Thursday, February 9, 2012

Along for the Ride

Voyage Along the Horizon
Voyage Along the Horizon
Javier Marías
Translated from the Spanish by Kristina Cordero

I first discovered Javier Marías by pure accident, while I was wandering around my library in Brooklyn. The book was A Heart So White, and I absolutely fell in love with it. I've been meaning to read more from him, but didn't get a chance to until I finally picked up Voyage Along the Horizon just recently.

Voyage was Marías's second novel, written when he was only twenty two years old. As such, it does read as less polished than A Heart So White, but I still really enjoyed it. It's playful, a book about a book about an author trying to learn the details about a story, a bit of a writerly experiment, if you will.

The language is purposefully stilted and old fashioned. It feels like you are reading an early 1900's English mystery novel. If that's your kind of book, you should appreciate this. If it's not typically your type of book, you still can enjoy the meta whimsy.

Despite the borrowed style, this book is still very much Marías. He writes looooooooooonnngggg paragraphs - blocks of text can go on for pages. It can leave you a little breathless, but it does have the effect of pulling you into the scene.

One of the things I like about Marías is his clever way of inserting little observations about human behavior into seemingly unrelated text:
...Meffre and the pianist had met, but with rather unpleasant consequences, two years earlier at Baden-Baden. Their interaction had been somewhat circumstantial, and even though the slight friction that had erupted between them in Germant during a performance of Monteverdi's Ulysses, involving some box seats and a certain young lady, was more or less ancient history by now, both men (Meffre in particular) still seemed to remain slightly, quietly hesitant about initiating any kind of direct conversation even when the occasion all but required it. 

Want more like this? Try:
  • Agatha Christie, Death on the Nile. Something about the tone of Marías' narrator reminded me of Hercule Poirot. A bit fussy, but interesting and engaging. Plus, there are people getting killed on a boat.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Again, the tone is very similar.
  • Various Authors, One Thousand and One Nights. One of the most famous books using a framing device.


Miz Moffatt said...

Oooh, this sounds like an interesting read! I've never read anything by the author in question, but I love books that are hyper-aware of themselves (i.e. Italo Calvino's "If on A Winter's Night a Traveller") Also, as a side note, that cover is absolutely amazing. Very grand, indeed!

I'm glad to have stumbled across your blog!

MJ said...

@Miz Moffatt: I'm glad you found it, too :-)
I still haven't read "If on A Winter's Night a Traveller," but it sounds really good. There are just so many books out there to discover!

Kwame (Adventures of 2.0) said...

That really sounds good. I have something by him that has been collecting dust on my shelf for over a year now, Your Face Tomorrow: Fever and Spear. Just one of those books I'm yet to get around to.

MJ said...

@Kwame: Ohhh! I really want to read Your Face Tomorrow, but I'm going to have to set aside a chuck of time, considering the trilogy is over 1000 pages and I have a feeling I'll want to read them all without stopping.

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Sometimes we can discover our favourite author by chance. This author is new to me.