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Thus Bad Begins
by Javier Marias and Margaret Jull Costa


Overview - **Named a Best Book of the Year by the Boston Globe and Los Angeles Times **

From the internationally acclaimed author of The Infatuations comes the mesmerizing story of a couple living in the shadow of a mysterious, unhappy history--a novel about the cruel, tender punishments we exact on those we love.  Read more...


 
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More About Thus Bad Begins by Javier Marias; Margaret Jull Costa
 
 
 
Overview
**Named a Best Book of the Year by the Boston Globe and Los Angeles Times**

From the internationally acclaimed author of The Infatuations comes the mesmerizing story of a couple living in the shadow of a mysterious, unhappy history--a novel about the cruel, tender punishments we exact on those we love.

Madrid, 1980. Juan de Vere, nearly finished with his university degree, takes a job as personal assistant to Eduardo Muriel, an eccentric, once-successful film director. Urbane, discreet, irreproachable, Muriel is an irresistible idol to the young man. But Muriel's voluptuous wife, Beatriz, inhabits their home like an unwanted ghost; and on the periphery of their lives is Dr. Jorge Van Vechten, a family friend implicated in unsavory rumors that Muriel now asks Juan to investigate. As Juan draws closer to the truth, he uncovers only more questions. What is at the root of Muriel's hostility toward his wife? How did Beatriz meet Van Vechten? What happened during the war? Marias leads us deep into the intrigues of these characters, through a daring exploration of rancor, suspicion, loyalty, trust, and the infinitely permeable boundaries between the deceptions perpetrated on us by others and those we inflict upon ourselves.


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Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781101946084
  • ISBN-10: 1101946083
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publish Date: November 2016
  • Page Count: 464
  • Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Psychological
Books > Fiction > Cultural Heritage

 
BookPage Reviews

A Spanish master takes influence from Shakespeare

The title of Thus Bad Begins, Javier Marías’ challenging new novel, comes from Act III of Hamlet: “Thus bad begins, and worse remains behind,” or, in other words, the current situation may be dire, but worse is to come. The Prince of Denmark’s preceding line is, “I must be cruel only to be kind.” As in the play, there’s cruelty in this book, and, like Shakespeare, Marías is canny enough to ask, is malice ever justified?

The narrator, Juan de Vere, recounts the brief time in 1980—five years after the end of the Franco dictatorship—when he was the 23-year-old live-in amanuensis to film director Eduardo Muriel. After Juan had been in the older man’s employment for a while, Muriel made an unusual request.

He asked Juan to spy on Jorge Van Vechten, a 60-year-old pediatrician who, despite having served on the Nationalist side during the Spanish Civil War, earned a reputation as a caring doctor who tended to everyone, even those subject to reprisals after the war.

Muriel wanted Juan to invite Van Vechten out at night and introduce him to women. He didn’t explain his reasons, except to tell Juan that Van Vechten “behaved in an indecent manner towards a woman, or possibly more than one.” Juan soon suspected that this hint related to another of the novel’s many mysteries, Muriel’s brutal treatment of his 40-year-old wife, Beatriz. 

Thus Bad Begins is less focused than The Infatuations, Marías’ 2013 masterpiece, but it’s a satisfyingly enigmatic work that dares to ask: What’s the point of setting a record straight if the truth “gives the lie to everything that went before”? This being a Marías novel, there are no easy answers, and that’s as it should be. As Juan says, “The past has a future we never expect.”

 

This article was originally published in the November 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
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