I can’t believe I finished this book. I almost gave up. But I pushed through the endless sentences and the plotless plot, the philosophical meanderings and the tangents, and the commas; comma, after comma, after comma. I can’t explain why I felt the need to finish. I was determined to see the story through to the end. The mystery lover in me wanted to see the mystery solved. Or, at least, come to a conclusion of some sort. Well, at least there was a conclusion; whether or not it was satisfying is another discussion entirely.
Maria Dolz works in publishing, and every morning before work she observes “the perfect couple” in a Madrid café. Seeing them interact gives her a sense of balance, as if the earth is on its proper axis. One day, the couple stops coming to the café. At first, Maria doesn’t notice; she just assumes they have gone away on vacation and will be back soon. But then she learns the husband, Desverne, has been murdered, stabbed several times by a mentally ill homeless man. Maria is shocked, and ruminates on the tragedy of the situation.
She later meets the wife, Luisa, and eventually falls in love with Javier, a friend of the deceased husband. But then, in the midst of their affair, Maria overhears an unusual conversation that reveals Javier may have orchestrated the death of Luisa’s husband, so that he could take his place in the marriage bed. Maria ruminates some more on the information, is sort-of disgusted, but still moderately in love with Javier. She spends many paragraphs staring at his apparently beautiful lips.
Javier is suspicious of what Maria knows, and to calm her fears he reveals that Desverne was terminally ill with an extremely rare disease and had asked Javier to kill him because he didn’t have the guts to commit suicide. But the clues don’t add up, and Maria reflects for chapters at a time on the contradictory evidence, and a number of theories develop. Is Javier guilty? Should she turn him in? Should she report him to the police? What would that do? And so on. Why destroy the life of a man with such beautiful lips if he isn’t guilty of murder?
I think it’s safe to say that I am not the target demographic for The Infatuations, which is less of a murder mystery thriller – the genre the novel was marketed as – and more of a subdued existential conversation, where all the characters sound the same and speak the same philosophical language and ask questions like:
- What is murder? Is murder really murder if people die anyway?
- Is murder still murder if the victim is terminally ill?
- Is murder still murder if the person asks you to kill them?
- Is love real? Does it matter?
- Why do we love who we love? Does it matter?
- What is truth? Why should we care? It is too subjective.
To be perfectly honest, had I known The Infatuations would take me down the same road as a Simone de Beauvoir novel, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. Existentialism is not my cup of tea. This time, I accidentally stepped into it without realizing until I was waist deep. Now that I’ve reached the end of the story, I’ve realized it would be best to trade this novel at my local used bookstore, where it can find a more appreciative reader.