Monday, August 2, 2010

A Happy Marriage, Rafael Yglesias

There are books about love. About relationships. And, then there are books about what it means to love. How it feels. Good. And bad. Yglesias beautifully written memoir-fiction is a perfect example of what it means to love and how difficult a process love is for those taking part.

In simple, honest sentences, Yglesias has created a contemporary Romeo and Juliet, of sorts. The entire novel switches back and forth between the meeting, courtship, and marriage of Enrique and Margaret. The other chapters focus on the final weeks of Margaret's life. I may go so far as to suggest there is a hint of Marqurite Duras at play within the story. The sense of finality and wreckless abandon. Of course, Yglesias' style does not compare to Duras, but the overwhelming sense of desire and honesty are the points of comparison.

When I first started the novel, I asked myself why I would read a novel when I am already fully aware of the novels end (the wife's death). Why would I invest my time, energy, emotion into two characters who will not end up together? Have I become so bitter? But, I realized this is the significance of the novel. How everything we connect to will end in death or by some other means. If I were not to read this book, I would be creating some type of wall between myself and the emotional world. This is what makes this novel so powerful. The overpowering emotional toll.

The truth of the couples love is painful. At times, too raw. From awkward sexual encounters to revealing intimate moments of one another. Margaret, at one point, tells Enrique he can not look at her nude because they do not know each other. This is after some time has passed in their relationship. And, how true and painful this statement. Who do we ever fully know? Even in nudity, sex, and love... what is the body? What is the soul? What are those pieces that makes us complete? And, do we ever share them fully?

The scenes of Margaret's final days remind me of scenes from the film The Barbarian Invasions. The couple, Enrique and Margaret, are intellectuals of literature and art. Much like the couple in The Barbarian Invasions, they represent a certain class of persons. An educated, thoughtful group living a very examined life. And, in Margaret's final days... she is visited by many friends. Enrique is left to give up some of his final hours for others to visit his wife. How selfless. And, painful.

A complex novel of love, death, and art. Painful, raw, and heartbreaking.


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