Listening to: While the Women are Sleeping, Javier Marias

by zee

After experiencing the joy of listening to stories (be it short stories, fictions, or podcasts like Radiolab), I’ve been fervently searching for audio streaming of books or podcasts.

Today I stumbled upon Miette’s site, known as Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast; which, as the title indicates, Miette reads out contemporary & classic short stories by well-known and overlooked writers. She reads slowly, with a slight drawl in her charming Scottish accent, that almost sounds like a purr, smooth and soothing. She doesn’t update very often though – the last was in January 15, 2014. Previous updates average one per month.

While the Women Are Sleeping by Javier Marias

I chose to listen to While the Women are Sleeping by Javier Marias because the title seemed interesting. Reading is one of my hobbies, but I don’t do it often or deep enough to be well-versed with the literature field. Javier Marias is a Spanish novelist and also a translator. He is often being mentioned alongside with Proust – though really I wouldn’t know, since I only read contemporary works :P

The story (read in roughly 1 hr 10 min) begins with the nameless protagonist enjoying his time on a Spanish island with his life, Luisa. A pair of couple caught their attention – a beautiful sunbathing young lady was being captured on camera by a ‘fat man’ literally every second without rest, and of which this scene continues for the next few days. And one late, insomniac night, the protagonist discovered the truth about the couple, the secret they have been hiding, and learned how he himself was affected by them.

Marias began the story in a very light, mild way, cruising slowly along like how time passes by slowly during a relaxing holiday. Even though I’m not a fan of descriptive literature, I quite enjoy how Marias describes the beach, the visitors at the beach, the the fat man and his female companion. The description is literally very moving, like watching a movie in your mind. And then the story took quite a surprising turn: its intensity does not build up until almost at the very end of the story, where it does not climb but JUMP up to the peak and leave you there, so shocked at learning the harsh truth of life but don’t know how to come down.

I won’t say the story plot is unpredictable – I’ve sort of seen it coming along the way – but the way Marias crafts his prose left me craving for more.

Which, I realised I actually own one of his books, A Heart So White, winner of 2002 IMPAC winner! I really got to find my way back into physical books now; no matter how convenient, devouring digital literature is still incomparable to slowly tasting and chewing physical books.