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Man Of Feeling [Hardcover]

Javier Marias , Costa Margaret Jull
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 29 2003 New Direction Book
A gem of a novel about an affair between a married woman and a younger man.

Glinting like a moonstone with layers of emotion, The Man of Feeling is a sleek and strange tale of cosmopolitan love. An affair between a married woman and a young man just becoming an opera star (curiously helped along by the husband's factotum) meets with adamant resistance from the implacable husband.

Narrated by the young opera singer, the novel opens as he recalls traveling on a train from Milan to Venice, silently absorbed for hours by the woman asleep opposite his seat. In the measured tones of memory, The Man of Feeling revolves on the poles of anticipation and recollection. The peculiar rarified life lived in the world's luxury hotels, a life of rehearsal and performance, the constant travel and ghost-like detachment of our protagonist adds a deeper tone to the novel's weave of desire and detachment, of consideration and reconsideration: its epigraph cites William Hazlitt: "I think myself into love,/And I dream myself out of it." As Marías remarks in a brief afterword, this is a love story "in which love is neither seen nor experienced, but announced and remembered." Can love be recalled truly when it no longer exists? That twist will continue to revolve in the reader's mind, conjuring up in its disembodied way Henry James' The Turn of the Screw. Beautifully translated into English for the first time by Margaret Jull Costa, this fascinating and eerie early novel by Javier Marías bears out his reputation for the "dazzling" (TLS) and "startling" (The New York Times).


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Review

"Marías is simply astonishing." -- The Times Literary Supplement
 
" Marías is a startling talent...His prose is ambitious, ironic, philosophical, and ultimately compassionate." --The New York Times
 
"By far Spain's best writer today." --Roberto Bolaño
 
"The most subtle and gifted writer in contemporary Spanish literature." –The Boston Globe
 
"A digressive narrative that moves back and forth in time....There is nothing quite like it in fiction today."--The New York Times Book Review
 
“Marias’s literary gamesmanship evokes verbal puzzle-makers like Borges, and his ingenious chessboard plots bring to mind the 20th century's grand-master strategist, Vladimir Nabokov. Yet his style is uniquely his own as are the discoveries he makes while rummaging around in the basement of the human heart.”—Los Angeles Times
 
"A book that reflects the torture of love the way arias reflect heartbreak."--Washington Times
 
“The unspoken romance at the heart of Marías’s work is the recuperation of old-fashioned adventure within perfectly serious, cerebral contemporary fiction.”—The Daily Beast
 
“Marías has defined the ethos of our time.”—The Guardian, UK
 
“Beyond the interesting ideas his work draws on, Marías’s novels are simply a pleasure to read.”—The Millions --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Javier Marías was born in Madrid in 1951. The recipient of numerous prizes, including the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Prix Femina Étranger, he has written thirteen novels, three story collections, and nineteen works of collected articles and essays. His books have been translated into forty-three languages, in fifty-two countries, and have sold more than seven million copies throughout the world.  --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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I don't know whether I should tell you my dreams. Read the first page
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5.0 out of 5 stars A really good one Oct. 1 2003
Format:Hardcover
This is not the best book to start reading Javier Marías, but if you like him (in novels such as A heart so white or Tomorrow in the battle think on me) you must read this one.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A lukewarm recommendation to steadfast fans of Javier Marias Sept. 2 2009
By R. M. Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Javier Marias is one of my favorite contemporary writers of fiction. THE MAN OF FEELING is one of Marias's earliest novels (1986). It is evident that he had not yet hit his full stride as an author. If you are not familiar with Marias, I strongly recommend against making THE MAN OF FEELING your introduction to his work. And even if you have been captivated by Marias's more mature, and much better, novels, you can give THE MAN OF FEELING a pass without missing out on something truly significant.

THE MAN OF FEELING shares a distinct family resemblance with Marias's later novels, especially the prose style, which is marked by dense, meandering sentences, somewhat akin to the prose of W.G. Sebald or that of Henry James. Several themes or preoccupations are the same -- particularly, the blurring of fact and fiction (or imagination) in memory, and the finality of death -- although they are not explored as extensively or as deftly as in the later novels. Also the same is the oddly detached and somewhat melancholy tone of the narrative by the first-person narrator.

Here, that first-person narrator never reveals his name. He is a professional opera singer, and the story concerns the beginning and end of his relationship with Natalia. He first saw her on a train on the way to Madrid four years ago, as he was traveling there to begin an engagement to sing Cassio in Verdi's "Otello." She was traveling with her protective, wealthy husband and the male companion hired by her husband to entertain her (chastely) while he attended his business affairs. The three of them end up staying at the same hotel in Madrid as the narrator, and an odd competition over Natalia develops between the narrator and her businessman husband (who, curiously, turns out to be "the man of feeling"). In a brief epilogue, Marias states that THE MAN OF FEELING is a "love story," but I did not so regard it while reading the novel -- and I still don't.

That synopsis probably doesn't sound very exciting, and to be sure the novel is not exciting. Truth be told, none of the Marias that I have read is exciting. His hallmark is a minute examination of commonplace situations, raising and exploring seemingly all possible explanations, or implications, of an event or action. That simply does not lend itself to excitement. But the two later novels (of those I've read) most similar to this one -- "Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me" and "A Heart So White" -- begin with a death and surrounding mystery that provide for an atmosphere of suspense that propels the reader through the gradually unfolding musings of the narrator. Here, that suspense is missing, and the narrative suffers. Also missing, by and large, is the wit and humor found in the later fiction.

In sum, I can recommend THE MAN OF FEELING only to steadfast fans of Javier Marias, and then it is only a lukewarm recommendation. But I will commend this edition's cover illustration, "New York Restaurant" by Edward Hopper, which captures perfectly the ambiance of the novel.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Craftful writing and provacative story-telling. Sept. 20 2013
By Jeff Commissaris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"The Man of Feeling" is a book about the mixed emotions and confusion of love and life, of the blurred lines between reality and dreams. The book starts with the quote by William Hazlitt "I think myself into love, and I dream my way out of it." This book really grips the reader by going into the main character's conciousness and sub-conciousness. All of the character's strengths and shortcomings result in an affair and a deranged marriage that connect the characters together in a web of complications.

The novel seems to have been translated very well, and this is the first book I have read by the author Javier Marias. The protagonist's plight is intriguing and is one of a traveling opera singer, where he never really has a home and is constantly on the go, and ends up having an affair with the wife of a married man. The book becomes interesting as the opera singer and husband come in closer contact with each other, and both of them become dis-attached from what is actually going on the more the truth is revealed to all three involved.
4.0 out of 5 stars Of memory and love March 10 2014
By Aggressive Arms - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm a little surprised by the reviews above, both positive and negative, discouraging (or having the effect of discouraging) potential readers from picking up this book. It is an excellent introduction to Marias and an excellent novel. It has the hallmarks of his style, as I've come to know it: the reflective, slightly melancholy narrator, given to acute, but perhaps somewhat untrustworthy, dissection of psychology; and the capacity to turn quickly to a comic tone while leaving the reader wondering just how much he should be laughing. Not much "happens" in the story to outward appearances, but there is much to think about. A young opera singer writes by memory, refreshed by a dream, of a train trip he took to Madrid and subsequent stay there, while preparing for the role of Cassio in Verdi's "Otello," in which he meets three people: a beautiful young woman, her husband, and their companion. The multiple layers of dream and memory, and the narrator's odd courtship of a married woman while most of the time accompanied by her companion (but not her husband), allow Marias great flexibility in having the narrator reflect on the endeavor, his career, and past romance, and this in turn allows the reader a range of opportunities to reflect on love and memory as well. The style has an air of mystery about it -- as it should; the subject isn't entirely knowable and memory stands in the way to boot.

The whole of it by the way can be well-read (not just raced through) in about three hours. It's probably not Marias's best novel but it's very, very good, and anyone in the least intrigued will know where to go for more.
6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really good one Oct. 1 2003
By Jose F. Troncoso - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is not the best book to start reading Javier Marias, but if you like him (in novels such as A heart so white or Tomorrow in the battle think on me) you must read this one.
1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not fully realized March 3 2005
By Luciole - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
If the above reviewer felt this was not the Marias book to start with, I would love to know why.
This, the first novel by Marias that I've read, seemed a work that stalled at impressive effort without making it to graceful coherence. The author's afterword does more to elucidate with a confession of intention than all the book's detailed but ultimately unrevealing waffling.
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