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Post-Francoic stress syndrome

Thus Bad Begins Translated by Margaret Jull CostaHamish
Forfatter: Javier Marías
Forlag: Hamilton, 2016
Nobel laureate Javier Marías writes strongly about Spain in the years following Franco.


Javier Marías (f.1951) is an award-winning author, translated into 42 languages ​​and published in 55 countries. His books have sold over 8 millions, and he is frequently mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in literature. Marías is also known throughout Spain for its regular commentary column in the major newspaper El País. And yet he is not mentioned much here in the country. Four titles have so far been published in Norwegian: The cowardly heart, Tomorrow during the battle think of me, love affairs and the card novel Evil nature, or with Elvis in Mexico. For those of us who don't read Spanish, almost all of his novels are in English, and last year's release Thus Bad Begins (Así empieza lo malo) has its title from Hamlet, where Prince Hamlet himself says somewhere: "Thus bad begins and worse remains behind." It's not the first time María's retrieves a romantic title from Shakespeare; The cowardly heart er fra Macbeth og Tomorrow during the battle think of me from Richard III. Marías has close ties to the English and English languages ​​at all and has translated a number of both older and modern classics from English to Spanish.

After the regime.
Thus Bad Begins takes place in Madrid (Marías' hometown) in 1980. The dictator Franco has been dead for only five years, and purely Spanish democracy is experiencing a violent cultural and social boom. After nearly 40 years under fascist rule where the Catholic Church has dominated all public morality, people are venturing into what could almost be called a kind of sacred hedonism. The young storyteller Juan de Vere, who works as a kind of assistant and all-around man at home with the film director Eduardo Muriel, tells about a hectic nightlife with disco, drugs and sex seven days a week, and where people of all ages hang out on the drive. Everyone has forgotten the regime, which appears as an anachronism that suddenly just disappeared. At the same time, the danger of a fascist coup hangs over the country; in 1977, the General Amnesty Act had been passed, and all who had participated in the fascist crimes of the fascist regime were released. As both Juan and Eduardo (and Marías) point out, the amnesty was the only solution to the transition from dictatorship to democracy – a settlement of justice was practically impossible because too many had been involved in the regime's wrongs.

It is often better to continue living with a lie than to face a painful truth.

Detailed Rich. This is the historical context of a novel that takes place largely within four walls and which, in addition to Juan, includes Eduardo, his wife Beatriz and some house friends, primarily the eminent pediatrician Jorge Van Vechten. The author describes his protagonists with depth and playful boldness and is never afraid to delve into details and digressions to fill in the picture. Marías has translated works by Thomas Hardy, Henry James, Joseph Conrad and not least Faulkner, as well as a whole host of poets, including Wallace Stevens, Seamus Heaney, John Ashbery and Joseph Brodsky. All of these have left his stylistic mark on him, and it is easy to imagine that they have influenced him on a deeper level as well. Marías has stated that translating is the best way to learn how to write, because you not only translate, but also re-write a text during the translation work. And in this way, translation (if good enough) seems extremely dynamic.

Lies and truth. This is seen in the narrators in María's novels. In a sense, they can also be called translators – they "have chosen their own voice", tell little about their own background, and are primarily communicators of knowledge such as interpreters, opera singers and university teachers. And Juan, the narrator in Thus Bad Begins, has a fresh recent university degree, but spends almost all his time observing, analyzing and speculating on what is happening at Eduardo and Beatriz's home. Juan is only 23 years old, but little self-centered; he is most keen on observing and living with other people, and does so with a camera-like look. Everyone around him is older and has more life experience – they have lived through the long years of regime repression and censorship and have learned to keep and keep secrets. And late one night, Juan Eduardo overhears Beatriz for something she has done a long time ago and for which she asks him for forgiveness. Juan does not find out what it is all about, but records the cold and hatred that Eduardo shows. Soon after, he gets some sort of secret assignment from Eduardo; he will become a friend and party companion with his friend Van Vechten. Eduardo has heard ugly rumors about the friend, who may have abused women in the regime, and he must find out if these rumors are true.

Gloomy. The eternal commotion between truth and falsehood is at the heart of Marías' novels. Although Maria's supposedly has no sense of mixing politics and ideology into novels (especially not her own), both the characters and the action of the legacy of Franco are characterized: The individuals are trapped in an invisible web of casualness and silence, hypocrisy and opportunism , cowardice and cynicism, anguish, betrayal, hatred and brutality Eduardo in the novel rightly states that the truth often does not pay off, it costs too much, it is often better to continue living with a lie than to deal with a painful truth. Wise of both injury and experience, the elder Eduardo tells the young Juan that life is often best lived without the truth, at least truths that bring suffering. And he has no sense of suffering anymore. These are gloomy words, written by an author who often has a good-spirited and spiritual undertone in his books. But Thus Bad Begins is also darker than anything Marías has written before, perhaps because in this novel he writes not only for those who remember Franco (and loved or hated him), but also for the generation who only knows the man and his long-standing, brutal regime as history, which a story that still divides Spain into two.

A settlement was practically impossible because too many people had been involved in the regime's crimes.

Kurt Sweeney
Kurt Sweeney
Literary critic.

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