Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 11, 2015

In the Night of Time, by Antonio Muñoz Moline, translated by Edith Grossman #BookReview

In the Night of Time If anyone is revising 1001 Books You Must Read, In the Night of Time must surely be included in the new edition.  It is such a masterpiece, it belongs in any canon, along with the great works of Tolstoy, Austen, Proust, Eliot and James Joyce.

The blurb says that it’s like War and Peace, and at first I thought no, it’s more like Proust.  The way that the sinuous sentences trigger memories from sensation; the way that Moline’s characters’ thoughts meander through ideas and memory and emotion, revealing the story in slow motion.  But like Tolstoy, this author tells us that in a war nobody understands anything.  If any war exemplified this truth, the Spanish Civil War certainly did so, and I thought I understood that from reading Orwell and Hemingway.  But In the Night of Time brings us the story not from the perspective of an idealistic outsider confronted by reality, but from the perspective of an ordinary man surprised by a war that has suddenly erupted in a place and a civilisation that he thought was solid and dependable, his country that frustrated him because it was too conservative and too resistant to change.

This novel – what a lame label that seems for this work of art! – is about what happens to an ordinary man in a war, confronted by moral choices that compete for his soul: the instinct for self-preservation against the chance to help someone; the desire to escape to normality against the duty to help a cause; the risk to personal safety against the chance to save a priceless work of art; and most of all, the passion of new love against the anxious love for one’s precious children.  In the Night of Time shows us the normal human tumult of emotions – love, passion, vanity, jealousy, ambition, responsibility to and love of one’s children – tested against the opportunity that war offers to achieve your own desires.

As you read, you will come to love the flawed humans in this profound, compelling story.  The central character – whose thoughts, memories and sensations will break your heart – is Ignacio Abel, a gifted architect who believes in architecture as social justice, a man who discovers his other self through his American lover Judith Biely.  The duality of his life is more than the lies that he tells to his stolid, placid wife Adela: his somnolent conservative married self is liberated by his younger self discovering sex and impulsiveness.   For Ignacio – who –  even as a child – used to lie awake at night in the darkness, the passionate moments of his affair find him discovering Madrid by night.

So much to tell you about this book!  But it’s like Proust… no review or analysis can capture its magic..  You just have to take it on trust from those who’ve read it that it will be worth the investment of time.  Don’t do as I initially did: I began it, then had to leave it behind because of its weight when I went on yet another trip to Queensland to care for my parents, then tried to resume it… No, don’t do that.  Buy the book (because you’ll want to keep it) and save it till you have a week to spare and can read it as I did the second time. Read it as you would read Proust: without interruption, lost in its world, surrendered to the power of the author’s craft, delighting in the way that In the Night of Time becomes part of your reading treasure.

There are reviews everywhere but IMO most of them over analyse the book.  The only one I like is at FT.com,

Author: Antonio Muñoz Moline
Title: In the Night of Time (La noche de los tiempos)
Publisher: Tuskar Rock Press, an imprint of Profile Books, 2015
ISBN: 9781781254639
Review copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin, RRP AUD $35.00

 


Responses

  1. Sounds like a great companion read to Stone in a Landslide. I’ve put it on my wish list. Great review!

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  2. Another must buy, thank you

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    • I am missing reading it, already…

      Like

  3. […] Civil War and its atrocities, Labanyi citing Antonio Muñoz Molina’s books which include In the Night of Time, one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read.  There were many recognisable […]

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