This is a beautiful, melancholy novel. Stunning in its accomplishment and execution. Another winner from Javier Marías, a man I beginning to feel I know. At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, where other Goodreads’ friends have their David Foster Wallace or their Thomas Bernhard, and where previously I had my Cormac McCarthy and Roberto Bolaño and with whom I’m was quite content, I now have to add Javier Marías to that list of Those Who Do No Wrong.
While traveling by train to a performance as Cassio in the opera Otello, the narrator first encounters a man, an intriguing sleeping woman, and a traveling companion, and then later, in Madrid, he encounters them again and makes their acquaintance as he prepares for the reprisal of his role as Cassio. (Of course it matters that the opera is Otello, and that comes nowhere near the ‘spoiler’ I’ll try to avoid) . The predictable part: the opera singer takes a romantic interest in the woman. The less predictable parts: everything else.
But the parts aren’t what the novel’s about. What the novel is about is thought vs. dreaming, expectation and remembering, the ”now” and the ”still.” Oh, and delaying breakfast to prolong the dream at the expense of thought. It matters. And whatever you do, DO NOT skip the Epilogue. You just might have the same Ah-ha moment that I had.
At the great breakfast buffet of life, the one you dream of at your favorite luxury hotel or restaurant, you’re preceded by the presence of Javier Marías. Read him. Get to know him. Have a feast with him. As has been mentioned in plenty of places, and too many of my reviews, Marías is considered to be Spain's most likely candidate to win a Nobel—don’t wait till he's won it to check him out.