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The Man of Feeling Paperback – February 27, 2007
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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").Read more ›
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.
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.
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.