Juan is trained to listen to people. He is a professional translator, so when he is listening to conversations it comes in his ears in one language and comes out his mouth in another language. He is the only person in the room that fully understands the conversation. His job is to make sure there are no misunderstandings. When he meets Luisa for the first time she is the person there to insure that he is doing his job properly while translating a conversation between two heads of state. Juan slips in his own suggestions into the translations, a puppet master, which he is not supposed to do.
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Juan is trained to listen to people. He is a professional translator, so when he is listening to conversations it comes in his ears in one language and comes out his mouth in another language. He is the only person in the room that fully understands the conversation. His job is to make sure there are no misunderstandings. When he meets Luisa for the first time she is the person there to insure that he is doing his job properly while translating a conversation between two heads of state.
Juan slips in his own suggestions into the translations, a puppet master, which he is not supposed to do. He is really just flirting with Luisa and seeing what she will do.
Your spouse, your friends, your coworkers. If only we could stop time, our own fermata key, and scrub out an errant response and just rewrite it, but then life would be a novel where all the dialogue is pitch perfect.
Conversations are very messy. Think of the fumbling around and miscues that lead to misunderstandings. Sometimes it is hours later before our minds conjure up what would have been the best possible words in the best possible arrangement. Juan has that power. He can clean up conversations and gently nudge events in a direction that he feels will lead to a more productive exchange of words. It is kind of scary actually.
Javier Marias tips us off to what is on his mind with the very title of this book. My hands are of your color; but I shame To wear a heart so white. Macbeth William Shakespeare He carefully weaves the thread of Macbeth throughout the novel. What we hear can not be unheard.
When we know, we are complicit. As I was making notes about some of the more striking passages of Marias writing, which began to get ridiculous, especially, when I made the realization that I was noting something on nearly every page, I discovered that he is not a writer concerned with pithy beautiful one liners. He uses whole paragraphs with complex thoughts circling one another like a dance.
Or perhaps there never was anything. He does ponder, with such objectivity, the advantages of sleeping with someone, not in regards to sex, but all the other things such as comfort, not being alone, and the pleasantness of knowing that someone you trust literally has your back. Why do we do what we do? Life needs to leave more juice on my chin. He ends up in New York staying with a friend and fellow translator, Berta, who he once had a relationship fifteen years.
As it turns out Luisa has nothing to worry about, whatever spark was once there is no longer striking the flint. He is surprised to find that the longer he is away the more he has twinges of the green eyed monster in regards to the family friend Custardoy the Younger. Custardoy is the type of guy that you would not feel comfortable leaving your wife, girlfriend, pet chinchilla, or any female friend you care for at all alone with him.
She knows that due to his affection for her that she can wrangle them from him. Juan is unsure he wants to know. His relationship with his father is very good and there is always the possibility that knowing more will change the dynamics of what has really become a friendship beyond just father and son.
There are a lot of people that insist knowing everything is preferable to not knowing. I tend to fall into the category of never wanting to pry. We learn a lot about secrets as we grow older, maybe because we start to accumulate them. Some people like to be open books telling everyone, even strangers, the most intimate details of their lives.
Telling someone something in confidence is usually the same thing as telling everyone. If you want to keep something secret you must bear the burden of telling no one. Ranz tells Custardoy something confidential. Custardoy intimates that he knows this secret to Juan. Juan then discusses this disturbing if incomplete knowledge he acquired from Custardoy with Luisa. Luisa must know the rest. You might think to yourself what a slender volume this is at pages. You might be fooled into thinking it will consume an afternoon, but that will not be the case.
The book will consume days mainly because you will quickly find that you must not be disturbed, in the slightest, when you are reading this book. Thoughts trek across paragraphs and on into pages.
You must follow the string of evolving concepts or you will be lost. You will probably need to reread passages anyway, but it would be tragic if you missed something merely because you think this is novel, an entertainment, a killer of time. Marias captures you in a page and holds you hostage. He demands that you listen and think and think some more. You will emerge from reading this novel with more astute eyes. You will ponder your new self and realize that Marias has shared much more with you than a few interesting insights, but actually something more akin to a philosophy.
This is why we read after all. Highly Recommended!
Corazon Tan Blanco by Javier Marias (Paperback / softback, 2002)
Como elemento motor del despliegue de las tramas, tal recurso reconoce una larga existencia: fue profusamente utilizado en la literatura occidental de los siglos XVIII y XIX. Actitud llamativa en quien declara haber sabido sin quererlo, pero de presencia innegable en el texto. Escena segunda: En Madrid, casa de Juan. Escena tercera: En Madrid, casa de Juan.
A Heart So White
Corazón tan blanco [Heart So White]