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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