Wednesday February 19, 2020

Living up to its name, Marías latest is heavy going

Scarcely a sentence couldn’t have been tightened up by a stringent editor

10th April, 2016
Javier Marías’s recent work has given off an air of self-satisfied virtuosity

The title of Javier Marías’s new novel comes from Hamlet, Act III, Scene 4: “Thus bad begins, and worse remains behind.” This is the scene in which Polonius hides behind the arras and spies on Hamlet’s conversation with his mother, and Thus Bad Begins unfolds a series of variations on this theme.

The listener behind the arras, in Marías’s version, is Juan de Vere, a rather blank young...

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