Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 5, 2015

Sensational Snippets: In the Night of Time, by Antonio Muñoz Molina, translated by Edith Grossman

In the Night of TimeIt’s taking me a long time to read In the Night of Time by Antonio Muñoz Molina, translated by Edith Grossman.  The book is an exquisite exploration of time, memory and consciousness, centred on a man who leaves his wife, with the Spanish Civil War as the ever-present backdrop to consciousness, past and present.  It’s a book that slows time down, that encourages re-reading, that seems, wondrously, to have no end.   Each time I pick it up to read it I find passage after passage that I want to share, and this time I can’t resist…

Ignacio Abel is an architect in Madrid and he has just given a lecture.  He was nervous beforehand, and his wife had rustled up some friends to attend, to protect him from humiliation in case nobody came.  She tied his bow tie for him.  But in the taxi going home afterwards, she rebukes him for his clumsy response to an American woman in the audience,  but, the narrator explains, it’s her tone – not her words – that reveals the real rebuke:

that he’d looked to her to alleviate his insecurity but afterward hadn’t shared his relief and satisfaction at his success, hadn’t bothered to thank her or even to notice the deep conjugal emotion that she, docile and at the same time protective, felt, the too-comforting admiration he no longer seemed to need. (p.77-8)

From the first chapter the reader knows that Ignacio has left his wife.  What Adela doesn’t know, on the night of this lecture, is her fate.  She, who knows him better than any of his friends who saw the brilliant, successful man on the podium, knows things about him that others do not, knows the degree of artifice in his manner.  But she doesn’t see the signs in the man sitting beside her in the taxi.   The author uses free indirect style to shift between the thoughts of his characters and the narrator, sometimes with blunt precision.

Although it may not matter to you, there’s no one in this world who can love you more than I because there’s no one who has known you so intimately your whole life and not just a few months or a few years.  The scorned lover is a legitimist who vainly defends ancestral rights no one believes in. (p.79)

There’s a world of pain in that last sentence…

In the Night of Time, by Antonio Muñoz Molina, translated by Edith Grossman, Tuskar Rock Press, (an imprint of Profile Books) 2015.  Review copy courtesy of Allen and Unwin.  RRP $35 AUD.


Responses

  1. Thankyou for sharing, it sounds fascinating. Another one for the list.

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    • I wonder how much Australians know about the Spanish Civil War? I seem to have known about it forever because my parents were young and idealistic in Britain at the time, and even when I was a teenager in the late 60s they still talked about whether they should have joined other young intellectuals in the International Brigades. (Today, of course, anyone doing so would be jailed as a terrorist.)

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  2. Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia one of my all-time favourites. i hope I would have gone too. At uni I wanted to study Spanish and go to Cuba but ended up doing a year of Arabic and staying home.

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    • Yes, I thought that was brilliant too. He probably shaped an entire generation’s attitude to the Spanish Civil War with that one book, but I am glad that now Spanish authors themselves are writing about it and the books are available to use through translation. Spanish is a lovely language, I only have tourist Spanish but I loved listening to it in the streets, the way Italian and French sound, like music!

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