No, I was wrong when I wrote that I that I did not know how The Infatuations was a Javier Marías novel until one of the characters started talking about Balzac on page 131. I mean, aside from the words “Javier Marías “ on the cover. This is just a metaphor.
No, it was on page 76, when the narrator first meets her future lover Javier, who is accompanied by, who else, Professor Francisco Rico. “I knew Professor Rico’s face well, he often appears on television and in the press, with his wide, expressive mouth, immaculate bald head, which he carries off with great aplomb, his rather large glasses,” and so on. Later she says he “Was wearing a charming Nazi-green jacket” with a “melon-green” tie. The Professor is pompous, vulgar, and loud; he takes over the next twenty pages of the book.
“Who else,” I say, because I have read the chapter about Professor Rico, Cervantes expert, “laboriously disdainful, insolent in his vanity and congenial in spite of himself,” that runs from pages 47 to 62 in the Marías novel – for the sake of argument – Dark Back of Time (1998), which chapter is entirely about the appearance of Professor Rico in various Marías novels, in disguise or, as he actually wants, as himself:
“I’ve decided I don’t want to appear in this little novel of yours as Professor del Diestro or what-have-you or anything else. If I’m in it, I want to be in it as myself.”
At first I didn’t understand. “Yourself? What do you mean?”
The professor grew impatient. “Myself, Francisco Rico, under my own name. I want Francisco Rico to appear, not a fictional entity who acts like him or parodies him.” (DBoT, 57, tr. Esther Allen)
Marías argues that a fictional Rico is not actually Rico, but the professor is not dissuaded. Marías uses “real places and institutions,” no?
“Yes, there’s the United Nations and the Prado, and…”
“Well, there you have it,” he said.
“There you have it: I want to be like the Prado.”
Rico ultimately buys his fictional appearance with an unspecified favor. And here he is again, fourteen years later, like the Prado. After this one scene, Rico never appears again.
His last words worry me. He sees an edition of Don Quixote on the shelf, not his edition (“How can anyone possibly own this edition when they could have mine?”). Taking it down,
[h]e opened the book at random, cast a quick, disdainful eye over the page and stabbed at one particular line with his index finger. “I’ve seen one glaring error already.” Then he closed the book as if there were no point in looking any further. “I’ll write an article about it.” (99)
If this were a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, I know what this would mean. Somewhere in the novel there is a deliberate error that if discovered and corrected by the reader will upend the meaning of the text. At least one clue is provided right here – “glaring,” or maybe “article.”
Nabokov never did this as far as I know. Has anyone? This would be a great trick. I do not know what Marías means by it. The incident itself is so intrusive – glaring – that is what worries me. Someone should write an article about it.
As a little bonus, the protagonist of the Marías novella Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico appears later in The Infatuations. I have not read that one. Someone else will have to explain the joke.
If I were to write more about The Infatuations, I would work on the Balzac business. And Dumas, too, Marías also pulls in the most horrific parts of The Three Musketeers. And I would write about the narrator and her deep hatred of the publishing industry in which she works (“back to the idiotic world of publishing” she says at the novel’s close, p. 336).
But I think I will move to something else.