occasionally takes huge liberties in mis-translating and thus re-directing the dialogue between the two politicians.

A HEART SO WHITE (published in 1992) is similar to "Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me" (1994), and like that novel and "The Dark Back of Time" (1998) it is highly seductive and very much a novel of ideas. But those ideas are not quite as well-considered or on the mark as in the two later works, and the style not quite as mature and accomplished. The intellectual discussion tends a tad more towards cleverness than profundity, and the observations of human life tend more to concern its everyday conduct than its essence. Nonetheless, A HEART SO WHITE is a highly recommended installment in Marias's ongoing exploration of the secrets and meaning of life and the human obsession with knowing in the face of the impossibility of truly knowing.
Brilliant. A penetrating, fearless introspection of human psyche, and especially of our ways of relating to time. I first had a hard time getting into the book, so I set it aside for a few months, and then when I picked it up up again the chemistry and time was just right and I devoured it. And the book has kept on growing on me, which is quite exceptional.
A remarkable exploration of the human condition. The translation seems to capture the style, grace and nuance of his writing.
I don't quite know how it is, but reading anything penned by Javier Marías is like slowly entering catacombs or hearing echoes reverberating in a mausoleum that abide with one and continue to reverberate long after the reader has turned the final page and reascends, as it were, to what is called life, realising how much of life is not life - commonly understood - but a sort of play-acting, that what is of import is and must forever remain unsaid, interred in the reader's heart and mind, for to speak of it is to inevitably deceive, to lie.

As Marías puts it better than I, "Sometimes I have the feeling that nothing happens, because nothing happens without interruption, nothing lasts or endures or is ceaselessly remembered, and even the most monotonous and routine of existences, by its apparent repetitiveness, gradually cancels itself out, negates itself, until nothing is anything and no one is anyone they were before, 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."

This is the central meditation of the book, but not its central trope which, as per usual with Marías, is taken from Shakespeare, Macbeth in this case, and throughout the book, with our narrator, his newly wed wife, and, mostly I should say, the extended lives of his equally extended coterie of family and friends, we come to see ourselves as some version of bloody-handed Macbeth or, perhaps much worse, cold-hearted Lady Macbeth, or both at different times.

Again to Marías, "Macbeth dared to say: `I have done the deed,' he said it at the moment he'd done it, who would dare to do as much, not so much do it as say it...Our mind is all vacillations and ambiguities and always prey to suspicions, for our mind there will always be areas of shadow and it will always think in that brainsickly way." - "Brainsickly" - The manner in which Lady Macbeth, who says that she shames to wear a heart so white, accuses Macbeth of thinking.

Those new to Marías may be wondering just what I'm on about in this review. It's an attempt to convey the feelings and reverberations that this master stylist imparts to the reader who is drawn to his work.

But, for those longing for something of a hint of a plot, the novel begins with a suicide, or, perhaps it were better to rephrase, the story of a suicide. I'm not giving anything away. It's what happens when the previously secret and unknown becomes known, after a fashion, that fascinates and ensorcells.

For, prospective reader, "'s not easy to know why people kill themselves, not even people close to us, everyone's crazy, everyone's having a rough time of it, sometimes for no reason but almost always in secret, people just turn their face to the pillow and wait for the next day. Then one day they stop waiting."

Enter these catacombs, reader.
Javier Marias is one of my favorite novelists. A Heart So White is brilliantly written and plays with some very intriguing concepts. I especially love the main theme about how we can know if we want to know something (spoiler: we can't until it is too late).
A challenge worth reading several times in order to grasps the depths of Marias focus on silence, knowing, language, memory, loss, time, and love.