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The Man Of Feeling [Paperback]

Javier Marias
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Feb 2005
Javier Mar-as' prize-winning novel follows the birth and death of a passion told in retrospect. A tenor known as 'the Lion of Naples' remembers a time when he travelled to Madrid to star in a production of Verdi's Otello. In the vibrant city his life is insular and routine, a daily cycle of rehearsals and hotel meals. That is, until he meets a strange trio and is incorporated into their group. Manur is a Flemish banker who employs a secretary, Dato, as a daily companion for his beautiful wife, Natalia. They begin to spend their days together, three inseparable friends, and yet as the friendship develops, Dato increasingly finds himself consumed by Natalia's unattainable beauty. And so passion and power frame this sophisticated, and at time perverse, comedy of manners. (2004-06-24)

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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (3 Feb 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099453673
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099453673
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.6 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,080,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Javier Mar-as is in my opinion one of the best contemporary writers' -- J. M. Coetzee

Book Description

'Javier Mar-as is in my opinion one of the best contemporary writers' J. M. Coetzee (2004-06-24)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel about the befores and afters of love 3 Mar 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was my introduction to the well-known Spanish author, Javier Marías. The Man of Feeling is a slim novel, first published in 1986, published in English in an elegant, careful translation by Margaret Jull Costa. It's a story that's essentially about love but the way love is explored, thought about and presented is highly original and a pleasure to read.

What I most enjoyed is the way the love story at the heart of the novel is looked at, first from a future moment, through a dream, that is, looking back, remembering, restructuring what happened. And secondly, the love story is thought about in anticipation, before it begins; so it's imagined, dreamt about- again- longed for. The love story itself, the actual (if it ever occurs, I'll leave that open for the reader to discover) relationship between Natalia & the opera singer is a question mark, left for us to imagine. Marías uses W. Hazlitt's words at the beginning to spell this out: `I think myself into love, and dream myself out of it'. The novel is essentially about exactly this: how we imagine ourselves into love, then live through the love affair itself (if / when we do) and then finally dream about it, recollect it and put an end to it (or not).

The plot: on a train journey from Paris to Madrid an opera singer, who's at the limit of becoming bored and tired from a life of constant travel, despite the luxuries it offers, becomes absorbed in the sight of what seems a strange trio: two men and a woman, travelling together, sitting in the same compartment as him. He notices the woman and remembers her, even though she's asleep at the time. However, he saw something in her that caught his interest: `I saw that the sleeping woman was, how can I put it, afflicted'.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Spanish magic is not compelling here... 9 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Some of his books I love, some are so so. This is one that I'd had enough of half way through.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A lukewarm recommendation to steadfast fans of Javier Marias 2 Sep 2009
By R. M. Peterson - Published on
Javier Marias is one of my favorite contemporary writers of fiction. THE MAN OF FEELING is one of Marias's earliest novels (1986). It is evident that he had not yet hit his full stride as an author. If you are not familiar with Marias, I strongly recommend against making THE MAN OF FEELING your introduction to his work. And even if you have been captivated by Marias's more mature, and much better, novels, you can give THE MAN OF FEELING a pass without missing out on something truly significant.

THE MAN OF FEELING shares a distinct family resemblance with Marias's later novels, especially the prose style, which is marked by dense, meandering sentences, somewhat akin to the prose of W.G. Sebald or that of Henry James. Several themes or preoccupations are the same -- particularly, the blurring of fact and fiction (or imagination) in memory, and the finality of death -- although they are not explored as extensively or as deftly as in the later novels. Also the same is the oddly detached and somewhat melancholy tone of the narrative by the first-person narrator.

Here, that first-person narrator never reveals his name. He is a professional opera singer, and the story concerns the beginning and end of his relationship with Natalia. He first saw her on a train on the way to Madrid four years ago, as he was traveling there to begin an engagement to sing Cassio in Verdi's "Otello." She was traveling with her protective, wealthy husband and the male companion hired by her husband to entertain her (chastely) while he attended his business affairs. The three of them end up staying at the same hotel in Madrid as the narrator, and an odd competition over Natalia develops between the narrator and her businessman husband (who, curiously, turns out to be "the man of feeling"). In a brief epilogue, Marias states that THE MAN OF FEELING is a "love story," but I did not so regard it while reading the novel -- and I still don't.

That synopsis probably doesn't sound very exciting, and to be sure the novel is not exciting. Truth be told, none of the Marias that I have read is exciting. His hallmark is a minute examination of commonplace situations, raising and exploring seemingly all possible explanations, or implications, of an event or action. That simply does not lend itself to excitement. But the two later novels (of those I've read) most similar to this one -- "Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me" and "A Heart So White" -- begin with a death and surrounding mystery that provide for an atmosphere of suspense that propels the reader through the gradually unfolding musings of the narrator. Here, that suspense is missing, and the narrative suffers. Also missing, by and large, is the wit and humor found in the later fiction.

In sum, I can recommend THE MAN OF FEELING only to steadfast fans of Javier Marias, and then it is only a lukewarm recommendation. But I will commend this edition's cover illustration, "New York Restaurant" by Edward Hopper, which captures perfectly the ambiance of the novel.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Craftful writing and provacative story-telling. 20 Sep 2013
By Jeff Commissaris - Published on
"The Man of Feeling" is a book about the mixed emotions and confusion of love and life, of the blurred lines between reality and dreams. The book starts with the quote by William Hazlitt "I think myself into love, and I dream my way out of it." This book really grips the reader by going into the main character's conciousness and sub-conciousness. All of the character's strengths and shortcomings result in an affair and a deranged marriage that connect the characters together in a web of complications.

The novel seems to have been translated very well, and this is the first book I have read by the author Javier Marias. The protagonist's plight is intriguing and is one of a traveling opera singer, where he never really has a home and is constantly on the go, and ends up having an affair with the wife of a married man. The book becomes interesting as the opera singer and husband come in closer contact with each other, and both of them become dis-attached from what is actually going on the more the truth is revealed to all three involved.
4.0 out of 5 stars Of memory and love 10 Mar 2014
By Aggressive Arms - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm a little surprised by the reviews above, both positive and negative, discouraging (or having the effect of discouraging) potential readers from picking up this book. It is an excellent introduction to Marias and an excellent novel. It has the hallmarks of his style, as I've come to know it: the reflective, slightly melancholy narrator, given to acute, but perhaps somewhat untrustworthy, dissection of psychology; and the capacity to turn quickly to a comic tone while leaving the reader wondering just how much he should be laughing. Not much "happens" in the story to outward appearances, but there is much to think about. A young opera singer writes by memory, refreshed by a dream, of a train trip he took to Madrid and subsequent stay there, while preparing for the role of Cassio in Verdi's "Otello," in which he meets three people: a beautiful young woman, her husband, and their companion. The multiple layers of dream and memory, and the narrator's odd courtship of a married woman while most of the time accompanied by her companion (but not her husband), allow Marias great flexibility in having the narrator reflect on the endeavor, his career, and past romance, and this in turn allows the reader a range of opportunities to reflect on love and memory as well. The style has an air of mystery about it -- as it should; the subject isn't entirely knowable and memory stands in the way to boot.

The whole of it by the way can be well-read (not just raced through) in about three hours. It's probably not Marias's best novel but it's very, very good, and anyone in the least intrigued will know where to go for more.
6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really good one 2 Oct 2003
By Jose F. Troncoso - Published on
This is not the best book to start reading Javier Marias, but if you like him (in novels such as A heart so white or Tomorrow in the battle think on me) you must read this one.
1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not fully realized 3 Mar 2005
By Luciole - Published on
If the above reviewer felt this was not the Marias book to start with, I would love to know why.
This, the first novel by Marias that I've read, seemed a work that stalled at impressive effort without making it to graceful coherence. The author's afterword does more to elucidate with a confession of intention than all the book's detailed but ultimately unrevealing waffling.
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